Going Beyond The Free Gift: How QSRs Can Habituate Loyalty In Their Customers


In a world where connectivity and consumer empowerment have shifted the business landscape, the traditional transactional, face-to-face relationships that brands relied on are no longer the be-all and end-all. Today's customers are dynamic, multichannel consumers who seamlessly transition from in-store to online shopping, communicate preferences via phone or social media, and even interact with brands through mobile apps.

From the customer's perspective, convenience and speed are of vital importance, but what cuts through the white noise are the emotionally charged service and a memorable experience. Restaurants are no longer competing solely on food. It's being recognised that an experience saturated with emotion and personal connections serves as a catalyst for the customer’s loyalty - loyalty laced with customer’s emotions is far stronger and long-lasting.

To stay competitive and indeed, thrive, QSR businesses need to pivot and align themselves with this new consumer demand, making every touchpoint an opportunity to foster, strengthen, and most importantly, habituate customer loyalty.

Building Loyalty on Multiple Fronts

Now more than ever, loyalty has turned into a challenging phase for Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs). The technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, advocating for fast and efficient experiences. Still, in the quest for convenience and speed, QSRs can sometimes run the risk of losing the 'human' touch – the aspect that truly generates brand loyalty.

In fact, the human element is what truly makes a brand stand out. It's the reason why customers love their favourite QSRs – they're quick, yes, but they're also warm and welcoming. They understand what the customers want and how to provide it; they make the customers feel like part of their family.

The Locations that Matter

Enhancing a customer's experience on multiple fronts provide an opportunity for restaurant brands to stand out: by focusing on humanity and building emotional connections with customers through different touch points. Remember that whilst good food attracts customers, it’s the emotional bonds that retain them.

1. In-store enhancements

A restaurant's atmosphere plays a crucial role in customer retention. A warm welcome, attentive service, cleanliness, and dining music all mesh together to form the 'restaurant experience'. Investing in training your staff to provide excellent service and maintaining a comfortable dining atmosphere will leave a lasting impression on customers.

2. Drive-thru and takeouts

With the growing demand for convenience, drive-thrus and take outs require just as much attention as dine-in experiences. Ensuring fast service, accuracy in order processing and maintaining food quality are the keys to improving these service points.

3. Digital Customer Experience

In this digital age, online experiences have become as critical as physical experiences in restaurants. Many restaurants tend to overlook that digital customer experience is still customer experience. Ensuring convenience, speed, and security on the app can make a huge difference.

Designing the app with the customer in mind, with an easy-to-navigate interface, quick ordering process, and responsive customer service will elevate the customer's experience. Moreover, personalising offers and sending push notifications about the same can help drive sales and strengthen the relationship with customers.

Habituate Loyalty: The Secret Sauce for QSRs in the Digital Age

A key component of any successful QSR brand is building customer loyalty. A few years ago, the loyalty landscape was vastly different. Customers became accustomed to a superficial loyalty experience, often driven by merely signing up to a program to avail of a free gift. Yet, these efforts frequently fell short of building true brand engagement, leaving customers indifferent to the brand's overall mission and offerings. It is evident that now, more than ever, the importance of developing strategies that habituate loyalty among customers and create a long-lasting connection between people and QSR brands takes centre stage.

So how can QSRs measure up and ensure that they don't fall into the trap of pseudo-loyalty, but instead genuinely cultivate allegiance?

Developing Habit-Forming Loyalty

QSR brands need to evaluate loyalty not just through apps or one-time promotions, but rather by tapping into the power of habitual behaviours. By analysing the roots of customer actions and finding ways to integrate brand experiences into daily life, brands can create an environment that fosters customer loyalty based on habit, not vanity metrics. Below are some strategies to help QSRs habituate loyalty:

1. Engage with customers on a personal level.

Nurturing connections with customers that extend beyond the confines of rewards is crucial. By connecting the experiences that a QSR brand offers to the customers' lives, it will become an integral part of their routines. Brands can achieve this by personalising the customer experience, including customising menu items based on preferences or dietary restrictions and offering personalised rewards and incentives.

2. Encourage loyalty through consistent positive reinforcement.

Loyalty can be built through conditioning. When customers are positively reinforced every time they interact with a brand, they begin to associate that brand with positive emotions. QSR brands need to ensure that customers are satisfied not only with their food, but also with the entirety of their interactions, such as customer service, website design, and app ease-of-use. A feedback loop ensures customers feel that their voices matter.

3. Create loyalty-inducing experiences.

The easiest way to bring customers back is by creating experiences that make them happy. QSR brands can do this by building rapport with the customers, staying authentic, and co-creating experiences. By sharing the 'behind-the-scenes' stories, organising events, or launching contests, QSR brands become more approachable and valuable to customers.

4. Ensure the ease of the loyalty experience.

Customers need to have an effortless experience in engaging with loyalty programs. Cumbersome sign-up processes, extensive terms and conditions, or unattainable rewards can all be detrimental to developing habituated loyalty. Therefore, designing loyalty programs that are easy to navigate, understand, and benefit from should be a top priority.

5. Harness technology to create and deliver unique loyalty programs.

Utilising platforms like Marigold empowers QSR brands, allowing them to create tailor-made, emotionally engaging experiences, which is vital for fostering lasting customer loyalty. By leveraging powerful platforms, QSR brands can access a comprehensive suite of tools to create and deliver unique loyalty programs that generate an emotional connection between the brand and its customers. This emotional loyalty drives sustained customer engagement, augmenting the impact of a QSR business' current loyalty initiatives.

Key Takeaway: Embrace Marigold to Drive Emotional Loyalty and Business Growth in QSR Brands

For QSR brands looking to excel in today's competitive market, it's essential to go beyond traditional loyalty schemes and focus on fostering habitual loyalty among customers. This involves engaging with customers, understanding their needs and expectations, and providing an immersive experience that seamlessly integrates with their daily lives.

Cheetah Digital by Marigold offers a comprehensive Customer Engagement Suite that empowers QSR brands to look beyond transactional data and establish thriving customer relationships that deepen at every touchpoint. With their innovative platform, you'll have the tools necessary to drive revenue and deliver a unique value exchange throughout the customer lifecycle.

Don't let your QSR brand fall behind – discover the power of Marigold and start building lasting customer relationships today. Visit Marigold to learn more!

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