Building brand loyalty is just like building a relationship. You need to learn everything about your partner’s preferences. You need to be genuinely interested in them. You need to make them smile. Above all, you need to consistently show them a little (or a whole lot) of love.

Mobile is a channel that’s great for getting up close and personal without overstepping the boundaries. A recent Arc Report by Applause explains that customers now expect “rich, location-based, transaction-aware apps” that offer great experiences and real benefits. The data, however, clearly demonstrates that restaurants are not aligned with those expectations just yet: for example, 45 out of the top 100 restaurant brands lack a native app. That’s why everybody in the restaurant space is rushing to launch a mobile app and turning to mobile campaigns that show customers they are truly loved. Here are 5 campaigns that you can use all year round to have a relationship with your brand go from “like” to “love” to “loyal.”

1. Encourage customers to spread the love

When your guests love spending time at your restaurant, chances are they’ll want to bring their friends. Why not encourage them to spread the love even further? Use your mobile app and your social media accounts to offer your guests loyalty program points or a discount for any referrals. For example, a recent case study shows great results achieved by a Burger King franchisee that encouraged users to post about their new mobile app on social media. For each link to the app that was posted on personal social media profiles, the existing app users and the new referred users received free points, which they could then spend towards their favorite menu items. Each referral led on average to 4 new app installations and at least one new restaurant guest. This referral program generated 34 percent of all Burger King app installations with new guests also fuelling stable revenue growth. Score some love for your brand from your guests and their friends with a similar offer. It’s a win-win for everyone.

2. Make their special evening even more memorable

Valentine’s Day creates a great opportunity for marketers. In 2016 nearly 4 in 10 of those celebrating the holiday (38.3 percent) planned to treat their dates to a night out at a restaurant or another experience, spending a record total of $4.5 billion—the highest since National Retail Federation began tracking spending on gifts in 2010. If you’re organizing a special event or promotion at your restaurant, consider incentivizing guests to attend. Remember, there is a lot of competition out there, so make sure you stand out from the crowd with a highly tailored offer. For example, to make Valentine’s day truly special for your guests, consider running a romantic promotion: offer them a free bottle of wine or a dessert if they post a selfie of themselves and their significant other geotagged at your restaurant. Remember to also include those guests who choose to celebrate Galentine’s and Palentine’s on February 14.

3. Give them a delightful birthday surprise

As in every relationship, it’s not just about that awesome first date. To keep the relationship going over time, you need to consistently show signs of attention. Thoughtful birthday surprises never hurt either. Use high Valentine’s Day traffic at your restaurant to sign up as many of your customers to your mobile app and start gathering important demographic data like birthdays. Engage users that haven’t been active for a while by offering a lovely birthday surprise. For example, you can send them a coupon for a free treat that they can claim on a visit one week before or after their birthday. This is a great example of a targeted one-to-one marketing initiative that gives an immediate payback. Guests will most definitely love the attention. For example, a Hooters franchisee was able to attract 12.5 percent of guests to celebrate their birthday at the restaurant in the course of a similar campaign and the average check for a birthday dinner was 2.5 times higher than usual.

4. Tell them how close you are

Geographic targeting is all the rage right now. In fact, the number of location data beacon devices installed globally rose 90 percent year over year in 2016 with more than 3 million devices installed at food and dining locations according to Reveal Mobile.  However, you need to be very careful about how you use the location so that you don’t run the risk of being annoying. Offers that work best are highly targeted and highly personalized—take notice of the consistent theme developing with personalization. Use the geofencing feature in your mobile app to target guests who are close by. You can then get creative with what you offer. For example, last year Dairy Queen ran a really successful promotion on Valentine’s Day offering a free Blizzard to all singles without a date. Our guess? The promotion would be even more successful if they used location targeting for their offer as well.

5. Let them know that you miss them

What’s the deal with this customer? Why has he gone silent on us? Is he not that into our brand? Just like some people do after the first date, customers can often completely disappear from your radar and leave you guessing about the reasons. Treat this as an opportunity for your marketers to reach out with a special offer to encourage them to visit you again. Here’s an idea: use push notifications in your mobile app to target users whose activity has plummeted in the last month. Send them some love in the form of, say, their favorite mouthwatering menu item free of charge if they visit your restaurant within a week of receiving the offer. This gesture will surely make them swoon and remember they have you in their life.

Remember, personal relationships are really key for your business, and you can’t really buy them. They have to be lovingly built over weeks and months. Start building committed customer relationships this Valentine’s Day through highly targeted and personalized mobile campaigns that deliver incremental value to your business, and you’ll have a great foundation to build on in the year to come.

Daniel Rubinstein is Chief Business Development Officer at LoyaltyPlant, a mobile platform that helps restaurant owners and marketers build rewarding customer relationships and harness mobile apps and CRM to elevate customer loyalty and revenues. Follow @LoyaltyPlant on Twitter for additional marketing tips.
Customer Experience, Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story