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Rita’s Italian Ice’s revamped app scoops up beacons, customized rewards

Rita’s Italian Ice is rolling out an enhanced application that leverages beacon technology, social network sharing and rewards customized to users’ preferences, showcasing how food and beverage marketers must evolve their mobile offerings to keep loyalty at the forefront.

Rita’s joined forces with Relevant Mobile to revamp its app and consequently improve guest experiences with a slew of new features, including social check-in options. However, the brand’s use of beacons may be the strategy that yields the most revenue potential, as Rita’s will be able to individually target each consumer as he or she walks into one of its bricks-and-mortar locations.

“Beacons represent a new technology for Rita’s,” said Brian Meldrum, vice president of sales for Relevant Mobile. “The presence of beacons allows Rita’s to verify that a guest is truly at a Rita’s location when ‘checking in’ via the app. The app that Rita’s originally commissioned from another team relied upon geofencing and was sometimes unreliable.

“Using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacons is more reliable for [Rita’s], and more guest-friendly, as the Bluetooth technology does not drain the customer’s battery life like the location services for geofencing tend to do.”

Icing up mobile
Rita’s Italian Ice, which has more than 600 stores across the nation, sought to improve the guest experience and introduce new app features designed to connect with younger customers, who make up a significant portion of its target audience.

The app, available for iOS and Android devices, now enables users to take advantage of the store locator feature, as well as enjoy new ways to earn relevant rewards.

Consumers will be able to fill out surveys regarding previous purchases, giving Rita’s valuable insight into customer behavior and the ability to target loyal visitors with more enticing rewards.

“Rita’s point-of-sale environment does not currently allow for integration to gain check-level detail on guest visits,” Mr. Meldrum said. “However, a preference center and customer surveys built into the app will allow guests to report their favorite orders and combining those results with a specific guest’s visit history will allow Rita’s to tailor the rewards and communication based on the guest’s preferences.

“The base reward structure has also been expanded to be more flexible for Rita’s guests. You can earn your choice of a frozen custard, Italian ice or Gelati.”

Rita’s new app includes a chalkboard-inspired design

Additionally, the food marketer is tapping into the popularity of beacons by implementing the technology into its stores. When an individual walks into a Rita’s location, beacons will ping him or her through the app, making it simple for that guest to receive and redeem rewards during each visit.

App users will earn one Rita’s punch each time they make a purchase, with eight punches allowing him or her to earn a complimentary Gelati, frozen custard or regular Italian ice.

Guests may also redeem promotional codes through the revamped app.

A growing number of restaurant chains are altering their loyalty programs to provide more guest-specific rewards.

Mooyah Burgers, Fries and Shakes is also taking a customer-specific approach to its new mobile app by sending users loyalty offers based on their previous purchases and frequency of in-store visits (see story).

Social sharing
More restaurant marketers are adding social media-heavy components into their apps, letting users refer a friend to earn more loyalty points and share their current location with other followers.

This is an optimal tactic for any chain to leverage. If a consumer sees his or her friend check-in to a Rita’s location on social media, he or she may become inspired to make a visit in the near future as well.

App users can simply press the email or Twitter button to share their Italian ice-centric experiences.

“Rita’s has some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the world, and it was important to give those fans a ‘megaphone’ to let their friends know about this cool app,” Mr. Meldrum said.