What Makes SMS a Great Partner for Your Restaurant’s Loyalty Program (and How to Connect the Two)

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SMS Marketing
Published on
Apr 18, 2022
Written by
Kayla Ellman
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How this food and beverage brand uses text messaging—and Attentive's integration with Punchh—to amplify their loyalty strategy.   

Customer loyalty has come a long way from the paper punch cards we grew up with, rewarding us with a free cone or side of fries after the tenth visit to our favorite ice cream shop or burger joint. Then, we'd get a new card, the promise of earning another reward in the future, motivating us to keep coming back for more.

At its core, this strategy for building loyalty hasn't changed—and it doesn't need to because consumers are still motivated in the same way. Nearly 90% of consumers in our recent survey ranked perks as the main reason they've signed up for a loyalty program. And 57% of restaurant customers who already use at least one loyalty program would spend more on food orders from other places if they could use rewards options.

But today, brands have access to more channels to reach and engage their consumers—in the right place and at the right time—with content and offers that turn them into repeat purchasers.

Nekter Juice Bar does this well, integrating their SMS channel with their loyalty and offers platform, Punchh, to attract and retain new and existing guests while increasing participation rates, app downloads, and order frequency. 

Keep reading to learn why SMS marketing is worth the investment for your restaurant, plus get inspiration from Nekter's strategy for sending text messages that inspire lasting loyalty.

From punch cards to personalized, omnichannel loyalty

As apps have become increasingly popular, loyalty has moved to our mobile devices, where it's always on. "We've seen massive strides in the way brands can use loyalty," says Brittany Maroney, Director of Marketing Communications at Punchh. "There's been a fundamental shift, and consumers now want more from brands." 

Not only do they want to order online, but they also want delivery, curbside pickup options, and mobile engagement. Consumers are looking for hyper-personalized interactions, and they no longer respond in the same way to mass communications, adds Maroney.

Modern loyalty is about more than just getting people to opt in. It’s about how you keep them engaged once they’re in your program and using retention channels—like SMS—to deliver experiences that drive customer lifetime value

When—and why—to invest in SMS for your restaurant  

If your restaurant has an online ordering system in place, that's all you need to start driving immediate sales from SMS. "Many of our customers come to us without a database of SMS subscribers," says Amir Zamanian, General Manager of Food, Beverage, and Restaurants at Attentive. "Our strategy is to convert their existing website traffic into SMS opt-ins."

You can use SMS to grow an engaged audience of consumers who will want to be the first to know when you launch a loyalty program or app or have a new store opening or menu item. Your most loyal customers also want to hear from you: 81.2% of consumers in our recent survey said they’re signed up for texts from at least one brand, and 63% of them have made a purchase from a text message within the last three months. 

When Nekter decided to add text messaging to their marketing strategy, they’d been using Punchh as their loyalty platform for years—so they wanted to choose an SMS marketing platform that would work with their existing tech stack. “One of the reasons we partnered with Attentive is that we knew the Punchh integration was there,” says Jon Asher, VP of Marketing at Nekter. 

The same logic applies to why Punchh was the right fit for the juice bar chain. “We’ve got a POS system, we’ve got online ordering, we’ve got all these different systems that need to talk to each other,” explains Asher. “It’s so important to carefully select your partners to ensure you have that unified strategy across all of your tech stack. We have that with Punchh and Attentive.”

Bringing text messaging into your loyalty strategy 

Nekter’s ultimate goal for using Attentive and Punchh together is to get everyone—from first-time juice drinkers to smoothie enthusiasts—to download their app to earn rewards. These are three strategies they use to send text messages that boost loyalty, engagement, and overall revenue. 

Strategy #1: Cross-promote your mobile app or loyalty program to drive conversions

When Nekter launched the first email and SMS sign-up units on their website, they wanted to see if they could incentivize app downloads at the same time. They ran a small test, promoting a free juice or smoothie on their pop-up, then provided a link to the app in their welcome message. "We saw that 30-40% of people who signed up for SMS were also downloading our app, which is huge," says Asher. 

Nekter Juice Bar's SMS marketing sign-up units

It's the same offer Nekter uses today, converting their website browsers into both SMS subscribers and loyalty members early in the customer journey. “We love getting people into our ecosystem, and the pair of Attentive and Punchh does it really well,” adds Phillip McCauley, Director of Digital Marketing at Nekter. “Once you’re in our ecosystem, we have so many ways to reach you, we can get you to bounce back, and we can take care of you as a loyalty member.” 

SMS marketing example from Nekter

In a recent campaign promoting their juice cleanses, Nekter decided to surprise their customers by extending the offer with a secret weekend sale. They didn't announce it in advance—they just sent a text to their subscribers with the 72-hour offer. The message had a ~20% conversion rate and brought in a significant amount of additional revenue over that weekend. 

Strategy #2: Create a sense of urgency with time-sensitive campaigns

If you’re a food and beverage brand or restaurant that offers seasonal items—like a pumpkin spice latte—you can send timely text messages that encourage customers to order them before they’re no longer on the menu. But that’s just one way to play on the feeling of FOMO.

For Nekter, some of their products are more popular at certain times of the year, so that’s when they focus their efforts on promoting those items. Around the holiday season, for example, they offer the option to pre-order a cleanse to “start the year off right,” and they push digital gift card purchases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday—always driving to their app. 

gift card SMS marketing example from Nekter

“We’ve found that the redemption rate increases exponentially when there’s a sense of urgency, especially with one-off, time-sensitive campaigns,” notes McCauley. But another factor is that Nekter tries to increase their offers when they promote them through SMS, so it feels like their subscribers are getting an added bonus. 

Strategy #3: Use your brand voice to make messages feel more relevant

The beauty of SMS is that you can reach your audience at any given moment, whether they’re sitting on the couch browsing for their next meal or out and about living their daily lives. But a well-crafted text message that leans into your brand voice is what ultimately captures their attention—and inspires them to convert.

That’s why on Black Friday, Nekter tapped into the familiar feeling of being stuck in a long line. At a time when consumers are typically getting tons of messages from brands, they found a way to stand out by being relatable and suggesting that people keep shopping on their app while they wait.

mobile app SMS marketing example from Nekter

“We’re your really helpful friend. We’re always encouraging. We’re always there for you, trying to find some way to make things feel better,” says McCauley, advising that it’s important for any campaign or offer to be relevant to your brand and what you’re doing.

Want to learn more from Nekter’s experience using personalized text messaging to fuel their loyalty strategy? Watch the on-demand webinar with our partners at Punchh and Nekter Juice Bar.

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