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Published October 6th 2016

Industry Insider: There’s an App for That

M&C Saatchi's Chris Owen offers words of advice on differentiation and personalisation.

Look, I drink a lot of coffee – I know that – but I don’t drink gigglewater, so I’m allowed to have at least one other vice beyond chocolate and flamin’ hot Monster Munch.

As a result of this, (the coffee, not the Monster Munch), I have something approaching a dozen stamp cards from the various places I go to have a drink and either get my head down on some work, read a book, or watch the world go by.

This rings true both for the mega-chains such as Caffè Nero as it does the artisan small boutiques which litter Soho and beyond.

coffee shop in London

A dozen cards, for a dozen outlets, which just makes my wallet bulky and unwieldy as I fiddle through the pile trying to find the right one to match the right coffee bar I’m in. Costa has a plastic card, which is even more annoying than the paper version, but at least they’ve launched an app (even if reviews are, to put a kind word on it, ‘mixed’).

Starbucks likewise have a plastic version, but again have an app and, unlike the others, use it well.

Which is where I’m grumbling from.

Why are so many outlets relying on messy paper cards, which get dog-eared, grubby, and lost in the wash – why isn’t the investment in a very basic app the first port of call?

If all the card is doing is stamping to show you’ve bought something and are soon due a freebie, then the app doesn’t even have to be very sophisticated to go over and above.

If, however, even a small amount is put into the app to make it more developed, then not only do you have a perfect customer data capture tool, you have a push mechanism through which to share news, additional bean varieties, special offers, and loyalty schemes.

payment machine and Credit card

In this regard, Starbucks is streets ahead of the competition – with daily deals, the opportunity to pre-order and collect in-store, alongside loyalty schemes.

Granted, this is a global superbrand, but surely the opportunity to let the more… refined coffee aficionado to know what special offers you, as a smaller boutique, might have on that week shouldn’t be a gift horse you stare at in the mouth and wonder why footfall is dwindling.

After all, it’s 2016.

Why have something so intrinsically sterile as a stamp card – which doesn’t give you any information on who is coming back regularly, why, nor how varied their tastebuds might be.

The public is constantly clamouring for differentiation alongside personalisation – the first half is done by getting them through the front door and tasting your coffee, now why not go a step further and give them free coffee on their birthday, or a free trial of a new bean? Make them feel special?

It’s not enough to compete against the superbrands, (and, arguably, you shouldn’t be trying to, but that’s another blog for another day), you’re competing with the other ‘differentiated’ pop-ups and artisan outlets on the High Street.

Loyalty is one route you can’t ignore.

Chris is a regular contributor to the Brandwatch Blog. Find out more about M&C Saatchi by clicking here.

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