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Restaurant.com strengthens mobile initiatives through incentivized SMS offer

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January 7, 2013

Restaurant.com recently leveraged its SMS database to send out a time-sensitive offer that rewarded consumers for buying virtual gift certificates via their handsets.

On Jan. 3, Restaurant.com sent out an SMS message to its opted-in users that encouraged them to save money on their orders with a promotional code. Restaurant.com has been steadily building its mobile presence in the past year.

“Many of our customers prefer to receive communications on their mobile phones, and like the immediacy of text messages instead of, or in addition to, e-mail,” said Christopher Krohn, chief marketing officer and president at Restaurant.com, Chicago.

“Some also prefer not to receive push notifications through mobile apps, but would rather receive a text message,” he said.

“SMS is an important piece of the mobile puzzle, but just one piece in an evolving strategy. We are building SMS opt-ins as a communications tool in addition to mobile browser-optimized shopping, mobile applications, mobile-optimized e-mails and mobile gifting capabilities.”

Opt-in deals
The SMS message sent to users read, “Saving money is SO 2013. Refresh your routine with $4! Today only, use code: NEW.”

The message included a link that directed users to a deals page on Restaurant.com’s mobile site.

The message was sent at 6 p.m. ET, which is likely a time of the day when Restaurant.com sees an uptick in traffic from consumers searching for dinner deals.

Using SMS to push out a time-sensitive offer such as a promo code is a smart way for the company to connect with its opted-in users.

Consumers constantly have their mobile devices in hand and are increasingly using them to search and buy goods and services.

When users click on the link included in the SMS message, consumers can find deals nearby to them by using their device’s built-in GPS. Alternatively, users can type in their ZIP code or city to find deals.

Additionally, users can learn more about the restaurants, including contact information and directions. Moreover, consumers can view menus via the site.

“Our customers are increasingly looking for dining deals on the go, so spur-of-the-moment purchases drive most sales via mobile today,” Mr. Krohn said.

“Many customers also use our mobile app as a restaurant locator, and using their mobile device to redeem deals they have previously purchased is also becoming more common,” he said.

“Only about 10 percent of our current transactions occur via mobile, but we’re seeing a very fast growth rate and expect that figure to cross the 50 percent mark sometime later this year or early in 2014.”

Mobile hunger
Restaurant.com took several steps in 2012 in building its mobile strategy.

In January, the company rolled out an iPhone application to let consumers find and buy paperless gift certificates (see story).

An Android version of the app was released in May.

Additionally, Mr. Krohn revealed at the Results 2012: Mobile Marketing Day conference in Chicago that the company plans to enhance its mobile services every quarter in order to keep up in the space (see story).

As consumers continue to rely on their mobile devices to stay connected to their favorite brands, mobile will undoubtedly play a bigger role for the company.

“Giving a promo code option to input on mobile through a text campaign will usually end up with a higher conversion rate, as long as the client has planned for the customer to interact with a mobile environment,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta.

Ms. Troutman is not affiliated with Restaurant.com. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.

“For example, don’t land them on a PC page with 20-plus lines to be filled in, get them to one click or some reduced friction action,” she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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