In our last article, we learned 5 Effective Tips On Leveraging Yelp To Your Advantage. However, while spending time to develop and monitor your Yelp’s business account is a necessary chore for any owner, there are strategies every CoffeeShopr should use to build customer loyalty and to constantly bring new coffee enthusiasts through the door.
Read on to discover our favorite promotional strategies shown to turn an average coffee shop into a successful neighborhood establishment!
1. Rewards Programs And Loyalty Cards
The first strategy we love is offering a rewards program or loyalty cards. A rewards program could be an electronic tally of each customer’s purchases or it could involve punch cards. After a certain number of visits or purchases, repeat customers earn a free coffee or other beverage. A rewards program or loyalty card makes customers feel appreciated and brings people into the coffee shop for future visits. This strategy can also turn a one-time visitor into a consistent customer, which is the ideal result from any promotion. A well-run rewards program can entice customers to visit the shop on a regular basis, perhaps every morning!
What to Avoid: A rewards program should build brand loyalty without hurting a coffee shop’s bottom line. The keys to a successful rewards program or loyalty card program involve offering a reward that piques customers’ interest and is regularly earned, without breaking the bank. As such, do not include food items and higher margin menu items in the rewards program. A free beverage is often the perfect reward option. However, CoffeeShoprs should allow some flexibility in the type of beverage offered as a reward. For instance, do not limit the reward to a small, black coffee, as sophisticated coffee consumers and tea lovers will not be interested in purchasing the full-priced drinks necessary to reach the reward goal.
Make It a Success: It is important to find the sweet spot with regard to frequency. Many coffee shops require the purchase of 7 to 10 coffees or teas before a free beverage is earned. This brings most customers into the shop over the course of two weeks, or more, to earn a free drink. Providing a loyalty or punch card can also have the added benefit of being a great marketing tool. Design a punch card that reflects the environment of your coffee shop and is consistent with your other marketing materials (such as flyers and signage). Your regular customers will carry the punch card daily, and you never know what new customer may see it! If the technology is possible or financially feasible, an electronic system and corresponding loyalty cards for customers’ key chains have even more visibility.
2. Regular Promotions
This promotion is a great way to build brand loyalty. Your customers have expectations for the quality of service at your coffee shop, the taste of your coffee and the atmosphere of your space–and they can also have expectations of your promotions. A regular promotion can occur on a monthly, seasonal or annual basis, and different types of promotions may occur at varied intervals. A regular promotion makes customers feel appreciated by the ownership and management of your coffee shop. In turn, this creates loyalty to your coffee and business.
What to Avoid: A promotion that occurs on a regular, seasonal or annual basis is a great way to build customer anticipation about discounts and savings. Therefore, in order for a regular promotion to be successful, it must live up to its name and occur on the expected basis. A promotion that is advertised as monthly but is not offered every month defeats the purpose. Therefore, once you commit to a regular promotion, see it through.
Make It a Success: CoffeeShoprs should build the hype around this promotion. A regularly offered promotion is a great opportunity to create excitement about your coffee products and brand, and it builds anticipation among your customer base, which hopefully, results in news of the promotion spreading to brand new customers. A coffee shop’s big annual promotion can create a celebration for its customers, staff and overall business. CoffeeShoprs can also create a customer appreciation day where a first beverage is free for each customer, or they could do something special like have a costume contest for Halloween, where each customer in costume receives a free dessert. Creating an annual promotion, that is also an event, will help spread word of the promotion beyond your current customers.
3. Buy-One, Get-One Free
The concept of a buy-one, get-one promotion is straightforward. Customers who purchase a beverage or other item receive a freebie of the same. The best part about this promotion is that it can be utilized effectively in many different ways, which results in different benefits for a CoffeeShopr. First, the offer of buy-one, get-one is a great way for CoffeeShoprs to bring new customers through the doors of their coffee shop. In order to drive this result, the coffee shop must allow the promotion to be extended to two people who order at the same time. There are ways you can make the promotion more restrictive by limiting it to the same coffee or tea menu item, or a CoffeeShopr can allow it to be applied to any two drinks ordered at the same time.
Second, this promotion can be used to increase satisfaction of a CoffeeShopr’s regular customers. In this instance, the buy-one, get-one offer can be limited to a single menu item that is purchased on the same or different days.
Finally, a buy-one, get-one promotion could be used to increase overall sales. It might seem counterintuitive that the offer of a free beverage would drive overall sales, but the offer of a future free beverage will bring in more customers the day of the promotion, thus boosting sales. Whether restrictive or broad, a buy-one, get-one offer will encourage casual customers or new customers to choose that day to give your coffee shop a try.
What to Avoid: This biggest issue with a buy-one, get-one promotion is that it can be used by customers who were prepared to purchase two full-priced beverages. One of the best ways to eliminate this issue is to restrict it to the same beverage or beverages purchased by the same customer. However, there are some great customer service and satisfaction reasons, which will boost sales in the long-run, to accept that certain sales will be lost on the day or days a CoffeeShopr runs this promotion.
Make It a Success: A great way to offer this promotion is to turn it into a big event at the coffee shop. It can be combined with other promotions, such as the launch of a new seasonal special; in which case, the seasonal special would be the only beverage offered as a buy-one, get-one-free drink. Alternatively, CoffeeShoprs could market the event as a time to catch up with a friend or family member, which will make the day of the promotion feel even more like a celebration.
4. Bottomless Mug
The idea behind a bottomless mug is that customers pay an additional cost upfront and enjoy unlimited refills afterwards. Not only does this promotion keep customers in a coffee shop longer, but it also ensures they are well caffeinated! This promotion is great for attracting new and first-time customers, as it is eye-catching as a promotion but inexpensive to administer. The cost of a refill, particularly in a reusable coffee mug, is recouped by the $5 – $10 spent by these new customers.
A “bottomless mug” or unlimited refill promotion can be utilized in a number of different ways. Coffee shops have seen success by offering free refills on both a daily or weekly basis. Other coffee shops have offered a promotion that allows customers to refill a mug unlimited times for an entire year. Of course, the upfront price for such a promotion would fluctuate based on the amount of time the customer has to take advantage of the bottomless mug.
What to Avoid: Limit your bottomless mug promotion to the customers who choose to enjoy their beverages in your coffee shop, and do not offer the promotion for take-away orders or to-go cups. This will reduce the additional cost of cups and lids, as customers are incentivized to drink from reusable mugs. Also, it is best not to extend this promotion to higher quality coffees, such as espresso beverages, French press and Chemex.
It is important for CoffeeShoprs to set realistic, but competitive prices for this promotion, because it can quickly go from a profit producer to a profit loser if customers are indulging in the “free” refills without the coffee shop recouping enough of the costs in the upfront price. Many customers see this promotion as a great deal based on the context of the words “bottomless” or “unlimited,” and you should not be afraid to capitalize on this association and charge a reasonable price.
Make It a Success: One great strategy is to offer a plastic, reusable mug at the beginning of each year that can be refilled an unlimited number of times. Customers then pay at the start of the year and enjoy the benefits for the next twelve months! This is great strategy for some CoffeeShoprs because it is an influx of revenue at the start of the year. As well, customers often believe they will take advantage of the promotion more than they do in actuality. A great design concept or branding on the mug can be an additional marketing tool.
5. Half-Priced Refills
When it comes to higher quality and higher margin beverages, CoffeeShoprs may not be keen to offer a broad promotion, such as unlimited refills or buy-one get-one-free discounts, which is completely understandable. However, lovers of your lattes and specialty drinks are some of the best customers, and it can be great to find a promotion that rewards these customers as well. A great way to do this is through half-price refills of their choice beverage. Whether half-price refills are always offered or the promotion occurs as part of a one-time deal, it is one way to say a small thank you to customers who spend the most money per visit in your coffee shop.
What to Avoid: In the past, customers found that different refill prices for different beverages were annoying and confusing. CoffeeShoprs should not try to confuse their customers about what beverages are entitled to free, half-price or full-price refills, as this confusion would only leave your customers feeling cheated rather than rewarded. Therefore, you need to make a pricing structure that is clear and simple. Whether the half-price promotion is clearly communicated at the register through training of your staff or on signage around the coffee shop, you should make the message is straightforward. Also, if half-price refills are only offered on certain days or seasonally, make it clear that it is a special promotion, not a daily one.
Make It a Success: This promotion is a great way to bring in new customers who enjoy specialty coffees. Those who drink specialty coffees spend much more per visit than customers who consistently choose drip or black coffee. For CoffeeShoprs to successfully capture these customers, you must advertise your shop’s half-price refills on platforms that reach new customers. Marketing materials on social media sites, cross-promotion at a nearby business or advertisements in local magazines are a great way to reach a new audience and build a better customer base through the enticement of half-price refills.
6. Make It A Combo
Fast food restaurants learned long ago that there was a huge increase in beverage sales when they offered a slight discount to customers who purchased a food menu item and were offered a drink item at a discount. These chain restaurants also learned that customers wanted to order more food if the opportunity came with a slight discount. CoffeeShoprs should take a cue from the fast food industry and entice their customers to spend more in a single visit with the same type of promotion.
It is easy for a coffee shop to sell lattes and espresso, but it is more difficult to sell the more expensive and higher-priced food items on the menu. A combo meal is a great way to encourage customers to spend more at the register. The combination can also be simple, such as coffee and a muffin or tea and a pastry.
What to Avoid: The mistake many coffee shop and cafe owners make when it comes to offering food and drink combos is thinking that the cost savings to customers must be significant. However, that is not the case. A combo meal can offer a slight discount to customers, and it could still sell like crazy! This is because customers already perceive that a combo meal offers them a discount. Therefore, most of the difficult work associated with this promotion is done.
Make It a Success: This promotion is great for an uptick in sales of a certain menu item. By combining a CoffeeShopr’s best asset (good coffee) with an in expensive food item, a coffee shop can suddenly see a huge sales increase in the food item. CoffeeShoprs can rotate the combinations offered in order to boost sales of various menu items. Additionally, the combo meal will encourage regular visitors to try something different, which in turn will see the sales of that menu item increase.
7. Bounce Back Receipt Treats
This promotion continues to work again and again for cafes and coffee shops across the United States because it encourages repeat customers—ones that most coffee shops are unable to capture. Coffee shops rarely see repeat customers on the same day, but a bounce back receipt encourages just that. The concept for a bounce back promotion is simple: Throughout the morning hours, each customer’s receipt contains an offer for half off another beverage, provided that beverage is purchased after a certain time later that same afternoon. Therefore, customers who want to take advantage of this creative promotion must visit the coffee shop in the morning and purchase a full-priced beverage, then return that same day for a second visit. It is a truly brilliant way for CoffeeShoprs to increase sales through repeat customers.
What to Avoid: The advantage and unique aspect of this promotion is that it brings the same customers to your coffee shop twice in a single day. Be certain to set reasonable hours for customers to redeem their bounce back treat or coupon, and clearly convey the relevant hours to your customers. CoffeeShoprs will truly want all customers that receive this promotion to utilize it; therefore, it is important that you give great information at the register during the initial full-priced purchase.
Make It a Success: While it may require some technology at the register, CoffeeShoprs can be creative with this promotion by running it as a contest or raffle. In this way, only certain customers who come in for a morning beverage will receive the half-off coupon on their receipt. Alternatively, customers could be chosen at random to receive a free beverage, while others receive half off a beverage and others, still, a free food item. Providing the bounce back coupons as scratch-off cards, similar to lottery cards, is another great way to make this a festive promotion around holidays.
Often, coffee shops are the meeting place, the work place and the relaxation place for many members of the community. Local residents, employees of area businesses and the patrons of other businesses will all make a quick stop at a coffee shop while out and about. This means a good coffee shop can be a great hub for its neighborhood. CoffeeShoprs can capitalize on their business’s unique position in the local marketplace by engaging in cross-promotion with other restaurants, bars and businesses in their area. Whether it is the yoga studio down the street or the bookstore around the corner, there are many opportunities to engage in mutually beneficial marketing and promotions. Cross-promotions can come in various forms, from signage or posters in each other’s place of business, to printing joint promotions in the local newspaper, to cross-advertising on customers’ receipts, or to using flyers or signage to promote one another’s events or specials.
What to Avoid: While it is wonderful to team up with area businesses for nonprofit events, special promotions or other types of cross-promotion, it is also important to be aware of your competitors in the market. Certain businesses can be unexpected competitors. For example, a donut shop that also sells a considerable amount of coffee or a convenience store where many people stop before work could be fierce competition to the local coffee shop. While these businesses and their owners may offer a unique opportunity to cross-promote in certain instances, a smart CoffeeShopr will team up with businesses that provide an entirely different product. Most importantly, if you wisely choose businesses for cross-promotion, it will encourage customers who utilize the cross-promotion to visit both businesses.
Make It a Success: The purpose of cross-promotion is to capitalize on the mutual customers a coffee shop shares with other area businesses. Because coffee shops are often a place people visit daily, they are wonderful partners, and CoffeeShoprs should sell this point to local businesses. The benefit from this type of promotion is in capturing the customers who would have an inherent interest in both businesses but who did not previously know the coffee shop existed in the neighborhood. To reach these potential customers, it is important to choose nearby businesses that have a similar vision or target population. A coffee shop can aim for these potential customers through mutual discounts. The coffee shop and another business can jointly advertise a discount or giveaway that is attained when a product is first purchased from the other business.
9. Create Captivating Social Media
In today’s world, access to information and to social media is incredible. The world of social media is quickly changing how and when small businesses reach their customers. CoffeeShopr’s current and potential customers are able to engage with the shop in many different ways, from Facebook “likes” to Instagram’s “hearts” and Twitter’s “retweets.” A successful coffee shop will take advantage of every social media outlet to promote its brand and create a unique niche in the market. Also, a lot of online and social media marketing can be free for CoffeeShoprs!
What to Avoid: A coffee shop’s presence on social media must be consistent to generate interest and followers. Do not create a Facebook page where nothing is posted. To the Internet savvy population, a lack of content speaks as loudly as not having an online presence. It can indicate that a coffee shop is closed, disorganized or lacks atmosphere. Therefore, a social media presence should be fun and reflect the coffee shop’s vision and vibe. This will attract customers that fall in love with your shop or café, even before their first visit.
Make It a Success: CoffeeShoprs should decide what unique perspective their coffee shop will present on social media. There are coffee shops in New York City that became famous for barista art (where celebrities, places or things are created out of the froth and milk of a latte or other drink) and others that are known for posting gorgeous portrait photos of their customers. Both of these ideas boosted business among locals and visitors. The common theme was utilizing social media to sell something beyond good coffee. However, a coffee shop’s social media presence is most important as an outlet for its customers to interact with the coffee shop. Therefore, CoffeeShoprs should ensure their social media platforms have an interactive component.
10. Reward Your Biggest Fans
It is worthwhile to show a little extra love to those customers who love your coffee shop the most! The customers who have engaged with your social media accounts, registered for your newsletter or joined your mailing list have already taken an extra step to promote your business. These are important people who share your social media posts, forward your emails and make your marketing far more effective. A promotion that shows these customers how special they are to your coffee shop is worth some time and effort. Also, if you specify that the discount or the giveaway is just for those who have liked your Facebook page or registered for your mailing list, it will encourage others to do the same.
Arrange a limited or special discount that is available only through a specific social media site or platform. This promotion uses a number of other strategies we present here, from a freebie to a discount, or the offer of a combo meal. A targeted social media or newsletter reward is a great way to sell more of a specific menu item.
What to Avoid: CoffeeShoprs should not limit the platforms and possibilities of this type of promotion. If your coffee shop has a presence on different social media sites (which it should!), be certain to engage with each account and platform. The discount or promotion does not need to be offered on each platform at the same time. For one week, offer a discount to your Facebook friends, and during the next week, send a freebie to your followers on Instagram. Rotating through the different types of social medial will encourage customers to connect with your coffee shop in multiple ways.
Finally, remember your audience. Older customers are less likely to use social media, so find platforms, such as a mailing list or newsletter, to engage this population as well.
Make It a Success: A targeted promotion through social media is most useful and successful if it has an interactive element. You could offer a free cup of coffee to customers who share your Facebook status or a link to your website. Alternatively, you could require users to mention and hashtag your coffee shop’s account to receive a discount. The addition of an interactive step means all of a customer’s friends and other users see your marketing materials, become familiar with your brand and may seek out your coffee shop. This allows a targeted promotion to reach a whole new base of potential customers!
11. Offer Free Wi-Fi The Right Way
We think availability of Wi-Fi at a coffee shop is a must. So, why not harness your Internet capabilities as a promotion! CoffeeShoprs who create an environment where customers can be productive, in addition to caffeinated, can have some unexpected benefits. First, customers who remain in a coffee shop longer are likely to spend more money. Hopefully, customers spend that money on higher margin items, such as pastries, sandwiches and desserts. Second, if customers know they can bring their laptop or other device and access important information and programs, such as email, presentations or online research, they are more like to schedule meetings or work sessions at the coffee shop. This may bring the coffee shop new customers.
What to Avoid: Free Wi-Fi encourages all customers to remain in a coffee shop, even those who only purchase a small coffee. These customers may occupy a prime table or utilize key space during a busy time for the shop. One way to avoid the loss of more profitable customers is to set time limits or conditions on the use of the free Wi-Fi. For example, CoffeeShoprs may allow customers to use Wi-Fi for the first hour, but then require the purchase of another menu item after that. This ensures you are bringing in more money from each customer.
Make It a Success: CoffeeShoprs could create a unique and interesting sign-on or home page! This page would appear each time a customer logs onto your free Wi-Fi network. These customers are already in your shop; therefore, this marketing tool should not target potential or new customers but encourage current customers to make additional purchases, return for a future visit or simply spend time engaged with your brand. In order to accomplish the foregoing goals, the sign-on page could feature your seasonal special or an occasional discount.
Alternatively, an interesting home page could feature fun facts about coffee, upcoming events or rotating articles relevant to the neighborhood. You can take it to the next level with the inclusion of links, cross-promotion of other businesses or interactive elements on the home page. It is also important to include links to the coffee shop’s social media pages, blog or website to keep customers engaged longer with your awesome brand.
12. Seasonal And Holiday Drink Specials
The most successful in the coffee business swear that one of the greatest ways to increase a coffee shop’s bottom line is through flavored syrups. What does this mean for CoffeeShoprs? It is time to be creative with flavor combinations and celebrations! Weekly, monthly and seasonal specials will entice customers to try something new and different–even if it is more expensive than their normal order. Coffee shops can mix things up by offering a traditional cinnamon or hazelnut drink over Christmas and a sweet, raspberry inspired drink for Valentine’s Day. Each holiday is a chance for customers to celebrate with your coffee shop!
The ever-changing seasons are also an opportunity to rotate specialty drinks offered at a coffee shop. CoffeeShoprs should train their staff to upsell creative concoctions and display the specialty drinks on an eye-catching board or on a separate menu.
What to Avoid: Coffee lovers can be a discerning group of consumers. Ordinarily, customers have a “go-to” coffee order, and it can be difficult to convince someone to try something new. So, while unique flavor combinations and fun alternatives are recommended, you should be certain that seasonal and holiday specials are still quality coffees that result in delicious recipes. It is a huge mistake to offer a drink that is sub-par in the taste department. Remember, every drink must taste spectacular. If the flavors are unappealing, your regular customers will start to avoid the specialty menu, and these customers are often the best source of profit from this type of promotion.
Make It a Success: What’s in a name? Everything! And this is also true with the seasonal and specialty coffees. It can be a winning promotional strategy to create interesting and fun names for the seasonal and holiday beverages. It is best to keep in mind the overall branding strategy of your coffee shop when choosing names. For instance, the seasonal and holiday drink names could reflect a specific theme.
In addition to naming your seasonal and holiday coffees, it is important to have consistency in the holiday and seasonal drinks offered. A unique iced coffee should appear on the menu summer after summer. The reliability that a certain specialty drink will return on the menu builds anticipation among your customer base for the seasonal special, and the expectation of the seasonal drink will bring fans of the beloved drink back to your coffee shop again and again.
13. Holiday And Calendar Discounts
Speaking of celebrations, the holidays and other celebrations are a great time to reward your amazing customers! Whether it is St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Christmas or Hanukah, holidays are filled with excitement, cheer and enjoyment for your customers, but each can also be filled with planning and stress. CoffeeShoprs could give customers one more thing to celebrate with a discount on their favorite beverage or freebie specific to the given holiday. This type of discount is fun for customers and staff, and a holiday or calendar discount should become a reoccurring favorite that customers look forward to year in and year out.
What to Avoid: A holiday or calendar discount should raise the energy level and excitement in your coffee shop. This usually requires more than just simply offering the discount. On the day you hold a holiday or calendar discount, regardless of whether it is in the form of a holiday treat or seasonal giveaway, the coffee shop space should reflect the special promotion. Whether it is additional decorations or certain well wishes from your staff, the extra effort can make it feel like a true celebration for your whole team!
Make It a Success: Take your discounts beyond clichés. Provide your customers with a discount that is unexpected and creative, whether this means offering a seasonal discount for a less celebrated holiday or delivering the discount in a unique format. With only a little extra effort, CoffeeShoprs can make the discount extra special for their valuable customers.
14. Feedback Cards
Typically, feedback cards are provided to customers at the point of sale or through an email distributed through a mailing list or newsletter. The request for feedback on your coffee shop is a great way to understand a coffee shop’s strengths and weaknesses and to identify what customers love most and least. It is also a way for CoffeeShoprs to identify issues that may elude the staff and management.
What to Avoid: It is essential to implement solutions to any issues identified through feedback cards. While simply asking your customers for feedback can make them feel valued and important, visibility of improvements will keep them coming back. The information provided by your customers is valuable, and it should not be wasted because ownership or management does not want to take the time to research and implement improvements. At the same time, there are certain issues that might be unavoidable or would greatly affect the brand and atmosphere of the coffee shop. A smart CoffeeShopr will know when to make a change and when to continue with a tried and true method that has meaning and effectiveness beyond the sight of a customer.
Make It a Success: If your customers take the time and effort to provide a CoffeeShopr with information on a coffee shop’s strengths and weaknesses, the coffee shop should take some time and effort to thank its customers. The easiest way is to offer a discount or freebie when a customer completes the feedback card. The discount or freebie will also encourage more customers to complete the feedback card. You can provide some immediate satisfaction by alerting the customer of its special reward.
Ultimately, there are so many creative and fun ways CoffeeShoprs can increase sales, customer traffic and better the atmosphere in their coffee shops. It might not be reasonable, or even feasible, for you to implement every promotion. Smart CoffeeShoprs should first consider their goals and determine which promotions to implement in order to reach those goals. Also, keep in mind that many promotions can be combined and scheduled in ways to keep customers satisfied and feeling valued all year around.