With Wall Street’s emphasis on earnings and comp store sales, a key indicator of strategic health can easily get lost in the shuffle. Comp store traffic is a critical measure of how well your brand is competing in the marketplace. Earnings and earnings per share are certainly important; as are comp store sales numbers. But earnings numbers don’t always tell how well your chain is performing in the marketplace and comp store sales are often the result of price increases and/or changes in product mix.
But comp store traffic is a barometer of what is happening to our share of market. And, comp store traffic is the best indicator, in my opinion, or how well a brand is being accepted.
For many brands, the cost of acquiring new customers ranges from expensive to impossible. Certainly social media has created less expensive avenues for accomplishing this. However, the profitability of a customer continues to increase as their frequency of visit increases.
Since American Airlines introduced their industry’s first frequent flyer program in 1981, loyalty programs—and frequent buyer programs in particular—have spread into virtually every industry and profession. Whether it’s the chain selling you pizza or the retailer trying to get more of your prescription medication business, everyone has gotten into the act. The reason is simple:
GREATER FREQUENCY OF PURCHASE = INCREASED TRAFFIC
The most successful QSR marketers are laser focused on increasing frequency of purchase as the most cost effective way to increase traffic. Once you’ve exhausted all the day part possibilities—there are no more opportunities once you’re open 24/7—you’ve got to start looking at other solutions.
From the simplest punch card solution that gets me one FREE after I buy 10, to the discount card that is sold by my bookstore, everyone is trying to get into the act.
Right now, I believe that one of the more creative solutions to increase frequency of purchase is the sweepstakes being offered by California Pizza Kitchen.
At the end of your visit, you are given a sealed envelope that, when opened, reveals a prize that could be anything from a free drink to thousands of dollars. Here’s the catch. The envelope cannot be opened on that visit—you have to come back. And, the envelope cannot be opened by anyone other than a store manager, otherwise it’s voided. So you have to come back for another visit with your sealed envelope and present it to a manager to find out what you’ve won. Curiosity may or may not kill the cat, but it is certainly bringing customers back to CPK.
Houlihan’s also offers similar promotions from time to time, and I’ve seen variations of this promotion type that involve a scratch-off card that must be revealed by a store manager.
Now is the time for QSR CMOs to get laser-focused on increasing frequency of purchase as a way to increase comp store traffic. In my opinion, it’s a lot better solution than constant price cutting.
Photo credit: Brian Gurrola