“Mobile is becoming not only the new digital hub, but also the bridge to the physical world. Mobile will affect more than just your digital operations — it will transform your entire business.”
– Thomas Husson, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research
As a seasoned restaurant mobile marketing expert and consultant, I am continuously witnessing one tool’s rise in popularity and effectiveness – push notifications. Restaurateurs, restaurant managers, and marketing professionals have all begun to recognize the critical role this digital marketing medium plays. From increasing customer engagement to driving in real-time traffic, the power of push notifications cannot be overlooked.
But why are these small pop-up messages gaining such notoriety in the restaurant industry? As smartphone use continues to rise globally, businesses must adopt strategies that meet customers where they’re spending most of their time – their mobile devices. As we delve into this piece, we will unravel the power and potential that push notifications have for restaurant promotions.
Understanding Push Notifications
Push notifications are short, instant messages that pop up on a user’s device from mobile apps that they have installed. These warnings can appear at any moment, regardless of the user’s device or app interaction. They’re a powerful tool for maintaining user engagement because they draw users back to the app and encourage interaction.
A restaurant, for instance, might use push notifications to announce a new menu item, advertise deals, or remind diners of their reservations. It might look something like this: “Try our new Margherita pizza! Available today with a 15% discount.”
Key Features of Push Notifications
- Instant Delivery: Push notifications transmit your message to the user’s device immediately. This instant delivery makes them an ideal medium for time-sensitive information, like a flash sale at your restaurant.
- Customization: Push alerts can be tailored to an individual’s interests, past actions, current location, and more. For example, a restaurant could send a personalized push notification like “John, your favorite dish Chicken Alfredo Pasta is 20% off today!”
- Actionable: Push notifications can prompt users to take immediate actions such as placing an order, availing a discount, or confirming a booking. For example, a push notification might prompt a user to make a reservation: “Few tables left for tonight. Book now!”
- Visibility: Unlike emails that can get lost in the inbox, push notifications are hard to miss because they pop up on the user’s device screen. They stay there until the user interacts with them, which ensures higher visibility and read rates.
Types of Push Notifications
- Transactional Notifications: These are sent when the user makes a reservation, places an order, or checks its progress in the app.
- Promotional Notifications: These are used to promote special offers, discounts, new menu items, or events. For example, “Happy Hour Alert! Enjoy 50% off on all cocktails from 5-7 pm today.”
- Location-based Notifications: Thanks to geofencing, the user receives these alerts depending on their precise position. For example, when a user is near your restaurant, they might receive a message like “You’re near us! Stop by for lunch and enjoy our exclusive mid-day combo.”
- Behavioral Notifications: These are based on the user’s behavior or habits within the app. If a consumer buys a dish often, they may be notified when it goes on sale.
Customizing Push Notifications for Personalized Customer Experience
It’s impossible to overestimate the significance of personalisation in your approach as the digital marketing landscape shifts. Push notifications are one medium where customization can take the customer experience from good to exceptional.
By leveraging user data and preferences, restaurants can send tailored push notifications that resonate with individual customers, significantly boosting their engagement and conversion rates. Here’s how you can customize push notifications for a personalized customer experience:
1. Segmentation Based on User Preferences
The first step towards customization is segmentation. By grouping your users based on specific characteristics or preferences, you can ensure that your push notifications are relevant to the recipients.
For instance, if a segment of your customers are vegetarian, you wouldn’t send them a notification about a new steak dish. Instead, you would alert them about new vegetarian options. This kind of targeted, relevant messaging is far more likely to resonate with your customers and lead to increased engagement.
2. Personalized Recommendations
Another powerful way to customize push notifications is by providing personalized recommendations. Using data from your customers’ previous orders, you can suggest dishes that they may enjoy based on their past preferences.
For instance, if a customer often orders spicy dishes, you might recommend a new spicy entree. By providing tailored recommendations, you’re showing your customers that you understand their tastes, which can increase their loyalty to your restaurant.
3. Behavior-Based Messaging
In addition to personal preferences, you can also customize push notifications based on your customers’ behavior. If a customer hasn’t eaten or ordered from your restaurant in a while, you could say, “We’ve missed you! Save 15% on your next order with this coupon”. This form of behavior-based communications can remind guests of their wonderful experiences at your restaurant and urge them to return.
4. Geo-Targeted Notifications
Location data can also be used to send geo-targeted notifications. Sending a consumer a push notice with a discount offer when they are in close proximity to one of your restaurants is just one example. Customers who weren’t originally planned on eating out but are enticed by a timely deal may change their minds.
5. Timing and Frequency
Even the timing and frequency of your push notifications can be customized for a better customer experience. Some consumers may prefer early alerts, while others may prefer night time alerts.
Similarly, some customers may appreciate regular updates, while others may find too many notifications intrusive. You can ensure your messages are well received by knowing when and how often customers want to be notified.
Customizing push notifications allows restaurants to create a more personalized and engaging customer experience. This approach not only makes customers feel valued but also increases the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, driving greater engagement and ultimately, more sales.
Benefits of Push Notifications for Restaurants
Let’s dive deeper into the numerous benefits that robust push notifications can bring to a restaurant’s promotional efforts:
1. Increased Engagement
Push notifications can dramatically increase user engagement with your mobile app. According to a study by Localytics, push notifications can boost app engagement by up to 88%. Customers are more likely to use your app, read your messages, and take your advice, such as reserving a reservation or ordering.
2. Improved Retention Rates
Push notifications also have a significant impact on customer retention rates. According to Accengage, customers who receive push notifications show twice as high retention rates. This means they’re more likely to continue using your app and patronizing your restaurant over the long term.
3. Enhanced Conversion Rates
Conversion rates, meaning the percentage of users who take a desired action like making a purchase, also see a substantial boost with the use of push notifications. Businesses using push notifications have seen an impressive 278% increase in conversions according to Airship, meaning more successful orders and increased revenue.
4. Real-Time Communication
Unlike many other forms of communication, push notifications are read almost immediately. Forbes cites that push notifications have a 90% read rate within just 3 minutes. This real-time communication is especially helpful for restaurants to promote limited-time offers or one-time events to their consumers.
5. Boosted App Usage
Regular push notifications can significantly boost the usage of your app. According to Business of Apps, apps that send at least one push notification per week see a 26% higher open rate. This continual engagement keeps your restaurant at the forefront of customers’ minds and increases the likelihood they will choose you when deciding where to eat.
Personalized push notifications are even more effective. Epsilon states that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. By tailoring push notifications to individual customer preferences and behaviors, restaurants can significantly boost their success rates.
7. Higher Purchase Frequency
The integration of push notifications within your app can also lead to a higher frequency of purchases. A Criteo study found that mobile app users make twice the number of purchases compared to mobile web customers.
8. Boosted Customer Lifetime Value
The same Criteo study found that mobile app users have a 50% higher lifetime value (LTV) compared to mobile web users. This means that customers who download your app and receive push notifications are likely to spend more money at your restaurant over the duration of their relationship with you.
9. Lower Marketing Costs
Push notifications’ low price is one of their most alluring features. They cost significantly less than traditional SMS messages or emails, enabling you to reach your customers more frequently and cost-effectively.
10. Geolocation Targeting
Geo-targeted push notifications can increase engagement even further. Localytics reports that geo-targeted push notifications have seen a 50% higher click-through rate compared to the industry average. By sending targeted messages based on a user’s location, you can entice nearby customers into your restaurant with timely and relevant offers.
15 Best Push Notification Strategies for Restaurants
1. Understand Your Audience
A solid push notification strategy starts with understanding your audience – their tastes, preferences, and habits. Understanding your target demographic will make your notifications more relevant and valuable. This could involve surveying your customers, observing ordering patterns, or leveraging app analytics.
2. Segment Your Audience
Once you’ve gathered data about your audience, segment them into groups based on their preferences and behaviors. This allows you to send targeted notifications that resonate with each group, improving their effectiveness. For example, you might have segments for vegetarian customers, frequent diners, or customers who tend to order for delivery.
3. Personalize Your Messages
One cannot stress the value of customization. Customize your push notifications to each user or user segment. Use their name, mention their favorite dish, or make a recommendation based on their past orders.
4. Offer Value
Each notification should offer value to the user. This could be in the form of exclusive deals, helpful information, or personalized recommendations. A notification like “Save 20% on your favorite Margherita pizza – today only!” offers both personalization and value.
5. Leverage Urgency
Make use of time-sensitive deals or limited-time offers to create a sense of urgency. Push notifications like “Flash Sale: Enjoy 50% off all pasta dishes for the next 3 hours!” can drive immediate action.
6. Use Rich Media
Push notifications don’t have to be text-only. You may add media like photos and movies to your notifications on many different platforms. A visually appealing photo of your special dish could be more effective than text alone.
7. Keep it Brief
While it’s important to provide value, it’s equally important to keep your notifications concise. Mobile screens are small, and users often skim through notifications. A clear, brief message is more likely to be read and acted upon.
8. Test Different Approaches
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of notifications, messaging styles, and send times. What attracts a large crowd to one eatery might not do so well in another. Regular testing and analysis can help you refine your strategy over time.
9. Optimize Send Times
Consider the timing of your notifications. If you’re promoting a dinner special, send the email in the afternoon when people are thinking about what to eat for dinner.
10. Request Reviews
Push notifications can also be a tool for gathering reviews. After a customer has placed an order, you could send a push notification asking them to rate their meal or service. This not only provides valuable feedback but also helps to build social proof.
11. Reward Loyalty
Use push notifications to enhance your loyalty program. You could send notifications about point balances, reward redemption opportunities, or special deals for loyalty program members.
If your restaurant has a mobile app with location permissions, you can use geo-targeted push notifications. Send a special offer to customers when they’re near your restaurant to entice them to stop by.
13. Re-engage Inactive Users
Use push notifications to re-engage users who haven’t opened your app or visited your restaurant in a while. A special offer or a simple “We miss you!” message can remind them of the great experience they had at your restaurant.
14. Celebrate Special Occasions
Birthday or anniversary greetings can be a pleasant surprise for customers. A push notification with a special birthday offer or simple well wishes can help to deepen your relationship with customers.
15. Respect User Preferences
Last but not least, remember to respect your users’ preferences. Provide clear options for users to manage the frequency and types of notifications they receive. This helps to maintain a positive user experience and prevent notification fatigue.
To sum up, the right push notification strategy can drive engagement, foster loyalty, and boost sales for your restaurant. Remember to keep your audience at the center of your strategy, offer value with each notification, and continually test and refine your approach to achieve the best results.
Successful Push Notification Campaigns in the Restaurant Industry
The effectiveness of push notifications as a marketing tool has been proven by numerous successful campaigns in the restaurant industry. Let’s explore a few standout examples:
1. Taco Bell’s Happier Hour Campaign
Taco Bell used push notifications effectively in its Happier Hour campaign. To boost sales during its slower hours, the fast-food chain began sending push notifications about its special Happier Hour prices between 2-5 PM.
The notifications were timed to go out just as people were likely starting to think about their afternoon snack or early dinner plans. There was a marked rise in sales activity throughout the duration of the promotion.
2. Subway’s Personalized Sandwich Recommendations
Subway leveraged the power of personalization with its push notification campaign. Using data from its mobile app, the chain started sending out personalized sandwich recommendations to its users based on their past orders.
The notifications also included special offers tailored to each user’s preferences. Subway saw a notable uptick in mobile orders following the launch of this campaign.
3. Burger King’s “Whopper Detour” Campaign
One of the most notable campaigns in recent years was Burger King’s “Whopper Detour”. The campaign used geo-targeted push notifications to offer a 1-cent Whopper to customers if they were within 600 feet of a McDonald’s.
Users then got directed to the nearest Burger King to redeem their nearly-free Whopper. The bold and innovative campaign earned Burger King a lot of attention and significantly boosted its app downloads and sales.
4. Papa John’s “Half-Price Pizza” Alert
Papa John’s successfully used push notifications to promote its half-price pizza deal during sports events. When a game was on, Papa John’s would send out a push notification alerting users of its special offer. This timely and relevant approach resulted in a considerable increase in orders during games.
5. Dunkin’ Donuts’ Location-based Campaign
Dunkin’ Donuts ran a successful location-based push notification campaign in Boston. The campaign sent out notifications offering a mobile coupon for a $0.99 hot or iced coffee whenever users were near a Dunkin’ Donuts store. The campaign yielded a strong 36% redemption rate, proving the effectiveness of timely, geo-targeted notifications.
6. Chick-fil-A’s Loyalty Rewards Program
Chick-fil-A has mastered the use of push notifications in enhancing their loyalty program. When customers near points thresholds or when exclusive rewards are about to expire, Chick-fil-A sends push notifications as reminders. This led to an increase in app usage and subsequent redemptions, fostering a stronger relationship between the brand and its customers.
7. Denny’s On-Demand
To promote its new ordering platform, Denny’s launched a “Denny’s on Demand” campaign. Using push notifications, they alerted customers about their ability to order their favorite meals anytime, anywhere.
To add incentive, they offered free delivery on the first order. This campaign helped Denny’s successfully transition their customers to the new platform and increase online orders.
8. Wendy’s Mobile App Campaign
Wendy’s utilized push notifications to drive downloads and usage of their mobile app. They sent notifications about exclusive offers and deals available only through the app, incentivizing customers to download and use it regularly. This resulted in a considerable boost in app downloads and engagement.
9. Pizza Express’ Personalized Deals
Pizza Express took personalization to the next level with their push notification strategy. They sent notifications featuring deals tailored to individual customers based on their order history.
For instance, a customer who frequently orders margherita pizza might receive a notification about a special deal on that item. This campaign demonstrated the power of personalization, leading to increased customer satisfaction and repeat orders.
10. Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce Alerts
Nando’s, a popular chicken restaurant, saw success with their innovative push notification campaign. They sent alerts whenever their popular Peri-Peri sauce was back in stock. By tying their notifications to a much-loved product, Nando’s was able to drive visits and sales.
Each of these campaigns underscores the power of push notifications in driving engagement and sales. By understanding their audience, offering timely and relevant value, and leveraging the unique capabilities of push notifications, these brands were able to execute successful marketing campaigns that boosted their bottom line.
Restaurant Push Notifications Red Flags to Avoid
Push alerts have immense marketing potential, but there are some traps to avoid. Below are some of them:
Too many notifications can lead to ‘notification fatigue,’ and users may start ignoring your messages or, worse, uninstall your app. To avoid this, carefully consider the frequency of your notifications.
Aim for balance: you want to stay top-of-mind without being intrusive. Allow users to set their own notification frequency. Provide options to customize notification frequency and type in the app settings.
Generic, one-size-fits-all notifications can appear spammy and irrelevant to the recipient. Push notifications that don’t resonate with users’ preferences or behavior are likely to be dismissed. Personalize your notifications. Segment your audience based on factors like dietary preferences, order history, and location, then tailor your messages to each segment.
3. Poor Timing
Sending notifications at inappropriate times can annoy users and reduce engagement. A dinner deal sent first thing in the morning is less effective than one sent in the late afternoon. Schedule your notifications based on users’ behavior and typical meal times. Use analytics to identify when your users are most active and responsive.
4. Lack of Clear Action
A notification is less likely to be read and acted upon if it does not include clear next steps for the user. Include a clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA) in your notifications. Whether it’s “Order Now”, “Check out the Menu”, or “Claim your Discount”, make it obvious what the user’s next step should be.
5. Overcomplicated Messages
Lengthy or complex notifications can overwhelm users and dilute your message. Keep your notifications concise and to the point. Focus on one key message or offer per notification.
6. No Value Provided
Notifications that don’t offer any value are seen as a nuisance. If a user doesn’t gain anything from opening your notification, they won’t bother. Always offer value in your notifications. This could be a special discount, a personalized recommendation, or an exclusive update.
7. Ignoring User Preferences
Not respecting user preferences can lead to dissatisfaction and can result in users disabling your notifications. Allow users to customize their notification preferences. They should be able to opt into or out of different types of notifications.
By being aware of these red flags and implementing the suggested solutions, you can create a push notification strategy that respects your users’ preferences, delivers value, and ultimately drives engagement and sales for your restaurant.
Summary Checklist of Action Plans
- Establish clear goals for your push notification strategy.
- Understand and segment your audience for personalized notifications.
- Optimize delivery times based on customer behaviors and time zones.
- Design engaging and valuable push notifications content.
- Regularly test and analyze the performance of your push notifications.
- Integrate your push notification strategy with other marketing efforts.
- Consider location-based notifications to target users based on their location.
- Use A/B testing to determine the best-performing push messages.
- Always ask for permission before sending push notifications.
- Respect user preferences and privacy.
Push notifications, when leveraged correctly, can be a restaurant’s secret weapon. They offer a direct and immediate line of communication with your customers, drive higher engagement and retention, and ultimately boost sales. For restaurateurs, restaurant managers, and marketing professionals, understanding and embracing this power will significantly bolster your restaurant’s promotion strategy. In an increasingly mobile-driven world, those who adapt will flourish. Are you ready to serve up success?
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