Email marketing remains a viable customer experience tool
Colleen Hart, left, Messaging Paytronix Systems; Abby Feuer, DonorsChoose.org; Stacey Kane, East Coast Wings & Grill; and Jenny Martin, Togo's Sandwiches.
While it may seem email has been around for eons and email marketing is an 'old' approach to engaging with customers, loyal and new, it remains a relevant marketing tool and one fast casual operators can integrate with social media and go way beyond engagement to include fund raising and boosting brand awareness.
Email also provides a way to build an emotional connection with guests while collecting valuable consumer insights and data.
"We’ve raised $75 million in 2015," said Abby Feuer, vice president of marketing for DonorsChoose.org, noted during a session at the recent Fast Casual Executive Summit in Miami. "Twenty percent of that revenue was raised via email."
DonorsChoose.org makes it easy to help public school classrooms in need and assists teachers by raising funds for supplies and to help them fund student projects. The organization has more than 1.8 million supporters and a majority are first-time givers to public schools.
Stacey Kane, vice president of marketing for East Coast Wings & Grill, and Jenny Martin, director of brand marketing for Togo’s Sandwiches, related during the session that email remains a very effective way to communicate with customers — and propel engagement with customers to visit the brand's website and use the brand's mobile app.
"We use email to get customers online to our website and from there to their mobile device," Kane said.
Kane and Martin stressed the importance of weaving technology together to engage with customers and spur them in various marketing platforms — from loyalty programs, email clubs to social networks and mobile apps.
"Targeted Facebook advertising and loyalty and eClub-tracking have worked well for us," Martin said. "Acquisition campaigns have also been successful."
A customer, for example, could register for Togo’s Tribe Rewards Program and earn free food, rewards and discounts.
"By registering via Togo’s Sandwiches mobile app, a customer could earn 25 bonus points and be halfway to their first reward," Martin said.
While a mass email can be used as a strategy, the speakers noted it’s important to open the engagement opportunity to consumers via social media. One good tip is to provide links to your restaurant’s social media platforms within an email exchange.
Another important component of email marketing is "guest segmentation." This focuses on determing who the most engaged guests are, said Kane.
"Our loyalty rewards program and eClub customers are the most engaged," Kane said.
One approach for engaging customers is using birthday reminder email. East Coast Wings & Grill, for example, gives customers $10 off a meal if they visit on their birthday.
"We have $6,000 in additional net sales per month doing this," Kane said. "The pre-reminder email redemption rate is 19.87 percent, and the post-reminder redemption rate is 30.56 percent."
Surprisingly using photos in email efforts does not always optimize outcomes. Feuer gave an example of three different emails — one with no photos, one with one photo and one with two photos.
"Our click rate increased by as much as 57 percent by not using photos," said Feuer. "And our conversion rate increased as much as 10 percent."
Travis Wagoner spent nearly 18 years in education as an alumni relations and communications director, coordinating numerous annual events and writing, editing and producing a quarterly, 72-plus-page magazine. Travis also was a ghostwriter for an insurance firm, writing about the Affordable Care Act. He holds a BA degree in communications/public relations from Xavier University.