Mobile Marketing for Restaurants: Reaching customers “in the now”

Nearly nine out of 10 (86 per cent) Canadians own a smartphone, according to the Consumer Technology Association. At the same time, 71 per cent of Canadians dine out up to 10 times a month, according to a recent Eagle Eye study“Changing Tastes & Flavours,” which surveyed 2,000 Canadian consumers and 200 F&B operators. Most of them (62 per cent) spend up to $30 per visit.  13 per cent of Canadians used their smartphone to order takeout from third-party delivery services last year. As Gen Z grows, this ‘economy of convenience’ will only increase in popularity.  This trend makes for a compelling reason why food and beverage (F&B) operators should capitalize on the opportunity with mobile to drive a digital-first marketing strategy. 

 If you’re an F&B brand or marketer, creating digital connections with consumers using online and social networking platforms should top your strategic priority list to get ahead of the competition, which now includes online food ordering and delivery firms such as Uber Eats and Grubhub. The Eagle Eye study showed that 13 per cent of Canadians used such platforms instead of the brand itself. The number is higher in the United States, with 44 per cent of consumers using online food delivery services, according to Statista. 

With increased competition, it is no wonder that over a third (35 per cent) of restaurant operators rated digital and social media advertising as their top strategic priority for the future, followed closely by mobile couponing (34 per cent) and using a loyalty program mobile app (32 per cent), according to the Eagle Eye study.  

3 Ways to Practice “In the Now” Mobile Marketing for Restaurants

Here are three ways you can leverage the ubiquity and immediacy of mobile technology to connect with customers in real time to market to them ‘in the now’  and keep them coming back. 

1) Make sure your brand is only a tap away wherever your customers go with a robust apP 

Smartphones accompany consumers wherever they go so if you have a great mobile app, your brand can go with themOver half (51 per cent) of Canadian F&B operators have a mobile app, according to the Eagle Eye study, so competition is tough.  

Close up of person's hands and torso, looking at their phone

If your business doesn’t have an app, you should think about developing one now. If you already have an app, make sure it’s easy to use, provides added convenience (with features like order ahead, pay at table. or click and collect) and offers a seamless online-to-offline experienceMost of all, give your customers a reason to use the app regularly by rewarding them with exclusive offers that are available only through the ap(and redeemed at your venue). 

This was the tactic behind a successful digital campaign earlier this year by Jameson, the world’s largest whiskey brand, and the UK-based Stonegate Pub Company.  In the weeks leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day, the brands gave away free Jameson Ginger & Lime drinks to thousands of consumers. Digital coupons were promoted through Facebook, which targeted customers to redeem them in their favourite Stonegate locationThe connections to these customers made via social and sent via proximity-based mobile delivery increased foot traffic in 190 participating pubs and boosted the visibility of the drinks brand and sales. The campaign was powered and optimized using a digital platform throughout, from the issuance of coupons in a secure environment through point-of-sale redemption in each of the pubs. 

2) Leverage customer data to personalize offers and promotions 

There are many digital touch points (apps,websitessocial media) where F&B operators can capture customer data, but most of them don’t take full advantage of the information they collect. Only 30 per cent use technology, data, and insights to identify their customers through promotional codes, card payments or loyalty membership, according to the Eagle Eye study.  

Group of people standing in a row, looking at their phones

 Capitalize on the wide appeal of digital channels and delivery to collect valuable customer data to help you understand who your customers are and what they need, with the goal of improving your communications, loyalty program and marketing, as well as your total customer offer. F&B operators need the right tools to incorporate all the data from different touch points into a single customer view’ that can help to create clear visibility of why customers choose to give you their business. In turn, this enables the creation and delivery of personalized and relevant offers that both new and existing consumers are more likely to act on, whether online or in-venue. Personalization is key to demonstrating the kind of empathy and relevance that lets the customer feel emotionally invested in your brand instead of just chasing discounts and rewards. 

3) Leverage mobile’s geotargeting advantage 

22 per cent of Canadians across all age groups and 30 per cent of Canadian millennials have selected a restaurant based on proximity, according to the Eagle Eye study. F&B operators should tap this segment of consumers who visit places based on convenience, using mobile as theirtargeting tool. Geotargeting allows restaurant operators to identify consumers who are nearby and deliver a relevant message or offer in real time that’s likely to drive immediate foot traffic or engagement.  

Two men and a woman standing on platform and waiting for a train while looking at their phones

Using the Jameson-Stonegate campaign examplethe brands used a specific customer profile (based on certaiinterests and demographics) for geotargeting in the vicinity of participating venues. It was a highly effective approach to generating visibility, expanding customer reach, creating data-driven digital connections, and getting people into their venues to redeem their offer and spend more. 

Canadians have more choices than ever when it comes to dining out, drinking and ordering in. To win their business and loyalty amid such competition, it’s no longer enough for F&B operators to offer convenience and high-quality service. You also need to deliver contextual offers and create opportunities for real-time customer engagement before, during and after any potential sale or visit.  

The good news is mobile technology and the latest marketing “in the now” solutions are at your fingertips to help you connect with new and old customers alike, recruit them into your loyalty program or improve their frequency and how much they spend with each visit. Using customer data to personalize messaging and promotions will help make those important customer connections that deliver both foot traffic and a great return on your marketing investment and efforts.