Three ways restaurants can re-engage lapsed customers in 2021.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift and consumer foot traffic returns, now is the time to start reactivating your marketing efforts. Customer visits to restaurants are up more than 50% since January, and while new customer acquisition campaigns are important to your marketing mix, starting with current and lapsed customers may offer a more efficient approach in a landscape where every dollar counts. 

Typically a lapsed customer would be defined as a customer that you haven’t seen for 30 days or more, but it’s very likely that the impact of the pandemic increased the number of lapsed customers you’ve seen over the past year. Re-engaging this group of customers can be challenging, so we’ve put together a list of three ways you can re-engage lapsed customers:

  1. Email Win-Back Campaigns.
    An email win-back campaign is a well-timed automated series of personalized emails used to increase brand consideration, re-establish the relationship, and ultimately incentivize purchase. Win-back campaigns can be as simple or as complex as you would like, but here’s a simplified example of what this might look like below:
Email #TimingMessagingIncentive
140 Days since Last Visit/PurchaseWe miss you — see what our specials are this weekNA
260 Days since Last Visit/PurchaseDon’t miss this offer10% Off Your Order
Valid this week only
390 Days since Last Visit/PurchaseLast chanceFree Appetizer with purchase of 1-topping pizza

The idea here is to gradually increase the incentive for the customer to re-engage with the brand. Not only will this give you insight into what offers they’re attracted to, but it also helps you save on offer costs instead of jumping straight into one of your richest promotions.

A critical aspect of a win-back campaign will also be determining how to measure success. With a goal of incentivizing purchase, open rates and even click-through rates may not be enough to confirm a purchase, especially if you’re offering takeout/delivery services through third-party apps. Instead, the best indicators of purchase would be a direct conversion through your website, number of offer redemptions, and/or deterministically understanding the number of customers who walked into your store within 7 days of opening your email (we call this a Walk-Through Rate™).

  1. Offline Retargeting.
    Another strategy for re-engaging lapsed customers is to launch an offline retargeting campaign. Where online retargeting is when you serve ads to users who visit your website and leave, offline retargeting takes it a step further by serving ads to customers that had previously visited your physical location. This is achievable through WiFi Marketing tools like Zenreach and is not only one of the most effective ways to stay top of mind, but also safe-guarded from recent changes that will soon dissolve our ability to offer online retargeting to anonymous users.

    Unlike email where you’re relying on the customer to open the email to be exposed to your content, ad placements on paid social and programmatic display get your messaging front and center with or without customer engagement. And contrary to what you might think, these campaigns can often be very affordable.

    Similar to what was mentioned above, measuring the success of these campaigns has to come from more than just online engagement. Working with a platform like Zenreach allows you to not only track the online conversions, but also see the number of customers driven in store after being exposed to one of your ads in real-time.

  2. Tap Into Customer Reviews.
    If you’re a business that’s been around for more than a month, chances are there are a number of online reviews left by customers about their experience with you across Google, Yelp, Facebook, and maybe even TripAdvisor. Auditing these reviews can not only be a good source of customer feedback, but also a great way to re-engage lapsed customers.

Take inventory of your 1-3 star reviews and extrapolate common themes to inform how you can make real positive changes at your restaurant. If the reviews are vague or more information is needed, you can also follow up with customers by responding to their reviews and asking for more information via email or for them to take a survey. Once you’ve identified the opportunities for improvement and worked to correct them, then spin it into a marketing campaign!

Follow up with your customers to let them know “We fixed it!” and invite them back to give you a second chance. More often than not, customers will appreciate your willingness to take their feedback and give it another go. A great example of this is Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign, where they listened to customer feedback, addressed the requested changes, and authentically responded to customers via marketing and PR. Where Domino’s was once struggling to keep up with Pizza Hut and the like, this campaign was a turning point for the chain and it now ranks as No. 1 as the pizza chain with the highest gross sales in the U.S.

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Marketing Restaurants