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Loyalty Marketing Is Showmars’ Secret Ingredient

In the restaurant business loyal customers are the be-all and end-all; in fact, it’s those devoted patrons who keep coming back for more who are the backbone of most eateries. Marketers for Showmars, a restaurant chain based in North Carolina that serves a mix of American and Greek dishes, say without their loyal customers they simply couldn’t exist.

“Loyalty. It’s huge. Eighty percent of what [the marketing team] does is to try and get repeat business,” says David Prosser, EVP of special projects, IT, and human resources for Showmars. “Our effort is to not just build that customer base, but maintain that customer base.”

Actually, most of Showmars’ business comes from those die-hard customers at the chain’s 30 restaurants. “Generally we found that a small percentage of total customers, somewhere around 20 to 30 percent, can drive 70 to 80 percent of total revenue,” explains Zach Goldstein, CEO of Thanx, a loyalty platform that allows customers to collect rewards when they buy goods and services with their credit and debit cards. “That small base—those are the people who you are targeting with a loyalty marketing campaign.”

Prosser says he and his team at Showmars knew who they wanted to target with their loyalty marketing messages—dedicated, middle-class families with a love for casual dining. But marketers faced several challenges: boosting loyalty for the brand, not just the neighborhood Showmars; creating a seamless customer experience restaurant-wide; and providing a personalized, one-to-one relationship for each customer.

“We couldn’t show [customers]—outside of interactions with restaurant managers and servers—how much we appreciate them; we couldn’t personalize their experiences; we couldn’t carry those experiences around to each restaurant. It was hard,” Prosser says.

Those challenges made it difficult to boost brand loyalty. The answer to those problems, Prosser says, is customer incentives. So with tools from Thanx, marketers at Showmars created a rewards program that was effortless for company marketers and customers, and rewarded only truly devoted patrons.

Through the Showmars mobile app, customers sign-up for the rewards program and get points each time they swipe a credit or debit card; no loyalty points or punch cards needed. When customers spend $125, they automatically receive a notification of a $10 reward toward the next purchase—incentive to keep coming back and spending more money at any Showmars restaurants across the state. Only the most devout are rewarded—customers who spend at least $125.

The results, Prosser contends, are remarkable.

“Customer engagement at the restaurants was something that we were already good at. But this [loyalty marketing campaign] just multiplied that ability times ten,” Prosser says. “Our engagement was local, on-the-ground, face-to-face, at-the-table interactions. Now we have the ability to engage whether the customer is in front of us or not. That’s huge.”

He says Showmars has managed to identify, engage, and retain more than 4,000 loyal customers since the start of the campaign last May. Reward program members spent about 7% more than non-members. Checks are about 70% higher on average when customers redeem a reward and 30% higher for VIP members.

“This was definitely successful,” Prosser says. “The response is overwhelming positive. People like to know that the seven, eight, nine, 10 dollars that they spend with us is appreciated. With this rewards program, they know that.”

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