How One Smart Promotion Strategy Boosted Applebee’s Sales by 20%
Posted by Surround Integrated on November 4th, 2016
In a world driven by Facebook and Twitter—where your smart phone is essentially an extra limb on your body—the way a restaurant shepherds customers through the door has drastically changed.
But it’s the advent of new tactics—the opportunity for brands to connect with customers in greater numbers and depth—that empowers a restaurant with historically high sales potential.
In the restaurant industry, survival of the fittest comes down to merging time-tested strategies with modern technology.
Keep up, or get out of the way.
Serving good food
to good people.
Applebee’s is one of North America’s most famous food chains, boasting almost 2,000 locations and counting. Their success is undeniable, but like any strong business they are constantly raising and redefining standards.
In 2016, Applebee’s decided to reach more customers by combining a coupon promotion with modern digital marketing. They were well versed in the former, but needed our help with the latter.
How do you take a successful food chain
and make it more successful online?
First, we had to understand what customers value and don’t value. Putting ourselves in the shoes of diners, we realized a few truths:
- Make it easy
“Don’t waste my time. Give me a coupon that’s easy to grab.”
- Make it relevant
“If I’m interested, I’ll bite. Especially when it’s lunch time.”
- Make it memorable
“Sometimes I forget I have a coupon. Remind me once in a while, but not too much.”
Game afoot, we began developing a landing page and database that addressed these values—and streamlined the program for Applebee’s to manage.
Let’s Make It Easy
The traffic we generated for Applebee’s would go to a landing page where users could request a coupon.
Let’s Make It Relevant
We needn’t fire out coupons with a shotgun, nor exert effort on folks who lack interest in the brand. The right move was simple, yet critical:
Engage with customers who care.
In order to receive the coupon, they would have to enter their information and sign up for the Applebee’s newsletter.
This not only solved for relevancy, but also allowed for future interactions with the customer.
Moreover, Facebook email retargeting ensured that only those who had previously demonstrated interest in Applebee’s would get the offer. This ultimately yielded a whopping 28% of visitors requesting the coupon.
But we couldn’t ignore another piece of the puzzle:
On Darwin’s Island, you have to adapt.
By tracking downloads by the exact day of the week and time of day, we could intelligently adjust campaigns for optimal performance. We scheduled our mobile ads to the precise times we discovered customers interacted with the promotion—e.g., during key lunch time periods.
Coupon requests, however, were not the only means for success.
Let’s Make It Memorable
To keep users from forgetting about their coupons, we implemented a drip email campaign: one reminder after a week, another the day before expiration.
These reminders proved extremely effective in boosting redemption rates. The sweet spot is what mattered—one reminder would’ve fallen short, a third too obtrusive.
A System that Works
Tactics in order, we began creating a database that would generate a unique coupon code for each email address submission.
The software acted as both a database and application to validate and redeem these coupons. It streamlined the process of searching for the code and tracking if the coupon is valid, invalid, or expired.
Upping the Ante
Applebee’s needed more than just a sales boost. A 50% coupon redemption rate had effectively punted the industry average to the moon—but we were looking at the bigger picture.
Once a customer redeemed a coupon, he or she received an email 2 hours later requesting feedback via a survey. The customers received another voucher as appreciation for completing the survey. 58% of coupon redeemers completed the survey—at once creating loyalty with the brand and providing valuable data for Applebee’s to improve upon.
What We Learned
Seek New Loyalties
Follow the Customer Journey