Whoever owns the customer data owns the relationship. Thanks to a trove of detailed data formerly off-limits to operators, restaurants have the power to transform the customer experience.

The quick-service restaurant industry has always been a face-to-face business—but things are changing rapidly. From ordering food online or through loyalty apps, customers are more comfortable with the digital world than ever before. They’re careful what they spend, and savvy when it comes to getting the most for their money, but how do quick-service restaurants engage customers in a way that differentiates them from the competition in an omnichannel world?

“To create real engagement, brands need to surprise and delight their loyal customers in ways that feel memorable on an emotional level,” says Tom Byrnes, senior vice president of marketing at Quisitive/LedgerPay. “The importance of personalized service, anticipating what customers may like, and letting customers know they are valued is stronger than ever. The challenge for most operators today is in how to leverage technology to provide that personalized experience and drive behavior at scale.”

To be able to provide highly personalized engagement, brands need to know more about their customers—and for the most part, customers don’t mind sharing. A recent study from Bond Brand Loyalty found that 87 percent of loyalty program members were comfortable having their activities tracked in exchange for a better experience tailored to their individual needs. So why are actionable, first-party customer insights so difficult to track down?

Loyalty program apps are a start, but there’s always a question of whether people will keep using them over time. Today, the average American belongs to about 15 loyalty programs but is active in only about six or seven, and data has shown that customers frequently don’t tend to take the time to self-identify when they’re buying low-ticket items. Third parties like delivery apps, which saw explosive growth during the pandemic, are also an obstacle. “While third-party apps kept a lot of restaurants going during COVID, they created a barrier between operators and their customers in terms of data,” Byrnes says. “Many quick serves had to accept this sacrifice to keep the doors open, but at the end of the day, whoever owns the customer data owns that relationship.”

Additionally, if quick-service restaurants are unable to put the data they do receive into context, or tie it to specific customers, it is of little use. It is crucial to be able to track individual behavior—and to put all the right puzzle pieces together—at scale. That can be difficult, especially in a brick-and-mortar environment. 

“For the most part, quick-service restaurants have grown organically over time, and the back office is often highly fragmented,” Byrnes says. “The question becomes, even if you do obtain first-party customer data, how can you tie things together to gain a clear view into customer behavior and, most importantly, make that actionable? The equation is clear: Data fuels personalization, personalization creates engagement, engagement drives loyalty, and loyalty drives revenue.”

The race for first-party customer data is on, and quick-service brands can use LedgerPay’s innovative Payments Intelligence® as a tool to help. It allows merchants to tap into a trove of detailed customer-centric data that operators have never been able to access before. Simply put, Payments Intelligence® tracks every detail from every transaction by every customer in every channel. 

“In a relatively short amount of time, depending on frequency, you get a direct lens into each and every customer’s shopping behaviors and menu preferences,” Byrnes says. “The data starts to tell its own story. In the Payments Intelligence® dashboard, you can segment customers by behaviors and then match them to promotions—you could drive dayparts to encourage a lunchtime customer to come in early for coffee, or you could offer a free chocolate shake within the next four days to an occasional customer who typically orders a shake 30 percent of the time. It’s a new and personalized way of surprising and delighting them and creates a new way of engaging them.”

The key is removing friction. “By eliminating the need for customers to opt in, download an app, or provide personal information, we have created a seamless way for quick serves to build profiles on every customer who pays with a card—in-store, online, or through an app,” Byrnes says. By removing the traditional friction of loyalty programs, quick-service restaurants can engage with 100 percent of their customers who pay with a card—in ways that are relevant to them—all while maintaining their anonymity and privacy.  

This opens up a world of new possibilities for personalization at scale. “It all happens seamlessly,” Byrnes says. “The customer doesn’t have to remember to open their app, and most importantly, there’s absolutely nothing required of the front-line employees in the restaurant. Payments Intelligence® empowers quick-service restaurants to influence customer behavior while enhancing the customer experience at the same time. It’s a true win-win.”

To learn more, visit the Payments Intelligence® website.

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