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Subway wraps up consumer loyalty with location-based Wi-Fi rewards

Made-to-order sandwich chain Subway Restaurants is wrapping up customer loyalty by urging guests to opt-in to Wi-Fi networks to receive free items and additional customized rewards, suggesting that Wi-Fi monetization is on the rise for food and beverage marketers.

Subway is partnering with Wi-Fi monetization firm Turnstyle Solutions to roll out the new rewards system at locations in Northern Ontario, Canada, with the goal of replacing the previous loyalty program that included punch cards. Subway hopes the new platform will help differentiate it from other food and beverage marketers with strong loyalty components, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and the Wi-Fi rewards will also drive more customer traffic to bricks-and-mortar stores.

“The program not only provides a method to drive loyalty, but it also provides Subway with some important analytics including: how many people entered their store, whether those are new customers or repeats, the duration of time customers spend within the store, and the foot traffic outside the store which isn’t coming in,” said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. “The metrics are not complete because the system can only gather data from people who are using Wi-Fi or have their Bluetooth on–but it certainly provides a ballpark.

“Those are all important metrics for any QSR and can be used to improve operations at these Subway stores–providing benefits far beyond mobile marketing.”

Location-based marketing
The platform was set in place on Feb. 24, kicking off with offering Northern Ontario Subway customers a free sandwich upon log-in to the store’s Wi-Fi network. Once customers have joined for the first time, they will then receive a push notification featuring a coupon for a six-inch Subway sandwich as a form of displaying appreciation for visiting the location.

The Wi-Fi network will remember guests each time they visit the participating location, and may offer additional rewards.

This move is sure to drive in-store traffic as all consumers that opt-in to the network will receive the coupon redeemable for any six-inch sandwich of their choice.

More food and beverage marketers are turning to Wi-Fi to entice customers to come in and order an item while browsing the Internet. McDonald’s recently introduced wireless charging to select restaurants in Britain in an attempt to ramp up fledgling sales (see story).

The brand is hoping that free Wi-Fi will help customers in the restaurants longer, prompting them to order more menu items. Wireless charging can also offer the marketer valuable data to send push notifications or use in beacon technology pilots.

“The program will likely be well received amongst consumers,” Ms. Lowy said. “Consumers purchasing at QSRs always appreciate conveniences such as Wi-Fi and the extra gift will certainly be a nice surprise.

“The program gives consumers the option to opt-in via email, Facebook, or Twitter. Those who opt in via Facebook or Twitter will automatically like/follow the brands social media profile through the sign in process,” she said.

“This likely will not be as well received by consumers who prefer to choose which pages to like or follow rather than have that automatically done for them through a sign in process.”

In-store experience
Subway believes the Wi-Fi loyalty platform will enhance the in-store experience for existing and new customers. Working with Turnstyle Solutions will also enable the brand to develop customized campaigns triggered by demographics, location, date and number of visits.

Subway can also leverage the Social Wi-Fi feature, which can identify guests while augmenting awareness on social media platforms. Turnstyle Solutions has found that 77 percent of guests will spend more time in a venue featuring Wi-Fi, with 63 percent fuelled to spend more money in those locations.

Customers can check in to the Wi-Fi network via their Facebook or Twitter usernames, as well as email.

Subway will also be able to ask consumers to check into Facebook while at one of its restaurant to help boost social presence.

The crowded food and beverage sector has been ramping up mobile ordering and loyalty programs recently, with Starbucks taking the lead during the 2014 holiday season (see story). The brand offered coffee fans many mobile giveaways and sneak peeks at new items to loyalty members, suggesting Subway may be on a similar track.

“There is a lot of valuable data that brands can garner from precise and accurate geo-data,” Ms. Lowy said. “There are many different methods through which advertisers pick up a user’s location while utilizing mobile marketing.

“Wi-Fi geo-tracking is one of the better (as in more accurate) methods. As time goes on we can expect brands to employ more sophisticated in-store location based mobile marketing programs utilizing Wi-Fi programs, beacons, in-store ads, etc.,” she said.

“Subway has certainly set a great example with this campaign.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York