Social Networking with ROI

By BJ Emerson, Director of Information and Social Technologies, Tasti D- Lite LLC | April 08, 2010

Today's digital customer is willing to share more information with his or her friends and followers than ever before, presenting hospitality operators with multiple opportunities to build brand loyalty through customer engagement. Ever since social networking became popular, companies have been trying to find ways to realize a solid return on investment; now, a tie-in to customer loyalty programs will not only generate awareness for a company, but can also generate sales.

After realizing that its customers were already talking about Tasti D-Lite (www.tastidlite.com) on Twitter and Facebook, and were "checking-in" at locations on the mobile application Foursquare, it only made sense for the company to offer the ability to automate this process and reward customers for sharing their Tasti experience in a creative way.  

A 'Tasti' program
Tasti D-Lite's TastiRewards program marries social networking with a loyalty program by allowing customers to earn extra points when they connect their loyalty accounts to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Customers register their Tasti TreatCard online and opt-in to enable a secure connection to their social network(s) of choice. When their loyalty card is swiped at the point of sale (POS) terminal, messages are automatically posted to their social network(s) to be viewed by friends and followers, for example: "I just earned 5 TastiRewards points at Tasti D-Lite Scottsdale, AZ. http://myTasti.com"). Additionally, customers can mix up the messages that are sent to friends and followers by selecting from a list of options. When the POS transaction is completed, the software randomly selects a message to be sent out from the list of those that are pre-authorized.  

Customers receive five TastiRewards points for simply registering their cards online. Through the online portal, customers can check their points balance and submit their birth date to receive a free medium cup or cone on their birthday. Whenever customers present their card at the POS, they earn one point for each pre-tax dollar spent and an additional point for each social network connection that they have enabled.

Application programming interfaces (API's) provided by each social network enable the myTasti.com loyalty site to transmit message information when customer transactions are completed. The POS terminals within Tasti D-Lite stores are fully integrated with both the loyalty processor (Mercury Payment Systems, www.mercurypay.com) and a Web-based loyalty site powered by POS partner pcAmerica (www.pcamerica.com). Tasti TreatCards also serve a dual purpose as gift cards which can be reloaded and used across participating Tasti D-Lite locations.

Shared benefits
While customers benefit by earning extra points towards free Tasti D-Lite products, their friends and followers can potentially benefit as well through periodic links to coupons included in the messages. Location specific promotions can even be contained within the messages generated by the customer's loyalty activity.

This application provides much greater flexibility over a traditional punch card system and will provide Tasti D-Lite with a wealth of customer information, including purchasing behavior across locations. POS transaction information is now associated with a specific customer record and a global database enables customers to earn and redeem points across all participating locations, which will assist Tasti in making better menu and product promotion decisions.

What's the ROI?
Aside from the subjective results that can often come from social media efforts, some of the metrics that will be used to ultimately quantify the program's impact are:

  1. Increase in customer loyalty purchase activity: how does it compare to the previous punch card program?
  2. Increase in reach through social mentions within various networks: the rate of participation at this point looks very promising with the average user reaching 91 friends or followers with their automated TastiRewards loyalty messages.
  3. Click-thru and redemption rates of coupons generated by customer loyalty messages: these campaigns can be measured by location and will eventually be tracked by customer.   
Early results have already demonstrated great potential for attracting and retaining more customers. The full integration with the pcAmerica POS system provides Tasti D-Lite with the ability to monitor multiple data points related to the customer purchase activity.
 
BJ Emerson is the director of information and social technologies for Tasti D-Lite. In his 12 years of experience, BJ has overseen the rapid expansion of technologies to include providing hosted applications for entire franchise networks. In 2005, BJ led the deployment of a $2M corporate and franchise enterprise technology platform which won a Microsoft Pinnacle award for Excellence in 2006.
 

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