Linking social media to loyalty programs can even the playing field

Nov. 5, 2012
Linking social media to loyalty programs can even the playing field

By Noah Glass, founder & CEO of OLO

Despite growing up in the Boston area and living in New York City for nearly a decade, I have spent my adult life as a devoted fan of the Oakland Athletics ("A's") baseball team. The story of the 2002 Oakland A's season is well documented and retold in the book, and now movie,"Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.

In it, Lewis tells the tale of how the front office of the A's – a team with the second-lowest salary cap (budget to spend on its players) in all of Major League Baseball – was able to assemble a ragtag team that could defy the odds and the experts to win 20 consecutive games, with the American League West division, and challenge the American League record for most consecutive wins.

The 2012 A's season was perhaps even more spectacular than 2002. This year, the A's had both the lowest salary cap ($49M) and a season plagued by injuries, yet they were able to sweep the Texas Rangers (and their $121M roster) to come from five games back and win the American League West in the final nine games of the season. Last month, as the A's battled their final bout against the Detroit Tigers (and their $119M roster), the Oakland fans waved signs that read "Thanks for the Magical Season" and rightly so. The thesis of "Moneyball" is that the A's have been able to reimagine baseball statistics and use these new tools to achieve extraordinary results.

Just like Major League Baseball, the restaurant industry has a very uneven playing field. Yet just like the Oakland Athletics, scrappy, cash-strapped restaurant chains are starting to use new tools to achieve extraordinary results. My favorite example of this is Boloco a 15-year-old, 22-unit fast casual chain serving "globally inspired burritos," and a restaurant group my firm has had the honor of working with for the past five years. Despite its relatively small size (compared with other burrito giants) Boloco is very active in the world of social media.

What further sets Boloco apart from the pack is how it is using social media to achieve extraordinary results in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Watch Boloco's activity on Twitter, for example, and you will see a brand that is incredibly attentive to customer feedback. If a customer communicates with the brand with a compliment, Boloco may respond and reward that customer. How? Boloco utilizes a digital loyalty program powered by Paytronix, branded as "Boloco Card." Many Boloco customers have a Boloco Card, which allows them to earn points on every order and redeem rewards in-store and through the online and mobile ordering platform, powered by OLO. Utilizing a digital loyalty program has given Boloco social media superpowers: Boloco's "Social Media Diva" Cassidy Quinn Brettler and her team can do more than just respond to customers on Twitter; they can take action that results in customer traffic.

Imagine the following scenario: You've just had the best burrito of your life, a Memphis BBQ burrito from the Copley Square Boloco, and you want to tell the world about it, so you tweet about it. Boloco replies to your tweet with a message that informs you that they appreciate your tweet and have just loaded a Free Burrito Reward on your Boloco Card, providing you with a chance to get another Memphis BBQ burrito – on them! – or try a Buffalo burrito, which customers who like the Memphis BBQ burrito tend to enjoy, also free.

If you were already feeling excited about the brand and their product, this kind of doting attention is likely to turn you into a raving fan for life. At the very least, you will probably tweet again to thank Boloco and tell your friends about the amazing experience.

You may have just read that last paragraph and thought: "Well, but what are the odds that I would have had a Boloco Card? And if I did, wouldn't I already be a loyal fan of Boloco?" These are valid points. However, digital customer engagement providers can now use social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) to link a customer's existing social media identity to a new digital customer relationship with a brand. That is, reimagine the above example with the customer going to to create a new Boloco Card account, linking that account to a Twitter profile, and having a Free Burrito Reward preloaded to his or her Boloco Card. Boloco grabs the customer's attention through Twitter and continues on its winning path by developing a new relationship through the Boloco Card.

Ultimately this would change the anonymous Twitterverse into a ripe platform from which to harvest one-to-one digital customer relationships. This kind of scrappy, resourceful "Moneyball Marketing" approach of digital customer engagement is what enables innovative brands like Boloco to punch above their weight class, form deeper customer relationships, and ultimately beat the competition, despite smaller marketing budgets.

As Lewis summarizes in Moneyball: "The pleasure of rooting for Goliath is that you can expect to win. The pleasure of rooting for David is that, while you don't know what to expect, you stand at least a chance of being inspired."

Noah Glass is the Founder & CEO of online and mobile ordering provider OLO. Highlighting OLO's innovation, Glass has been featured on Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, ABC World News and The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Operations Management

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