Food for thought: boosting loyalty at the point of sale

The key to this is customer experience – not just the food or the service but the whole visit – which needs to be so good that it makes them want to return time and time again.

There’s no doubt that eating out is big business, indeed, forecast data from the NPD Group reveals that UK consumers will spend close to £55bn dining out this year. It’s an astonishing amount of money and good news for the sector but there’s no getting away from the fact that the UK hospitality market has become rather saturated. This means operators are having to work harder than ever before to not just attract and retain customers, but to maximise the amount of spend on each visit too.

The key to this is customer experience – not just the food or the service but the whole visit – which needs to be so good that it makes them want to return time and time again.

Of course, today’s consumers demand quality food with a back story and exemplary service but they also want to be made to feel special – that their custom is valued and therefore their loyalty is rewarded.

An increasing number of hospitality companies have already realised this and are investing in loyalty schemes as a way of increasing customer lifetime value. Historical customer data is used to tailor offers, promotions and discounts that are specifically relevant to the individual. As sophisticated as this is, the execution needs to be simple for it to work. It needs to be easy for customers to redeem the deals they are offered and this means integrating loyalty offers at the point of sale.

Fast food chain KFC has done this very successfully by investing in 3,000 scanner modules to enhance their POS terminals, enabling their customers to accurately scan promotional coupons from their mobile phones at the till in all lighting conditions – making the process fast, effective and rewarding.

But there are other ways too. Investing in mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) takes service to the customer and enables them to do everything from the comfort of their chosen location – from placing an order to paying the bill and even collecting or redeeming their loyalty points and other rewards.

Ideally, hospitality vendors should be equipping front-line staff with MPOS technology that allows them to provide a comprehensive service from anywhere on the premises; from splitting orders so that drinks are sent to the bar and food to the kitchen, to accessing the latest promotions, taking payments, scanning loyalty cards and reviewing customer order history.

By ensuring that their POS is mobile, efficient and secure, hospitality staff are free to interact flexibly with customers, improving their experience each time they visit. And these positive experiences often result in recommendations, supporting paid-for marketing initiatives with valuable peer-to-peer recommendations.

Of course, the point of sale can reward the customer and it can reward the hospitality vendor too, as it can be a valuable data collection point, giving them information that enables them to be smarter with their loyalty strategies. For example, they can ‘tier’ loyalty by the customer’s visit, rewarding their highest value visitors – those who visit most often and spend more each time – with better quality and more exclusive offers.

Then there’s the opportunity to please these high value customers even more at the point of sale with one-off flash offers. After all an upgrade from a regular to a large latte or medium to large fries is a small price to pay every once in a while for regular, high-value custom. By doing simple things like this, quick-service restaurants, cafes and coffee shops can turn loyal customers into brand advocates who will be quick to tell others about their experience, or share their positive experience over social media. This is arguably the most valuable marketing tool out there as customer feedback, or peer-to-peer recommendations, are considered genuine and trustworthy to new potential customers, who will relish the chance of a similarly rewarding experience.

Any way you look at it, the point of sale is a valuable point of contact where hospitality staff can effectively engage with their customers, completing their dining experience with a convenient, seamless and effortless transaction.

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