February 13, 2013, 1:55 PM

Texas Roadhouse whets its mobile marketing appetite

The steakhouse used a text service and Apple’s Passbook in mobile loyalty tests.

Lead Photo

Diners could redeem the Passbook offer for a free lunch at some Texas Roadhouse locations.

Restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse Inc. has tested two mobile commerce marketing techniques and come away satisfied, ready for more. Working with mobile marketing firm Vibes, Texas Roadhouse tested a text-based mobile loyalty marketing campaign in June 2012 and more recently a Veterans Day campaign using Passbook, Apple Inc.’s mobile wallet, in November 2012.

Tested at 20 Texas Roadhouse locations, the TextUs Loyalty Club used in-restaurant messages to spur enrollment. Once enrolled, consumers received a welcome message with a free appetizer offer. They also were provided the option to visit a mobile-optimized web site to sign up to receive additional birthday and anniversary offers.

For the first six months the program has had a 17% redemption rate. The text-based mobile program also has accounted for 4% of all of Texas Roadhouse’s promotional sales since June, Vibes says. Texas Roadhouse has several other ongoing promotional campaigns, including tabletop messages and e-mail, says Alex Campbell, Vibes co-founder and chief innovation officer.

The Texas Roadhouse Passbook campaign offered a free lunch on Veterans Day to veterans and active-duty military personnel who installed the Texas Roadhouse Passbook offer on their iPhones. Passbook, a feature of Apple’s iOS6 mobile operating system, enables a consumer to store her loyalty cards, movie and event tickets, coupons, and promotions in a centralized location on her iPhone or iPod Touch.

The restaurant promoted the Passbook offer at the same 20 restaurants involved in the TextUs program by sending consumers who enrolled in that program a text message that contained a link. Tapping the link caused one of two actions. If the consumer’s phone was not an iPhone with Passbook installed, a mobile web page opened promoting the free lunch offer. If, however, the consumer had an iPhone with Passbook, a Veterans Day pass opened, which consumers could install in Passbook with the touch of a button. A pass is akin to a coupon and contains the details of an offer. Vibes uses a device detection feature to determine if the Passbook pass should be offered, Campbell says.

Once installed, the consumer could redeem the offer when dining at one of the locations on Veterans Day. The program generated a pass installation rate of 37%, with 32% of users who clicked through redeeming the offer for lunch, Vibes says. In total, 84% of consumers who received the offer dined at Texas Roadhouse for lunch on Veterans Day; only the 32% redeemed the offer because they were veterans or active duty military personnel, Vibes adds. Vibes surveyed those receiving the offer, and 84% said they went to lunch that day because of it, Campbell says.

Texas Roadhouse was able to send a reminder push notification via Passbook. It used Vibes’ Catapult campaign management site to schedule messages. Vibes added Passbook integration last year. Vibes also was able to send reminders via Passbook when consumers who installed the Veterans Day pass were near a Texas Roadhouse location, Campbell says, tying in with the smartphone’s GPS technology.

“We wanted to test Passbook mainly to determine its effectiveness and ability to provide relevant local store messaging to potential guests in the communities around our restaurants,” a Texas Roadhouse spokesman says. “We were also attracted and interested in Passbook due to its functionality and ability to geo-target potential guests once they get within a particular radius of our restaurants. We know today that we do have a significant portion of guests that utilize smartphones and iPhones by analyzing our Google Analytics data for our mobile web sites. Texas Roadhouse also has mobile apps for iPhone and Android which continue to grow in popularity so we know the demand is there.”

With these two mobile marketing tests done, the spokesman anticipates Texas Roadhouse will continue to explore mobile loyalty programs. “Mobile is another marketing channel and one that is continuing to become more popular due to higher open rates along with geo-targeting functionality,” he says.

Among retailers in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, 53 have text message marketing programs.

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