Over the past few years, restaurants and other types of businesses have begun to leverage digital signage and gamification to engage customers. This is becoming easier as the cost of digital display solutions decreases. Meanwhile, the popularity of games on social media sites like Facebook has boded well for gamification – the process of utilizing game mechanics and thinking to drive engagement and action. Major applications of customer engagement in restaurants, using digital signage and gamification as lynchpins, include:
· Social networking applications – Some operations utilize in-store digital signage to display their social network information and use their hashtags, along with messages that encourage patrons to “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Others take a more interactive stance, inviting customers to actively engage with their brand by showcasing their actual Facebook page on digital displays in waiting areas and/or at the table.
· Text messaging and email applications – There are a few popular options here. One such strategy entails the use of digital signage to prompt customers to email or text the company to receive special promotional offers or dining discounts. Another involves turning customers’ smartphones into extensions of digital signage by sending promotional emails or text messages that contain information about upcoming offers. These emails and messages are usually not sent to everyone; rather, they are targeted at individual consumers or demographic groups based on POS and other customer data maintained by the restaurant.
· Customer content applications – One of the biggest advantages of digital signage is that it enables users to display multiple images on a single screen. To take advantage of this capability for customer engagement purposes, restaurateurs can invite patrons to submit photographs of themselves dining at the establishment, as well as to send in images of their favorite dishes and even comments about their experiences. Remember, appearing on a television screen—even in digital signage format— can be a small thrill for most people, and it can make them feel like an important part of your business.
· Game and contest applications – Providing a few games to play on touchscreens—either via a kiosk at the front entrance or at the table—engages customers by keeping them busy during the wait to be seated and/or to receive their food. Using digital signage to publicize a contest has the same effect. If diners know they have a chance to win something, they might be willing to wait at a restaurant longer than usual.
At some Pizza Hut locations, diners can use digital displays to play a game that involves building their own pizzas. Once the game is over, the order can be sent from the table to the kitchen.
· Suggestive selling applications – Harnessing digital signage to persuade customers to try new menu items, take advantage of special offers, or order additional items really ups the engagement ante. It also can be more effective than using servers for this purpose. Why? Customers can be wary of suggestions from employees; they often think there may be a “catch” involved. Conversely, with digital signage, recommendations can seem more innocent. And when customers don’t feel pressured to accept or decline an offer or suggestion, they are more likely to engage and respond in a positive manner.
As you can see, digital signage has many functions beyond merely presenting restaurant menus to diners in a more aesthetically pleasing way than static menu boards. Restaurant operators that expand their roster of applications for digital signage technology and gamification in an effort to engage patrons are bound to benefit from a higher degree of customer “stickiness” and loyalty.