In January, Tasti D-Lite began testing a startup web-based loyalty platform, Social Network Appreciation Platform (SNAP), in 30 locations.
The concept, which is ready for a full rollout domestically and internationally within the next couple of months, integrates traditional in-store loyalty programs with popular social media sites such as Facebook and foursquare. It was deployed by the frozen dessert chain as part of its TastiRewards program.
BJ Emerson, vice president of technology for Tasti D-Lite, said now is the perfect time for the company to embrace this new platform, as it adds another layer to the "very successful" loyalty program.
"(TastiRewards) is already social friendly. We wanted to add additional features and benefits to the program to encourage customer adoption," he said. "Our data found that, on average, loyalty customers spend more. Adding more rewards and engaging features means more customers are drawn to the program."
The chain's data is backed by a 2010 study by CaptureCode, which found that restaurant goers increased the amount of food and drink they purchased by 21 percent when incentivized through loyalty programs.
More dollars coming from loyalty customers coupled with the staggering growth in location-based social networking provided the impetus behind Tasti D-Lite's partnership with SNAP.
Emerson said there was no reluctance in embracing a startup for such a task. Since the initial agreement, Tasti D-Lite has purchased a minority interest in SNAP and has a spot on its board.
"SNAP was actually born out of (another) original concept launched in January 2010. The vision provided by the original team at pcAmerica coupled with some new talent has resulted in a dynamic culture at SNAP," he said.
SNAP's features and functionality
SNAP's offering allows consumers to earn loyalty rewards both in-store and online through automated social posts and check-ins, which expands the Tasti D-Lite brand through digital word-of-mouth.
Customers enable messages through a store-branded portal, which automatically sends creative, customized, branded messages when transactions are complete. Brands control their own campaigns, allowing flexibility to change up marketing incentives often. This also makes it easier for brands to navigate a murky social media arena where many of the company-customer engagement rules remain unwritten.
"There's no doubt that word of mouth has found a new medium," said David Gosman, CEO, SNAP. "There are a lot of businesses out there enjoying great success with in-store loyalty programs, but they're a little lost when it comes to engaging customers on the web and social networks. SNAP allows businesses to create a presence via digital word-of-mouth from their most loyal customers, while reaching an entire world of new potential customers."
In addition to check-ins, SNAP expands current in-store loyalty programs by rewarding customers for their automatically "pushed out" digital word-of-mouth endorsements through Facebook and Twitter. Customers do not have to manually check-in through a mobile device. This provides a convenience upgrade from Tasti D-Lite's active check-in program that's been around since 2010.
"We were the first to turn an active check-in on foursquare into a passive check-in simply through the swipe of a loyalty card," Emerson said. "The utility of this has turned out to be a significant driver of adoption with 18 percent of myTasti.com members opting to enable connections to foursquare which is high relative to the usage by the general population."
SNAP can reward their most loyal shoppers with customized awards, such as virtual badges or trophies, as well as top customer positioning on "leaderboards," components Tasti D-Lite anticipates using for its own in-store benefits and for possible partnership opportunities.
"As more brands start using SNAP, the opportunity to co-opt badge campaigns will allow customers to earn rewards across brands which provide the opportunity to incentivize certain lifestyle activity," Emerson said. "For example, if a customer visits Tasti D-Lite along with a gym concept a certain amount of times in a week, they can earn a special badge and earn points in both programs."
Quantifying and leveraging the SNAP platform
An operational benefit with the SNAP portal is its reporting capability which measures successful campaigns and monitors user-activity by location. Additionally, SNAP can be integrated in a variety of POS systems and tied into other chains' existing loyalty programs, which makes it easy to rollout for both new and existing franchisees.
"Comprehensive reports now allow us more visibility into metrics such as frequency of visits and influence which will help determine the lifetime value of the customer," Emerson said. "The social elements have already helped build awareness when locations open in new areas. Curiosity builds when exposed to other forms of local marketing which brings them one step close to making a visit."
In addition to boosting brand awareness, the chain also expects to launch more creative promotions; for example, a "brain freeze" badge for those who visit a Tasti D-Lite a few times a day. But perhaps the biggest objective with the impending systemwide rollout of SNAP's program is a stronger ROI.
"Tapping into our growing database of loyalty members allows us to communicate (promotions) and really connect with our core customers, add touch points and introduce new levels of engagement which result in stronger relationships," Emerson said. "If loyalty customers continue to spend more on average per transaction, we'll see an impact on the bottom line for our franchisees."
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.