Rewarding Customers Through Foursquare

by Ellen Lee on January 25, 2011
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All you have to do to get a free pizza from Paxti’s is eat there all the time.

Curious? The Chicago-style pizza chain in the San Francisco Bay Area offers the Foursquare “mayors” of each of its four restaurants a free 10-inch pizza of their choice every week.

Foursquare is an increasingly popular location-based tool that lets users “check in” wherever they are through their cell phones, letting their friends know right then and there that they’re at a particular restaurant or bar, for example, presumably so people can meet up there. It can be linked to other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, so that people can broadcast and share the news far and wide.

Facebook and Yelp also let its users check in, as do other location-based services such as Gowalla, Loopt, and SCVNGR.

For Paxti’s, rewarding its Foursquare mayor — the person who checks in the most frequently — has been a relatively inexpensive but effective way to spread the word about its restaurants. All dine-in customers who check in on Foursquare or Yelp also receive either a $1 beer or a free soda. The company also rewards customers using Twitter: Show the server your tweet about being at Paxti’s and you receive the same promotion.

Offering the deals encourages customers to talk about Paxti’s online, letting their friends know about the restaurant. It has also helped Paxti’s receive some free publicity outside of the service itself, including being named “Best Foursquare Mayor Deal” by SF Weekly.

“Our philosophy is we want to engage our customers whenever they happen to be talking about us; otherwise we miss an opportunity,” says Blaine Whitney, vice president of Paxti’s. “It’s digital word of mouth.”

His advice? Don’t be intimidated by the technology, Whitney says. Even if you don’t own a smartphone, you can sign up online and try it out yourself. At the same time, adopting Foursquare and other social media tools should fit into a larger promotional strategy, he says. Otherwise, there isn’t much of a point of using these tools just for the sake of doing it.

For Paxti’s, that strategy includes offering good customer service. Using Foursquare helps its staff get to know its most loyal customers, so that the employees know them by face and name. Says Whitney, “It creates an emotional connection.”

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