Recent data, collected in a BrandVue Eating Out study by Savanta, has shown that 23% of restaurant visitors depend on, or are directly influenced by brand love. And once you realise that this means brand love subsequently accounts for almost a full quarter of visits for businesses within the hospitality and catering industry, that statistic carries even more weight.
This is no surprise. A rising phenomenon within the world of marketing, research has proven that the relationships that consumers build with brands can be as emotional as those created between people, with 75% of buying experiences being based on emotion. With this in mind, businesses have been placing a huge amount of emphasis on developmenting better relationships with their customers, whether it ranges from taking stances on divisive social issues, committing to sustainable practice, or creating memorable campaigns to hone in on experiential, emotive marketing.
These are all great ways to strengthen the relationships between brands and consumers. However, we believe that there’s a super simple way to build trust, love and loyalty for businesses of any scale - and that’s social media.
Social media is dominating the world at the moment. Far from its humble origins as a way to keep friends and family connected from a distance, it’s now a pivotal element in marketing campaigns for businesses and even politicians. It keeps the world connected, and the public have become used to having everything at their fingertips. Hey - it’s why social media agencies like 3sixfive even exist, so we’re not complaining.
Our point is, relationships between customers and brands have moved beyond purely in-house experiences, and they’ve transcended from traditional mediums of advertising. Once upon a time, customers would see advertisements, and be enticed or not; there was no immediate way to reply to a TV advert or a newspaper listing, for example. These days, marketing is a very two-way street, wherein customers can instantaneously reply to any campaign within seconds. Consequently, businesses in the social age need to be switched on, responsive, and ready to engage.
Sounds scary, but it’s not. In actuality, you can be harnessing these tools to create meaningful interactions, loyal customers, and - like the study by Savanta demonstrated - real life, repeated conversions.
The BrandVue Eating Out study showed a lot of interesting statistics, but it certainly outlined the benefits that investing in brand love can bring - a 7% increase in brand love, on average, leads to an extra visit per customer, whilst a single-point growth in brand love equates to a 4.6% increase in footfall.
With the younger generation being proved as, generally, the most inclined to ‘love’ a brand and maintain a sense of loyalty, and quick service restaurants the most likely to accumulate high levels of brand love, social is the perfect medium in which to take advantage of these numbers.
Let’s get one thing clear: a social presence is far from the only thing required to create brand love. In fact, according to the study, brand love is predominantly created through positive in-house experiences, such as stellar customer service, restaurant ambience, and freshness of vegetables.
This isn’t surprising; after all, the relationship between a brand and consumer is going to be predominantly built, and enhanced, by the customer’s direct experience with a product or service. No matter how aesthetically pleasing your restaurant’s Instagram feed is, you need to deliver the real goods at the same time, with delicious food and friendly service for it to generate anything other than brand awareness.
However, once those customers have walked through your door (or made a purchase for the first time), you have an incredible opportunity to use social to nurse these relationships into something much stronger - even if that first experience wasn’t a great one. How? Let us explain.
Social has presented brands and businesses with a unique opportunity, and that’s the capability to be there for your customers - whenever they need you, whether they’re in the restaurant or not. Gone are the days of trying to call a busy pub to book a table or ask a question, and getting no response because they’re heaving, and we’ve said goodbye to a past where dissatisfied customers had no immediate means of making a complaint (unless they did so in person, and we seem to have left those days behind too.)
On social, customers can reach out to their favourite businesses out of hours, without even being in the vicinity of the pub. This has a number of uses.
Answer enquiries quickly, and prove you care. Maximise ROI with timely responses that satisfy potential guests, and ensure you get their custom over a competitor.
Surprise and delight your customers with human, on-brand responses, that they find value in.
Turn negative experiences around. Prevent negative word-of-mouth spreading around by ensuring any complaints are swiftly resolved, and even earn yourself a returning customer.
Create positive conversations around your brand by proving that you care.
When done right, all of these kinds of interactions can build positive emotional relationships with brands and businesses. The more that you engage, the more powerful that little L word becomes.
Use social listening tools to target all the areas we mention above, and ensure you’re getting involved in relevant conversations, even if you’ve not been directly tagged in them. As well as the chance to make your customers smile with a random shout out from a business they frequent, you’ve got the chance to intercept complaints or negative conversations and make it right without the customer even having to contact you directly.
We’re not just talking Twitter and Instagram here either. With quality Review Management, you can grow your brand love exponentially by proving to your customers that you care about their feedback. You can and should be answering all of your online reviews, from TripAdvisor to Google to Facebook - thank happy customers and acknowledge their feedback, while jumping on to negative reviews to see what you can do to make it right. Offer a chance to turn the experience around, and win yourself back a customer who will love you a little more for listening.
Every business messes up sometimes, no one is immune to it. And when things go wrong on social, boy, can it be scary. But it doesn’t have to be, and with quality crisis control and a good plan of action in place, you can turn the situation around and rebuild that relationship with your customers - often, in fact, to be stronger than it was before.
Consumers like brands who are transparent, who own up, and who listen to criticism. When you handle a crisis correctly, you have a rare opportunity to generate a huge amount of brand love from current customers, and you might even gain a newfound respect from potential ones.
What do your customers love about your business or brand? Identify it, and make it a core part of your social strategy.
If it’s beautiful ambience, recreate this with the same strong aesthetic underpinning your Instagram presence. If it’s a focus on fresh ingredients and sustainability, make this the hero piece of your social content strategy. If it’s top-notch customer service, reflect this with stellar Community Management or Review Management (wait a minute, you should be doing that anyway…)
Our point is, whatever makes your brand or business unique, use social to shout about it. Devise a Social Media Management plan that encompasses every aspect of social, from content to community, and let your brand pillars shine through it with a cohesive identity that promotes your unique ethos. These are all easy things to do that make your brand more accessible to customers, and, in an age dominated by social media white noise, will allow it to stand out above the rest.
We know, we know - it sounds like a lot of work. But you’ve seen the numbers; it matters, it pays off, and it’s something you can be doing for your business. Unless you don’t have the time, in which case, you’re in the right place - because we do. Whether you’re after full Social Media Management with unique, on-brand content, design and account management in place, or a response-based package wherein we can help with Community Management, customer service, reviews or reputation, we can help.