Chain restaurant executives take note: Better rethink your strategy if you’re counting on social media to bring in more customers. A new survey from online market research firm Crowd Science finds that only a lowly eight percent of its survey respondents regularly follow their favorite brands on social media. However, three related pieces of data provide more promising food for thought.
Crowd Science is the business of weaving together web analytics and survey research to help companies improve marketing and advertising precision. Its work isn’t necessarily restaurant-specific, but still reveals plenty about how restaurant customers think. The firm’s latest piece of research shows that social media, a powerful force in disseminating cut-rate deal-of-the-day offers, might be less valuable to restaurants on other fronts.
Here are some key findings:
Social media might not be a magic bullet for your restaurant brand, or anyone else’s.
“Respondents were asked if they regularly follow brands on social media,” Crowd Media’s findings begin. “Overall, just eight percent of respondents indicated they do. However, using social media to follow favorite brands is slightly more popular for younger age groups, with 10 percent of those under thirty and nine percent of those ages 30 to 49 following brands on social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Conversely just five percent of those fifty or more years old report following brands on social media.”
The takeaway: Massive amounts of coverage devoted to social media suggest that just about everyone uses it when deciding where to spend their money. These real-world numbers illustrate that only a relative handful of customers actually do. Even texting-crazy kids are messaging about something other than brands.
The bigger a customer’s paycheck, the greater his or her effect on your restaurant’s word-of-mouth.
“Consumers with higher incomes show more influence when it comes to evangelizing brands,” Crowd Science found. “Almost one-half of households (47 percent) earning more than $50,000 a year agree they often tells friends and family about brands they like or dislike—five percentage points higher than those earning less than $50k. Over one-quarter of those with incomes of more than $100k agreed with the statement ‘People regularly ask my opinion about brands,’ 10 percentage points higher than those who earn less than $50k.”
The takeaway: Just as it’s always been, satisfied customers are the gift that keeps on giving, especially if they have platinum-level credit cards.
The Gen-X demographic is your best shot at developing loyal repeat customers.
“Of those who participated in the Crowd Science survey, 38 percent say they stick with a particular brand once they find one they like,” the survey found. “Brand loyalty differs across age groups, being highest among those ages 30-49 (42 percent agreeing ‘when I find a brand I like, I stick with it’). Brand loyalty is lowest for those under 30, with 33 percent indicating they would stick to a brand they like, as compared to 38 percent for those over fifty. Furthermore, almost one-quarter (24 percent) of those under 30 report ‘they always like to try different brands’ compared with just 15 percent of those 30 years and older.”
The takeaway: The age range for Gen-X is loosely defined by demographers. Just keep in mind that many of those in it are pushing middle age now.
A strong restaurant brand can only take you so far.
“Brand affinity is more common among males,” says the Crowd Science study, “with greater numbers agreeing they are willing to pay more for a brand they trust, or that they only buy brand name products when they shop: 13 percent of males agreed they only buy brand name products and services, compared to just eight percent of females.”
The takeaway: Alas, few customers of either gender are with you for the long run if a cheaper deal comes along. That’s why you show your regular customers plenty of love every time they come in.
We don’t know if the prevalence of deep-discount restaurant deals is the cause of these modest brand loyalty numbers or their most prominent effect. Just be sure your marketing activities going forward reflect how easy it is to attract one-timer customers with deals, and how hard it is to cultivate and maintain your much-more-valuable repeat customers.