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Texas Roadhouse finds mobile loyalty members are biggest brand advocates

National steakhouse chain Texas Roadhouse has acquired 60,000 subscribers to its mobile database in one year via a variety of loyalty call-to-actions.

The Western-themed eatery has taken a location-specific approach to building relationships with diners at their preferred locality through email and SMS communication strategies the past year. Texas Roadhouse partnered with Vibes to execute its efforts.

“When it comes to mobile loyalty and SMS, on a personal level my phone is the first thing I check when I get up and before I go to sleep,” said Tyler Durham, digital marketing manager at Texas Roadhouse, Louisville, KY.

“When receiving a text, there’s a certain percentage of people who read those messages within the first five minutes or at least glance at it to see what the case is,” he said.

“We can infer that mobile loyalty club members are some of our biggest brand advocates. They are individuals who want to know everything that goes on in their local restaurant,” he said.

Multi-channel integration
Rolling out the mobile-opt in program in phases, Texas Roadhouse began testing it with 20 stores, and has now expanded to 100 country-wide.

Texas Roadhouse delivers promotional content to diners nationally across email, and now at 100 locations via SMS. SMS and email work together to give the customer an option on how they choose to interact with the restaurant.

Upon enrollment, subscribers receive an offer for a free appetizer as a call-to-action to join either the email database, the SMS database, or both.

“Email is key, but mobile is growing and can add value to an email program,” Mr. Durham said. “We don’t see one medium as superior, but each as complimenting the other,” he said.

Email is more logical from a promotional standpoint because it can include more graphics and information about an ongoing campaign or offer, whereas SMS is limited in creative.

Mr. Durham expressed the importance of both channels, explaining that he sees value in using email as a primary promotional tool — sending out blasts the week an event or specialized offer will take place, for example — and implementing mobile messaging as a reminder, sent the day of or night before, which he has seen correlate to higher redemption practices.

Mobile loyalty
Mobile devices support a more private and stronger connection to individuals compared to email.

“Both email and SMS are important channels,” said Mark Tack, vice president of marketing for Vibes, Chicago. “Looking at data between December 2013 and March 2014, we’ve discovered that mobile users are more loyal based on a higher redemption percentage of 16.6 compared to 3.3 for email.”

“When you do the math here on mobile subscribers versus email, it’s important to think about the expected value a marketer can get from a mobile database,” he said.

There is higher perceived value with mobile subscribers because they are the more passionate customer and because they seek a deeper level of engagement which is evident by their mobile opt-in program, thus allowing Texas Roadhouse into a space of intimacy.

Mobile acquisitions
Using an online calculator and handbook developed by Vibes, retailers like Texas Roadhouse are able to build plans that help them significantly increase SMS subscribers.

The calculator is an interactive tool based on real data and benchmarks established by Vibes. As a planning tool, it allows marketers to see real implications of strategies and incentives by putting their selections into the calculator and building their own plan.

The handbook is a training manual that helps marketers understand what it means to double down on mobile and provides best practice guidelines and data reports.

While research showed email was the most effective channel to build a SMS database, Texas Roadhouse saw an incremental lift in new SMS subscriptions.

Building the databases
Recognizing that messaging is more than just a related offer, and often about post impression, Texas Roadhouse is taking a more germane approach to SMS messaging capabilities by using the Catapult platform by Vibes to send birthday and other personalized reminders or offers.

“As we think about the future we’ve been talking about using mobile wallet tools like Passbook and Google Wallet to deliver mobile coupons which are location aware and offer more dynamic information on how a consumer interacts with those offers to leverage our existing successful program,” Mr. Durham said.

“The logical expansion is implementing mobile loyalty option in more stores, with more marketing materials and continuing to expand the program across different areas,” he said.

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York