pub, bar, owner, manager, customer, loyalty, program, retention, relationship, management, trade building,

Loyalty Programs

Finding new customers for your pub isn’t easy, but retaining existing customers or persuading lapsed customers to return needn’t be difficult, you just need to give them a little extra. Whilst great service, fantastic ales, delicious food and pristine toilets all play their part in customer retention, these days customers expect a little extra to keep them engaged with your pub brand. They need incentives. This can be in the form of price reductions or other promotional mechanics but most of all they need to feel valued by your business. Building a loyalty program can give your pub the competitive edge in your market place, add value for your customers through rewards and reinforce their relationship with your brand.

Loyalty programs come in various guises, but all share a common purpose, to wit, generating extra revenue from your existing customers. Although the ratios of reward and return vary from study to study, it’s pretty well accepted that it costs significantly more to find a new customer than it does to bring an existing customer back.

Pub customer are already immersed in the loyalty program culture, with schemes at their bank, their supermarket, cinemas, coffee shops and many more. Yet, a recent study, only 30% of restaurants are offering loyalty programs as opposed to over 70% of customers who want loyalty rewards. I’ll wager these figures are similar for the pub trade.

If you don’t currently have a loyalty program, are considering implementing one or want to review your existing arrangements you should consider the following principles, which form the basis for all successful loyalty programs.

Make It Easy to Join

Enrolment should be as simple as sharing a mobile phone number, filling in a few online form fields, or just signing up in your pub. Understanding demographics is key to this process as successful loyalty programs give customers various joining routs. Younger customers seem to have had their smart phones surgically attached to them, so getting their mobile numbers is all you’ll need to identify and communicate with them. An older customer might pay more attention to their email inbox or their post, so for them getting their electronic and physical addresses is important. Go into any pub these days and you’ll find a fair smattering of customers of all ages engaged in online activities so getting their “IP” address via your WiFi hotspot is another way to gather their information. Engagement through social media such as Facebook or Twitter or through your own pub website is still yet another. The point is to make your loyalty program accessible through as many routes as possible.

Whichever route your customers use to join your loyalty program once they’re enrolled, your customers should be able to manage their loyalty account with you any way they want. Over the phone, if you’re signed up to one through a phone app, online, on paper or at your point of sale.

Dumb It Down

Although your customers aren’t dumb, making the mechanic for your loyalty program easy is imperative, remember the acronym KISS? (Keep It Simple Stupid). You should avoid schemes that are so difficult to understand and use that your customers simply don’t join, or if they join, don’t use it. The last thing a customer wants is to spend time or effort trying to determine how many loyalty points they’ve accumulated, what those points are worth or how to redeem them. This is why the simple “stamped” collector card is so effective and so popular.

There’s a simple formula the customer wants to know: spend x, get y. It really is a simple as that, no surveys to complete, no additional purchase required. For every pound they spend or every pint they buy or every meal the eat in your pub will earn them a set reward. This can be in the form of redeemable “points” (my least favourite) or it can be as simple as Nottingham’s Castle Rock Brewery reward program “One over the Eight”. Not only is it a clever spin on the old expression for being drunk, but the mechanic is as simple as buy eight pints get the next one free. (The extra advantage is Castle Rock use their customer reward card to manipulate customers into buying specific brands which are, no doubt, the most profitable for them).


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