In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, restaurants have the challenging and sometimes unenviable task of making their brand stand out from all the others. For newer businesses, it can be even more difficult due to a smaller budget and fewer loyal customers.
In comparison to online retailers, brick-and-mortar businesses are typically short on what has become the most important component of marketing today—actual customer data.
Customer data—the kind you get through market research—is essential to understanding who your customers really are, where their interests lie, and how they prefer to spend their money. It also helps businesses assess the feasibility of new products, services or menu items before putting them on the market.
Sure, you can talk to your customers and try to get to know them on a more personal level, but most restaurateurs simply do not have the time to invest in this type of data collection.
Options for learning about and collecting data on your customers
One option would be to hire a third-party market research company to gather the data for you, though this approach can be expensive. If you’re working with a smaller marketing budget, using a consulting company might not be feasible. Plus, if you hire a company, you’ll only receive the customer data at that point in time, and from a small sample size of your patrons. If you want more data, you’ll need to keep paying for it.
Fortunately, there is an emerging technology that allows retail and restaurant startups to gather detailed customer demographics and behavior data from a very large sample size of their actual customers. Using your existing guest WiFi access point, you can passively gather this type of invaluable data with a WiFi analytics platform.
The data is updated in real-time and it can be used for the ideation, execution, and measuring of your digital and traditional marketing campaigns.
How customer data is collected using guest WiFi
Every mobile device that has WiFi enabled is constantly sending out a signal which looks for WiFi access points. This populates the dynamic list of available WiFi networks you see on your mobile device. Included within the signal is a unique identifying number called a media access control address, or MAC address.
Conversely, your WiFi access point is constantly listening for these signals sent out by WiFi-enabled devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches—that come into range. When your access point receives a signal, it will log it into a database along with the device’s unique MAC address. This is how the WiFi analytics platform will identify individual customers.
The great part about this data collection strategy is that it is all done behind the scenes. You don’t have to lift a finger and you’ll immediately be gathering customer behavior data whether they log into your WiFi or not. You’ll be able to see things like customer dwell times, popular visit times, first-time visitor rate, repeat visitor rate, and more.
These anonymous metrics can be used for making data-driven marketing and operations decisions.
The beauty of a WiFi analytics platform can be seen when a customer decides to log into your WiFi. When they attempt to access the internet, they will be taken to your WiFi landing page, also known as a captive portal. This page will typically be created for you by the analytics platform provider. The page can display new menu items, promotions, events, and surveys.
Most importantly, it requires a user to enter information prior to accessing the internet—typically their name and/or email address. When they complete their login, a new customer profile is created and all previous data related to that device’s unique MAC address is added to the customer profile. If the customer logs in using their social media account, then more information can be added, such as their gender and birthday (age).
Then, through a process called progressive profiling, you can passively gather even more data from your loyal customers. If they have already logged into your WiFi once, you already have their email address, so the system will quickly look for a piece of missing information in their customer profile and ask for that instead. Over time you’ll have access to thousands of highly-detailed customer profiles.
Using WiFi analytics for restaurant marketing
Once you have a growing list of customer profiles, you can begin analyzing them to create various customer segments that are grouped by specific demographic and behavior data. With WiFi-collected data, you know you have the most accurate and reliable data to base your decisions upon.
Without knowing who your customers are, what they prefer, and how they behave, marketers are forced to create mass marketing campaigns, sending a single marketing message to their entire customer base in hopes that it will resonate with at least some of them.
But targeted marketing is a better way and it can help you save resources in the long run.
Would you send the same message to work-at-home mothers who visit during lunch hours as you would send to your late-night happy hour crowd?
Maybe you would, and maybe it would resonate with some of them. But wouldn’t it seem much more effective if you were able to send entirely different messaging to customers in each individual group?
Segmenting your customer base is a crucial step in your new data-driven marketing efforts. Customer segmentation has been proven in many cases to increase marketing ROI, email clicks and overall customer engagement. For restaurant startups, this can mean the difference between a huge success and an ongoing struggle.
Not only will you be able to optimize your marketing campaigns to appeal to your various customer groups, but you can also use the data to optimize purchasing and staffing decisions as well.
Test, test, and test again
You probably already know that executing marketing campaigns and measuring their success is not the end of the process. You should always be testing.
Just as you would test different marketing messages and media, you should also test different segmentation criteria. You might experience entirely different results from making one simple change to a segment. Without testing, you’ll never know if your campaigns are as optimized as they can be.
Remember that testing more than one element at a time can become confusing and may skew your results, so if you make a change to the customer segment, try to send the same marketing message that you sent in a prior campaign. This way, you’ll know that it was the segment change that caused any difference in results, and not the message itself.
WiFi analytics and marketing platforms are much less expensive than procuring data from a third-party market research agency, generally ranging between $50 to $150 USD per month for the top performing platforms. Most of them will give you a free demo of their product, so it is advised to take a look at several of them to make sure the solution you decide on is perfect for your business.
You’ll immediately able be able to start collecting live customer data that can help you make much smarter, data-driven decisions about what to test to get the most return on investment from your marketing campaigns and strategies.