Digital platforms are an easy way to drive customer loyalty and sales.

Ninety percent of consumers keep their mobile phones with them at all times, and restaurants have new technology platforms that allow them to communicate with guests—both onsite and off the premises. The technology is called “marketing automation,” and it’s important to know what that actually means, how it works, and why it’s important for the success of restaurants, large and small.

Marketing automation platforms can trigger direct communication that grabs customer attention while they’re in the restaurant, drives social media interaction, and promotes retention after they leave.

It sounds complicated, but it’s actually turnkey. Customers are encouraged to register for in-restaurant Wi-Fi, which is both a value-add service for customers and an asset to hospitality marketing and operations. Data is collected whether the consumer logs in or not, and it is possible to interact with a customer who does not even have restaurant’s mobile app installed.

The platform is also able to automate customers’ onboarding to third party applications, such as loyalty programs and mobile apps.It also generates triggered offers using advanced segmentation based upon demographics, presence analytics, and purchasing behavior.

Acting on actual guest behavior, it’s possible for a restaurant to automate one-time, repeating, and triggered promotions that align with individuals’ dining behavior. The goal is to get ahead of guest sentiment when they are on the premises and have the immediate capability to send offers and suggestions to influence purchasing decisions, increase visit frequency, and retain churning customers.

Here are four ways marketing automation attracts guests who “dine on the internet.”

1. Rescuing Guests at Risk

There’s nothing more discouraging than not seeing a regular guest come back. To rescue those potentially lost guests, the platform flags those people who have broken their regular visit pattern and sends an offer to encourage them to return.

2. Commemorating Milestones
Guests who frequent a restaurant deserve special treatment. It’s a good idea to send an offer when customers reach predetermined milestones such as their 10th, 25th, or 100th visit. Offers can also be generated annually, for example, on the anniversary of a customer’s first visit to the restaurant.

3. Promoting Loyalty
Remember the good old-fashioned “coffee club?” Create a virtual loyalty program that works like those old-school punch cards. Customers will get an offer every time they reach the number of visits specified by the restaurant.

4. Rolling Rewards
Not every restaurant anticipates the same level of guest frequency. Customize rewards for frequency and consistency based on number of visits and time period set by the individual restaurant (for example, 3 visits in 10 days); an offer is sent when customers meet these criteria.

In addition to automated marketing, customer data is collected to measure customer sentiment in real time to project the lifetime value of a specific customer and usable customer data to optimize and measure return visits. This gives restaurateurs the ability to view their metrics on a dashboard and means to interpret and act on the data they collected, for example:

  • Measure guest behavior and the actual ROI of specific deals that drive customers back into the venue.
  • Use special offers to drive social interaction, encourage customer reviews and rescue at-risk guests.
  • Track and project retail traffic flow by week, day and hourly increments.
  • Decrease guest churn rate by creating campaigns for first-time customers that encourage return visits.
  • Identify most frequent guests through built-in segmentation for easy targeting.  

All these advances in automated marketing and tracking metrics are changing the way restaurateurs interact with their customers and how consumers interact with them. As the restaurant landscape continues to change, guests who dine on the internet provide data that drives sales – that’s how analytics and automated triggered marketing increases ROI.

Expert Takes, Feature