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The smart way to use discounts and campaigns to drive footfall in January

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The smart way to use discounts and campaigns to drive footfall in January

The smart way to use discounts and campaigns to drive footfall in January

January is a unique month in the industry, with specific challenges but equally some great opportunities. Hands up, who has had the time right now to develop great strategies to help counter the ‘hangover’ month and keep customers coming back after their festive indulgences? Some clever marketing has given operators campaigns to hang their hats on, including Veganuary, Dry January and Try January, and there is always the failsafe discounts or meal deals that have become expected by customers. But there is an art – and data-driven science – to maximising these opportunities in order to improve loyalty with your existing customers and create relationships with new fans.

Recent research we carried out revealed that 30% is the magic ‘discount’ number in driving most diners through the door in January, but it must be presented in the right way and through the most appropriate channels, otherwise it can de-value your brand and you could suffer from the fallout – either attracting the wrong type of customer (who is only looking for a bargain and would not normally engage with your brand) or potentially alienating guests because you haven’t properly educated your team members about the purpose and potential of discounts.

To the latter point, my colleague relayed how, after signing-up for a discount voucher via Groupon at a spa, that included lunch in the deal, she and her friend where treated like second-class citizens, receiving the cold shoulder and being relegated to the darkest corner of the room for lunch. She was using the discount to trial the venue but, after her experience, will never go back. If that operator had the foresight to speak to the team members about embracing customers using discounts, with a view to beginning or continuing a relationship that will benefit the business, my colleague would most likely be a regular customer by now. A discount or meal deal can often be the hook that gets people through the door, but you should think about what your team can do and communicate during their experience to encourage return visits.

In our recent research, nearly three-quarters (68%) of diners said they would return in January to a pub or restaurant they visited in December if it was a good experience. Make the most of the increase in footfall now to encourage return visits and provide vouchers for January. Make sure you train and motivate your team to understand and communicate the discount details and gauge which camp their January guests are in – ‘Healthy’, ‘Veganuary’, ‘Try’ or ‘Dry’ – so they can make relevant recommendations.

Customers could test out new healthy and vegan menu options – almost half of diners seek healthier options at the beginning of the year – and give their feedback, so they feel like they’ve contributed and are a part of your brand. Encourage them to sign-up to the newsletter to see if their favourite dish will become a regular part of the menu and while you’re at it, tell them about the free glass of Prosecco they get for their anniversary or birthday if they join and book for the occasion. Or introduce some of the fantastic non-alcoholic or low-alcohol options in a ‘dry’ or ‘dry-ish’ tasting experience.

January should ideally be a continuation of a broader strategy to gather data and insights around your customers so you know what menu items they like, what dietary restrictions or preferences they may have and when they plan to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. This can help inform a personalised marketing approach that will target the right consumer, at the right time, through the best channel and with the right message. Knowing and understanding your customer, communicating effectively and creating great food and drink experiences will help you to build those mutually beneficial relationships that grow your brand.

Sally Whelan is Director of guest experience management expert, HGEM

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