The problem with customer retention in an era when consumers are easily distracted and pulled away isn’t that brands aren’t trying, or even that they are using the wrong tools. The problem, Thanx Founder and CEO Zach Goldstein told PYMNTS, is that they are using too many different tools separately without any unified vision in sight.
Businesses are spending a lot of energy trying to build deeper connections with their customers and failing, he said — because they don’t have the right data in hand to offer the right outreach. Using one tool for email marketing, another for loyalty and another for feedback, what they get is three different views of the customer that don’t inform each other.
Thanx, he explained, wants to help enable brands by partnering with the card networks and so it can be easy and painless for brands to see their customers, offer them appropriate rewards when they shop and then reach back out to them via email channels to keep the relationship developing moving forward.
“That has been our focus,” Goldstein said. “We want to help brands move away from spray-and-pray generic email offerings to truly personalized campaigns.”
It is a challenge that Thanx embraces on behalf of a variety of retail and restaurant industry clients, as the interest in identifying and then targeting a brand’s best and most loyal customers has a certain broad appeal. This can be seen most recently in its expanded partnership with Tommy Bahama restaurants — a brand that suffers from being both too well known and too unknown at the same time.
Most people, of course, are familiar with Tommy Bahama clothing and fashion accessories, so familiar in fact that the news that there is also a dining component to the brand often comes as a surprise.
“A lot of business like Tommy Bahama with a massive retail presence have spent a lot of time and money investing on the retail side of the business, particularly in building data-driven relationships with their customers,” Goldstein said.
But for the restaurant side of the business that simply wasn’t the case. Tommy Bahama wasn’t able to build the same kinds of repeat customer engagement with its restaurant customer base for the good reason that it just didn’t know who those customers are. And while a brand may know it needs such knowledge, and may be aware of the power of personalization, the challenge is technological. Like most big and diverse brands, Tommy Bahama restaurants are operating with a few different IT systems in place, which can make aggregating and understanding the data a challenge. And data one can’t see or can’t decode is essentially wasted material, Goldstein pointed out.
Customers who walk in and out of a restaurant with no way of making themselves known are essentially at the mercy of the store manager. That’s not a bad thing, and restaurant managers can do amazing things with their memories and remembering frequent customers, but the reality is busy nights happen (hopefully often) and finding and highlighting regulars is lot to hang on a single point of human interaction.
Technology provides a systematic approach to keeping customers interacting. The way to do that, Goldstein said, is to encourage the customer to enroll in an account with the Tommy Bahama restaurant brand. From that account, he said, the customer gets a channels to rewards and offerings, and the brand gains a tool with which it can actually get a view of the consumer, their preferences and their use habits.
And all of that happens, Goldstein said, through paying with whatever chosen card is linked to the account.
“There are no extra steps, there is no added friction. And that makes it really easy for consumers who sign up once to participate. It doesn’t have to be top of mind.”
Beyond the rewards, he notes, it creates a feedback channel so that if the consumer has an issue with their service they have a path to reach the company — and receive direct outreach back. That’s part of the standard toolbox on offer, he said, because the needs of the establishment can vary with time or by context. A customer who has been a regular diner and has suddenly stopped coming, he said, can be targeted for a “win back” campaign, or loyalty offerings can be geared around a certain time of day where the brand wants to see more business.
The point, he said, is that brands need to be able to reach out to customers, and make offerings to them, and find a way to tap into that effortlessly. On the consumer side, it means making a simple card swipe (or dip or tap) the entry point, and for brands it means making the integration simple, and the data accessible and actionable.
“Brands don’t have time to take on another burdensome technology,” Goldstein said. “They need to be able to drive value in the business with literally one or two clicks — and then measure what campaigns are working and which aren’t.”