Are Loyalty Apps Working?

Loyalty apps benefit the consumer but they also open the door to to a wider range of businesses, including pubs and restaurants, who want to create better engagement and marketing activities.

What is a Loyalty App?

Loyalty schemes have been around for some while but vast improvements in tech have recently taken them to new and more accessible heights. Consumers can now download advanced loyalty apps which not only offer discounts but can track their spending and even register when and where they step into a store.

Loyalty schemes at heart are very simple. A customer uses your service or business and you give them a reward. At Starbucks, that might be for every 10 coffees you buy you get one free. With an online retail store such as Amazon you may get sneak previews of new programmes or specially commissioned series for download as well as discounts on products that seem specifically aimed at you the customer.

For businesses, it’s a way to encourage consumers to remain loyal and connect to their brand. In the past, it used to involve a simple card that was scanned at checkout. Now, our smart phones are being used to provide a much greater range of interaction. Consumers download the app and any business can create a flexible model of engagement – even producing tailored loyalty rewards to match or encourage a certain shopping behaviour.

This greater flexibility has made loyalty apps a good proposition for any size business, including those that previously might have considered these kinds of schemes too costly or too complex to manage. In short, it’s easy to set up a scheme and develop it for your customers.

The Benefits for your Pub or Restaurant

The benefits of loyalty schemes has remained the same over the years. They have been shown to boost sales and engagement with consumers, they’re not as costly as many think to run and they can do wonders for your business reputation. Customers like them, especially when they find a brand or store that they want to use often.

When loyalty apps started appearing, however, things went up a level.

  • There’s no filling in a form and giving someone a card that they need to swipe to get their purchase or activity registered. The customer downloads the app, signs up and can immediately engage. Most of us already carry our smartphones with us wherever we go – there’s no need to remember that card as well.
  • For businesses like pubs and restaurants, managers or owners can start collecting important and revealing data about their customer likes and dislikes. They can even monitor when certain customers use them.
  • You can tailor push notifications and other engagement to keep your customers more engaged. You can’t do that with a simple loyalty card.
  • You can add new promotions with ease and send out messages on the spur of the moment.
  • It allows you to set yourself apart from the competition and build a whole new customer base.
  • It’s a great way for offline businesses such as pubs and restaurants to engage better in the digital world, something many have steered away from in the past. You can now offer instant rewards and send out suggestions dependent on customer behaviour.

The Best Way to Leverage Your Loyalty App

It’s one thing having all this technology to hand, it’s another thing entirely for businesses to leverage it effectively. Even large corporations like Tescos and M&S have had difficulty finding the right balance in the past and are still exploring the possibilities of what mobile apps can truly deliver both now and in the future.

You can build in a lot more usability into a mobile loyalty app than you could ever do with a card. For instance, you can include your latest menu, give customers a map of where their nearest restaurant or pub is located, and send out reminders about upcoming events such as bands or quiz nights, or themed menu evenings.

There’s no doubt that pubs and restaurants have often been slow in taking on loyalty schemes. JD Weatherspoons only recently introduced an order and pay mobile app that customers can use to get their meals and drinks delivered to their table rather than queuing up at the bar. The implications of a loyalty app are even more far reaching than this though and understanding what you can do with them can help release a whole host of marketing and engagement activities that not only boost your brand reputation but increases sales.

One of the first pub chains to introduce a loyalty app was Nicholson’s. It gave users a discount on their first pint once they downloaded and started using the scheme. They also created Ale Trails which their customers could follow and get 25% discounts on drinks if they completed a trip. Since then the app has been improved to include table booking and food and drink menus.

At the heart of most successful loyalty schemes is simplicity. You want something that your consumers can easily access and makes sense to them. The mobile app combined with our growing connectivity allows businesses to do just that. What if you have your customer details and know when their birthday is likely to be coming up? How about sending a quick notification saying you can fit them in for a meal or offer a discount on a group booking if they want to celebrate in style? If you’re a bar or nightclub that offers a VIP service, how much better will your engagement with customers be if you had a mobile app?

The Future of Loyalty Apps

There’s no doubt that this technology is with us and set to stay. Brands such as Costa are already looking at how they can use their loyalty apps in conjunction with iBeacons (the tech that shows when you’ve walked into a store) to push immediate and relevant notifications to their customers.

The availability of and the improvement in technology, however, means that loyalty apps are no longer just the province of large chains of pubs and restaurants, for example. Smaller outlets can create loyalty and attract new customers into their bars and eateries, all at a much lower cost than before. That means you may start to see individual landlords creating their own apps and family restaurants doing the same.

There is so much flexibility that is now inherent within digital loyalty schemes that the types of businesses that are beginning to use them are growing quickly. In the future, we may see everyone from the corner shop to the local hardware store and your friendly neighbourhood cafe with their own individual loyalty app.