5 Ways Restaurants Can Encourage Customer Loyalty Online

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
February 10, 2021

The effects of a global pandemic have been far-reaching across verticals, but the restaurant industry has been especially impacted with spikes in online orders completely changing the food service landscape.

From order-ahead curbside pickup to an increase in delivery requests, more people are depending on restaurant websites and apps for food service – and many see this as the new norm for the future.

At the onset of COVID-19, the number of restaurants implementing online ordering increased by 169%. With so many eateries pivoting to a digital-first operation, businesses need to find ways to stand out from the competition and boost customer loyalty online.

5 Examples of How Restaurants can Encourage Customer Loyalty Online

The key to instilling customer loyalty online – especially among hungry customers – comes via exceptional digital experience that draws users back for future meal purchases. Satisfied customers will not only repeat their business, they’ll often spread the word and engage more often with marketing .

Here are 5 ways restaurants have encouraged customer loyalty through their websites and apps.

1. Streamline homepage design

When it comes to website homepages, simpler is better. People who come to your site ready to place an order are hungry and eager to complete their purchase. They don’t want to have to scour your website to figure out how to begin the process. An organized, clean homepage makes it easy for people to quickly locate the information they seek, and this is critical to streamlining the overall customer experience.

If a website looks unappealing, 38% of users won’t even engage with it. Homepages that reduce clutter and avoid excess information are easier to navigate. Visitors can focus on the web features that are most important to them and reach their end goal more efficiently.

Olive Garden has such a website. There are only essential tabs marked clearly across the top of the page. Customers interested in learning more can delve into the information that’s most relevant to them on another page. A large call-to-action button is featured in the center of the page in a contrasting color, so it’s easy to spot.

But, perhaps the best part about this page is located just beneath the main photo.

There, they walk customers through the ordering process step by step. At a glance, people can see that placing an order is just a three-step process, which gives the impression of a quick and simple transaction. Each step is clickable, so customers can access the information they need regardless of where they are in the customer journey.

By implementing these design features, Olive Garden is creating a smooth, painless user experience that people will remember for future purchases.

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2. Double-down on mobile-friendly experiences

Smartphones and tablets allow people to connect with their favorite businesses from anywhere at any time. 60% of all online restaurant orders are placed from mobile devices – so consider mobile the new norm.

Images ought to be embedded, so they don’t bog download times. Fonts must transition appropriately across multiple devices. Content that is cut off or disrupted on various screen sizes is frustrating to decipher. Someone accessing your website from their phone should have the same frictionless experience as someone accessing it from their desktop or laptop.

Mobile-friendliness doesn’t just apply to website optimization, it also includes offering mobile apps people can access on-the-go. In addition to the ease of online ordering, mobile apps can provide features to make people feel more comfortable while navigating life during a global pandemic. Digital menus and specials can be accessed with QR codes, providing a more thoughtful experience.

By incorporating mobile accessibility, you not only reach a larger audience, but you provide flexibility and convenience to help build up customer loyalty.

National steak chain Texas Roadhouse realizes the importance of mobile-friendliness. The first thing homepage visitors see is a huge advertisement for downloading their mobile app.

The app offers customers a variety of features, all designed to provide a more convenient experience. From joining the restaurant waitlist and placing to-go orders to simple payment options, Texas Roadhouse has taken customer loyalty a step further through mobile optimization.

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3. Offer rewards in exchange for information

Driving visitors to your website is important, but it’s crucial to capture new user information for future contact.

While people can be leery about sharing their personal information, 57% of consumers will divulge their information in exchange for personalized offers. By offering people to join a rewards system, you gather quality leads and consumers are incentivized to return for future orders.

For maximum effectiveness, points systems should be intuitive, track information for the customer, and provide rewards that the user would find valuable. Rewards systems offer numerous opportunities for future touchpoints with your following.

Send personalized emails to remind customers of their current status. Suggest products upon which customers can redeem their points. Personalize push notifications – letting them know they’re only a certain number of points away from their next reward can encourage them to return for a future purchase.

When customers log onto the TGI Friday’s website, a pop-up window immediately appears, inviting them to sign up to receive discount offers via text. The company sweetens the deal by offering an immediate 10% off an online order. Not only might this convert a prospect to a customer, but it also provides the company a way to reach quality leads—e.g., people who are already showing an interest in their offerings.

An important part of this feature is the ability to decline the offer and remove the pop-up from the screen. Customers don’t want to feel obligated to sign up for programs just to place an order. Opt-in and opt-out options are important when offering any registration opportunity.

By giving customers choices, TGI Friday’s secures brand loyalty and increases the likelihood that customers will return.

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4. Personalize user experiences

Gathering customer information enables you to create a customized user experience for your visitors. Personalization is the ultimate key to building customer loyalty.

When you take the time to understand your audience and learn about their interests and behaviors, you don’t just make them feel valued. You empower yourself to develop custom content for more targeted marketing. This way, you can deliver relevant information that’s sure to resonate with your audience.

When you identify your customers’ past purchase history, you can suggest products that you know they like. This increases the likelihood that they’ll buy from you. In addition to gathering personal information through rewards registration and email sign-ups, you can gain more insight through surveys. Ask customers what products or services they’d like to see more of from your restaurant. Invite them to share feedback about a recent experience or meal.

All of this allows you to tailor your messaging and ultimately the overall experience for your customers. This ensures customer satisfaction and strengthens your relationship with your customer base.

Panera Bread knows when their customers shop for meals, what category of food they tend to buy, and the best way to reach them with offers. The following email reached a customer weeks after they placed an order during lunchtime. The restaurant identified the customer as a lunch break target and sent them an offer they knew would be appealing to that individual.

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This deal doesn’t just entice a repeat visit; this customized experience impresses the customer and increases the likelihood they’ll come back for future dining opportunities.

5. Display high-quality photos and descriptions

A significant drawback to not being inside a brick-and-mortar restaurant is the limitations on our senses. Dining in, we hear the food sizzling in the kitchen; we smell delicious aromas as trays of piping hot dishes pass by our table; we see other diners enjoying their meals; all of this influences our purchase decisions.

Confined to the internet, customers have to somehow gain that same or similar experience through only images and text.

Photo quality is the most essential factor for 90% of online shoppers. That’s why it’s imperative that restaurant websites post high-quality, tantalizing images of their food for diners to peruse as they shop their online menu. People want to see what they’re getting before they pay for it. Photos help to manage expectations and entice customers to buy. Additionally, images should be accompanied by concise, accurate descriptions that feature flavors, textures, and ingredients.

Carrabba’s, a national Italian chain, posts visually appealing images of their food on their menu. Descriptions tell people how the food is prepared and what flavors they can expect to taste. They also let customers know additional upgrades are available. Shoppers can find the price prominently displayed beneath the photo, so there are no surprises when they get to the checkout process.

By presenting clear depictions of what customers can expect from their order, Carrabba’s builds trust and secures customer loyalty.

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Keep customers loyalty with a perfectly optimized web and app experiences

Digital experience optimization – for websites and apps – has become a fundamental piece of the customer loyalty puzzle moving forward. By making your online customer experience convenient, friction-free, and easy to use, your restaurant can standout and become a regular favorite amongst customers.

But to take online ordering experiences to the next level, you’ll need a simply and repeatable, yet highly effective process for rolling out improvements to your website or app. Between a range of analytics tools and nuanced tactics, optimization can feel complicated without a bulletproof pla.

Learn about ways your restaurant can improve user experience and customer loyalty by downloading the The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Digital Experiences for Enterprise, which includes a 4-step process sure to simplify web and app optimization.

Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Digital Experience, Mobile Experience
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