SMB Loyalty Marketing Trends: A Discussion with Venga CEO Sam Pollaro

Venga CEO Sam Pollaro

The conventional wisdom in the industry is that a loyal customer brings in 5X the revenue of a new customer. A slew of loyalty marketing platforms are reinforcing the CW with new technology that reach deeply into understanding and targeting loyal customers with superior analytics, incentives and ad campaigns.

Loyalty platforms include such players as Upserve (formerly Swipely) and Fishbowl. Another one of these platforms is Venga, a provider of loyalty services for 500+ sit-down restaurants in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

CEO Sam Pollaro tells us that Venga has seen a shift in the loyalty market over the past couple of years. It has begun to change from explicit loyalty programs (i.e. punch cards or card linked offer programs) to implicit programs using payments and social media to more subtly track customers and their habits.

Pollaro says Venga’s goal in its implicit approach is to “surprise and delight.” “When customers spend $500, an alert might be added to their profile,” and they might be given a dessert or a special table the next time they come in, he says. Or if they have indicated they like a certain kind of wine, they can be notified when a special shipment comes in.

Offine-to-online marketing is another trend that Venga is riding, mostly with the help of social media. Facebook, in particular, uses its direct response capabilities to help Venga develop “Fan Builder” campaigns, that lead to more Facebook likes; “We Miss You” campaigns that target customers that haven’t come in for a while; and “Special Interest” campaigns that will target customers based on their past visit and purchase history with specific imagery in an ad, such as a wine or beer bottle.

More than 50 percent of customers can be tracked down on Facebook from customer lists with just a phone number, says Pollaro. Because they are Facebook members, there are no opt-in requirements, he notes. The program is especially useful, since restaurants typically can only collect emails from 10-15 percent of their customers. Facebook is also more effective than programs such as Gmail, since Gmail now segregates promotional emails.

Venga is seeing especially good results for its clients since it is targeting consumers that are already fans. Pollaro says the company sees 3-5X typical restaurant response rates. The high click-through rate also cuts cost-per-click rates by 50 percent or more.

One thought on “SMB Loyalty Marketing Trends: A Discussion with Venga CEO Sam Pollaro

  1. Hey Peter:

    Just discovered your blog on Local Digital Marketing. You have some great information here.

    My company has been exclusively in the restaurant marketing space since 2007. Our goal is to make it extremely easy and low cost for restaurants to take advantage of what digital marketing can offer.

    I get the idea of building loyalty in fine dining restaurants as Sam from Venga describes makes a lot of sense. The problem is in other restaurant segments like (Fast serve, quick service, pizza) have been barraged with loyalty club hype yet research from consulting firms like Deloitte have shown that their customers are not that loyal and place very little value on loyalty programs. In addition there is no “appetite” for consumers to download apps for every restaurant they dine at.

    We built a system that allows restaurants to provide exclusive offers to loyal customers they can access at any time on mobile devices. It automatically emails followers of the restaurant. Best of all for the restaurant it requires NO POS changes, no new equipment on the counter and no apps for the customer to download. At the same time we are tracking all clicks with ad pixels for future retargeting. Amazingly the system is $17/mo per location.

    Everything is by location and all listing information is shared with Google so that the location will show up in local search results.

    Please excuse the plug but we don’t have a sales force and depend on word of mouth.

    Dave Gonynor
    CEO, That’s Biz

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