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One-to-one marketing plus 4 more tech trends from RLC

While “millennial” was one of the top buzzwords of the Restaurant Leadership Conference last week, much of the conversation revolved around how this demographic interacts with brands—which means technology. Emil Brolick, CEO of Wendy’s, summed up it up from the main stage: “Millennials are the first generation that were really born in a tech-enabled world. If you’re not tech-relevant, you’re not relevant to this demographic.”

The top tech trend that arose in session after session was how to speak to these consumers. The answer: one-to-one marketing. Millennials want to feel a connection to a brand, and individualized marketing platforms seem to be what they’re growing to expect.

“The goal is to develop a one-to-one relationship with your consumers, and you have to have tech to do this,” said Brolick.

Smashburger CMO Josh Kern made a similar point, saying that there can be a message in place to target specific guests for the first time, which is making marketing to specific guests more efficient. A key way to accomplish this is through a fully integrated mobile app.

There’s a need for an app to be the face of lots of integrated tech, including online ordering, mobile pay, back-end systems and consumer insights, agreed panelists from Corner Bakery, Firehouse Subs and Zoes Kitchen. Transactional data and customer relationship management allow brands to pinpoint specific consumers’ actions and target them accordingly. “[We can] understand the personas dealing with digital properties plus understand the occasion. Now we can predict [their behavior], which helps with upselling and giving them a better experience,” said Scott Faculak, VP of CRM and data warehouse at Domino’s.

And from the sound of it, this kind of expectation from technology is not going anywhere, and it’s not slowing down. “No one’s crystal ball on this is perfect, but we know that it’s fundamentally true and it’s essential to the success of your organization,” said Brolick.

Other tech trends:

Apple Pay will develop

Despite Americans’ love of all things Apple, adoption of Apple Pay has been slow. The reason, says Michael Hagan of LevelUp, is that, outside of being a forward thinker, there’s no value for the customer. Apple will have to open up its ecosystem, says Hagan. He predicts that operators will eventually be able to slot their loyalty programs in the Apple system, since it’s currently a two-step process.

Beacons aren’t a sure fit for everyone

Firehouse Subs is testing beacon technology in one market, which leaves breadcrumbs to let the brand know where customers are going and when they are leaving stores. But there’s so much new technology available, operators shouldn't jump to add it all to their operation, agreed several panelists. “Start with the ‘why.’ What’s the business objective [of adding new tech],” says Rachel Phillips-Luther, Zoes Kitchen VP of marketing. If you’re not sure of the why, she says, maybe it’s a waste of time and money to try it out.

Simplify the feedback procedure

One benefit of tech-based loyalty is that operators can get real-time feedback, giving them the opportunity to correct issues before they blow up. But getting guests to complete a survey is no easy task. That’s why Zoes cut its survey down to three simple questions; guests can text additional comments straight to the brand if there’s more to say. With this method, some 60 percent of Zoes users give feedback.

There’s success in mobile re-engagement

Because operators are capturing transactional data, they can leverage it to see when a specific guest’s traffic is down and target them to get back in the store. When Argo Tea switched from a plastic card-based loyalty program to a loyalty app, it saw a huge uptick in redemption of its re-engagement efforts. On the card-based system, Argo saw 3 percent redemption when it offered 25,000 free cookies with a 30-day expiration. It launched a similar re-engagement program with a 14-day expiration via mobile; within the first 10 days, it hit 44 percent redemption.

Why does CEO Arsen Avakian think the app works better than a card? “It’s tough to motivate behavior when users can’t automatically see the reward,” he said. 

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