Collecting customer information and analysing it correctly can refine a marketing campaign to attract the right diner at the right time and increase footfall to your extablishment, says Ross Bentley
A marketing system is only as good as the quality of the customer data that populates it, and gathering this data is a crucial first step for operators or those seeking to better understand their guests.
He gives the example of one client - Shaka Zulu restaurant in Camden - which gave a free cocktail to visitors who signed up via its â¨website. This was a great way of collecting â¨customer data and turning website traffic into footfall in one fell swoop.
"The holy grail of customer data is to keep adding to this, based on the way customers interact with a business, and making that data really simple to use," says Chesser.
"There's no point having lots of data if it takes a long time to actually use it."
Chesser says the technology Footfall123 ensures that when marketing programmes are launched, the responses are fully tracked so managers can instantly see online who responded, at what point, and which campaigns were the most popular.
And having a clear view of customer behaviour can dispel some misconceptions you â¨may have about your business, accordingâ¨to Gemma Carver, group marketing director of the restaurant reservation service at online reservation specialists Livebookings.
She recalls that one customer thought their repeat bookers were Á la carte diners booking for the evening, but Livebookings' analysis showed that the diners were actually dining on lunchtime offers. This made the group question their approach to special promotions and whether they were promoting them to people who would have happily dined Á la carte.
"Having the ability to accurately report on data will help to refine a marketing campaign to attract the right kind of diner at the right time, therefore ultimately increasing sales," adds Carver.
Restaurants using Livebookings can set up offers that can be booked through their own site and Livebookings' partner network for free and in just 15 minutes, according to Carver.
Offer formats are suggested to users or they can choose to create a unique offer to match their restaurant. Menus can also be uploaded and parameters set for when they want the offer to be valid.
And if you want to automate the branding of your business across a number of sites, Manchester-based marketing agency Pixel8 has launched a software tool that offers operators the ability to be consistent with its designs.
According to Jamie Watson, managing â¨partner at Pixel8, colour palettes, fonts, image styles and logos can all be locked down â¨centrally, but individual sites can also print out marketing material that suits local needs.
"In a restaurant, this type of technology can be used to enable the outlet to react quickly to local needs, from the dish of the day to menus and front of house point of sale materials," says Watson.
Five ways to make the most of your marketing technology
1 Keep it simple Many loyalty programmes fail because they are too complicated and customers simply give up. Timings also have to be realistic - if people are promised a free meal after 20 visits to a restaurant, it's unlikely they will commit.
2 Make use of the valuable data you have gathered Personalisation and tailoring of the communications - such as birthday promotions - will go a long way to making customers feel special.
3 Use technology to up-sell and cross-sell to customers Don't just reward or target customers to behave the same way as they did before. Entice them to a partner establishment or encourage those that usually eat at lunchtime to come in the evening.
4 Quality of data rather than quantity Marketing technology is only as powerful as the data you put in it.
5 Have a plan Find a platform that will enable you to collect useful data and give you clear insights into what it all means. And work out a simple plan on how you are going to use it.
OPINION Marketing information should be at your fingertips
Martin Shelton, director, Clockwork Marketing
An important ingredient in any hospitality marketing strategy is ensuring your website is optimised for mobile devices.
Due to the uptake in smartphones and tablets, there has been an explosion in mobile internet use - to the point where today, in many cases, more than half the number of visitors to a website have come via these devices.
The problem for operators is that traditional websites just don't work well on mobiles.
Many older websites can be virtually inoperable on a small screen, and even if users are lucky enough to get the main pages to load, often the booking pages are ineffective.
Because many hotels' booking engines are not user-friendly on a mobile device, their guests often end up booking via third-party websites instead - resulting in
hotels paying excessive commission fees to online travel agents.
Worse still, not being mobilised can equate to thousands of pounds per month in lost revenue. In our experience, having a website optimised specifically for mobile and touch-screen devices can make as much as a 50% difference to booking conversion rates from those users.
To demonstrate to our clients the true financial impact of not having a solid strategy for mobiles, we will analyse existing website users. By identifying the split between mobile and desktop users and highlighting the booking conversion rates for each channel, we can illustrate just how much this negatively affects their overall sales performance. And by simply making the main website fully compatible with mobile devices or by creating a specific mobile website, we are able to repeatedly demonstrate sales boosts worth many tens of thousands of pounds per year.
OXO tower targets diners
Bosses at Harvey Nichols Restaurants, which owns the Thames OXO Tower, used targeted marketing to sell 300 tickets priced at £500 each for a dinner event to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee river celebrations last summer.
"We collect email addresses and telephone numbers through the Livebookings widget and over the phone. All customers are also asked to opt in to our mailing list," says director Jacinta Phelan.
"We also take as much information as possible from a customer when we are talking to them. We create a customer profile which appears every time they book and is updated after each booking."
Using the OXO Tower's database, staff were able to contact people who they thought might be interested in such an experience.
According to Phelan, the Jubilee event was sold out within two weeks. She adds: "A substantial amount - approximately £15,000 - was saved as we didn't have to pay a third party [marketing firm] a 10% fee. We also did not have to advertise outside of our own website, which was another big saving."
Marketing on the move
Manchester-based branding and digital agency Pixel8 has launched a service application to enable hotels to customise and print marketing materials to suit their local needs, anywhere in the world and in any language, 24 hours a day.
The product, called Brandit, has been adopted at 150 Radisson hotels across north and south America to ensure consistency of brand, but also allow local diversity.
A white-label version of the tool has also been launched, enabling marketing agencies to offer it to their clients.
Orchid group rewards loyalty
Pub and restaurant company the Orchid Group is using an integrated loyalty, reservations and till system to keep track of and reward members of its Slice scheme - a loyalty card for users of its Pizza Kitchen & Bar brand.
The product it is using is called iZone Loyalty, which has been developed by EPoS firm Zonal to allow hospitality outlets to operate tailored loyalty schemes through their EPoS terminals, so customers can collect points, accumulate "cash back" or receive bonus items or discounts.
According to Orchid's senior marketing manager Maria Hamilton, the system marks a "step forward in pub till and reward technology."
She says: "By linking purchase data from our till system with the data we already have on our Slice cardholders, we can better target our marketing and
sales initiatives and time our promotions and offers to align with purchases that our customers are most likely to want to make, at times when they are most likely
to take advantage."
The Portland Arms builds a database
The Portland Arms pub in Cambridge has built up a database of marketing contacts and boosted sales using a loyalty card package designed by Footfall 123.
Users of the card pay £5 to sign up and must complete a form with their e-mail or social media details so they can be contacted.
Recent deals include the 11th pint free and 10% off the first round of drinks of the evening. Cards are scanned at the bar via a Wi-Fi scanner.
One particularly successful campaign was 20% off the price of drinks on Christmas Eve - a notoriously quiet time in Cambridge - which was e-mailed to cardholders.
The pub owners say it resulted in "significantly increased customer numbers" compared with previous years. Having gone from no method of communicating with customers, the pub now has hundreds on its database and can track the success of the offers it sends to these individuals.