If you are in the Quick Service Restaurant business you know that December is the peak season for consumer spending; from Black Friday until Christmas, retailers of all types do whatever is within their power to create smart promotions and maximize earnings in the holiday season. Consumers are out shopping hour after hour, and their propensity to eat out skyrockets. Fast food restaurants in particular can capitalize on hungry, harried shoppers, both for meals at that moment, and for gift purchases.
However, today’s consumer is still very sensitive to the impact that the economic downturn has had, and a QSR manager would be wise to understand that:
Prices, deals, and convenience will drive spending decisions – even more than last year ~Pricewaterhouse Coopers
Maximizing sales during the holiday season is standard practice, but the smart fast food brand will use this season to plan, research and stimulate sales for a more successful 2015. In addition, the age old rule that 80% of business comes from 20% of customers means that successful Quick Service Restaurants will continue to promote loyalty. As customers continue to embrace mobile loyalty in particular for its ease and security, here are some examples of proactive ways to build loyalty and shore up 2015 sales:
- Gift cards are very popular items and take the stress out of your customer’s holiday season. Create a promotion rewarding your customer’s loyalty when they purchase a gift card. For instance, if they buy a $50 gift card, reward them with $10 loaded onto their mobile loyalty card.
- Weary shoppers eat out more often; reward holiday QSR patrons with extra points to be spent during the first 3 months of the year.
- Promote specific weeks for spending during the New Year to the consumers frequenting your fast food restaurant; an example would be promoting double bonus points for any dollars spent from January 2nd – 8th. These points can be loaded right onto the customer’s card, making it convenient for them.
- Test new products by promoting double points for specific purchases during the holiday season. Focusing on a holiday specific product available only during the season can help create hype.; think of Starbucks Pumpkin Latte (there have been over 29,000 tweets for it since 2012), or even Steak and Shake’s Egg Nog Milk Shake. If you tie your fast food seasonal product promotion, through your loyalty program, to a product specific discount in the New Year you will build sales and retain important customer contact.
- Encourage customers to load money onto their loyalty cards; research shows that people who pre-load their cards visit stores 50% more often than those who don’t. A free meal giveaway or loyalty bonus points can encourage consumers to pre-load their card, and therefore make them more likely to return and spend at your establishment.
- Reward frequency during your slowest months; while you have the consumer in front of you, make sure they are prompted to return often during the early part of the New Year. Creating a contest for one premier prize that customers may enter again and again as they return to purchase could generate a lot of buzz. Rewarding frequent shoppers will ensure that they return more than once.
- Create a social media campaign that has nothing to do with your QSR, but everything to do with fun. Tim Horton’s kicked off this holiday shopping season with ‘Tim’s Tacky Sweater,’ and enlisted the help of social media stars and drivers of influence. You could tie this campaign into your mobile loyalty program by giving reward points to anyone participating in the promotion.
- Your best customer may very well be the internal ones that are on your payroll. Rewarding employee purchases may already be standard practice at your fast food restaurant; it would also be a wise move to reward them for their success in promoting your loyalty program to the customers walking in the door.
After you’ve created the plan for your QSR, make sure that you are doing everything in your power to get the word out to your regular and new customers. Use social media and other digital channels, including email, to highlight your promotions; don’t rely simply on walk in traffic to publicize them.
Once they’re in the door, don’t assume your walk in traffic will automatically know about your program, and don’t leave it entirely up to your employees to communicate it. Put up in store signage and use effective traditional advertising to get your message out; brand loyalty is built across many channels.
Despite the flat sales predicted for the 2014 Holiday season, it will still be the strongest sales period of the year, and foot traffic is at its peak. Taking a proactive stance now, while sales are strong, to plant the seeds for loyalty purchases in 2015 will certainly ensure a strong beginning to the New Year.