Restaurants have been hit hard by the economic crisis. With more and more people giving up their nights out in the city, many restaurant owners have to come up with creative marketing strategies to stay ahead and keep customers interested and coming back. One such strategy is to design a functional gift card program and implement loyalty discounts. There are various options available for restaurant managers and owners who want to reach out to more potential customers using the existing ones as brand ambassadors.
Common Customer Reward Programs
Some restaurants follow the model of retail businesses and referral building programs in which a customer receives a discount on their next meal if they convince a friend to try the cuisine of the restaurant. However, this type of incentive program has its limitations:
- At a certain point, each customer will run out of friends to refer.
- Many people will eat a meal for the sake of curiosity, but not all referrals result in repeat business.
- Granting too many discounts will hurt the bottom line of the restaurant.
Another type of promotional program combined with a reward is the gift certificate. Gift certificates were very popular during the 1990s and early 2000s, especially as personalized presents for special occasions like birthdays, graduations and weddings. They are still used by various retailers and high-end boutiques.
However, these gift certificates also have certain weak points. In some cases, the recipient has to use up the entire amount of money in one purchase. In addition, certificates may not be transferable, which means they can be used only by the person in whose name it was issued.
This leaves restaurant owners with an obvious choice: designing a gift card program based on a plastic rechargeable card. This is a very effective and convenient option both for the restaurant and for its customers. A gift card is durable, can be safely stored in a wallet and represents a permanent branded reminder of your business.
Why Do People Love Gift Cards So Much?
If you are still wondering why using gift cards is the number one recommendation for building customer loyalty and attracting new customers, here is a little secret: people prefer gift cards above any other form of reward from businesses. Here’s why:
1. Gift Cards Are Hassle-Free
Paper certificates are frail and inconvenient. You have to put them away with great care and make sure you do not stain or tear them, which can be a hassle due to the amount of items people carry in their wallets and purses. Even if they are meticulous with their personal items, people do not appreciate the extra worry of taking care of a gift certificate if they want to use it.
A simpler option would be a solid and reliable plastic card that can be easily slipped in their wallets next to their credit cards or office badges without any worries or special care.
2. Gift Cards Do Not Expire Over Time
One of the most frustrating experiences for customers is to notice that their gift certificate or discount card expired just a few days before they made time in their busy schedule to use it. This means lost a lost opportunity for both the individual utilizing the card and the business it was issues from.
By comparison, gift cards offer your clients a reward they can use whenever they have the time without the fear that it may expire and become useless.
3. Gift Cards Are Transferable
One of the perks of holding a gift card is that you can offer it to a friend on a special occasion and allow them to enjoy a good meal. Afterwards, the original holder gets it back, recharges it and uses it or offers it to other friends. This versatility and easy transferability makes designing a gift card program one of the smartest marketing tools for various businesses.
5. Gift Cards Can Be Used Online
Even though this is not frequently applicable in the case of restaurant, you may find an instance in which you want to organize an event with a fixed menu and pay in advance. Customers then have the option to visit your website or use your mobile app to plan the menu and complete the payment. This is where gift cards are extremely useful – they can be used for online payment just like debit or credit cards.
For this and the other reasons above, designing a gift card program based on plastic rechargeable cards is the most effective option if you want your restaurant to attract customers on a continual basis.