Pizza News

5 smart ways to connect with today’s pizza consumers using mobile marketing.


Some pizzerias create apps as part of a successful mobile marketing program to offer customers information on locations, streamline online ordering, sync up with loyalty programs and more. Photo courtesy ATS Mobile

There might have been a time when mobile marketing targeted only the young—always plugged-in and clutching the latest high-tech gear—but the times, they are a-changin’. Today, customers of every age use mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, to stay connected. “Our clients are surprised when they hear that baby boomers are actually the largest-growing demographic of mobile users,” notes Bryan Hunsinger, co-founder of Mobiniti in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “People ages 55 to 64 send and receive an average of 80 texts per month, and senior citizens (65-plus) average 32 texts per month. Text messaging is the most effective way to reach everyone, regardless of age, race or income level.”

Going mobile supercharges your marketing efforts, allowing you to reach customers through apps, texts, push notifications and more. The possibilities today seem truly endless, allowing for geographical targeting and high levels of personalization that can put you in front of customers when (and where) they’re most receptive. “We see right now that 60% to 65% of our customers are already opening our emails on mobile devices,” says Kirk Mauriello, chief operating officer at Aurelio’s Pizza (, a 40-store chain based in Homewood, Illinois. “And even though use is dominated by the younger generation, more people 65 and older use mobile devices than we thought. Most importantly, our core demographic—women who are 25 to 54 years old, with children—predominantly use mobile devices.”

In other words, many—if not most—of your customers have embraced mobile technology. To better reach them, you need to follow suit. Use these five tips from experts to get the most bang for your mobile marketing buck:


Make your site mobile-friendly.

If you do nothing else, make sure your website is easily viewed on mobile devices—a must for pizzerias, for which orders are often placed on the fly. “A mobile website with online ordering is the single most valuable thing you’ll do in mobile marketing,” says Bob Bentz, president of ATS Mobile in Philadelphia. “According to Google, 61% of those visiting a website that is not optimized for mobile will simply leave for your competitor’s site, and you can’t afford to lose those customers.”

Hunsinger agrees that a mobile-optimized website is a modern necessity. “If you’re looking to have a new website designed, make sure it will be mobile-friendly and test it on your mobile phone to make sure it looks as you expect before finalizing the project,” he advises. Meanwhile, an older website can be converted to a mobile-friendly design, but it will take some work, Hunsinger notes. “A conversion is often expensive (depending on the size of your current site), so find a local high-school or college student in the design/development field who is looking for a project he can include in his portfolio.” Make sure to work with the designer on plans for a new or redesigned site, emphasizing you want it to be “responsive” (meaning mobile-friendly), he adds.


Score the opt-in

To send out mobile alerts, you’ll first need to create an opt-in database. “Text message marketing is opt-in marketing, meaning that you must have the consumer’s permission before texting, as opposed to email marketing, which is opt-out marketing—meaning you have to give the consumer an easy method to opt out of your messages,” Bentz explains. “The opt-in, however, is precisely why text message marketing is so darn effective: These customers have said that they want your promotional messages.”

Greg Hoy, vice president of mobile solutions at Hipcricket in Bellevue, Washington, agrees. “The most important guideline to follow is the opt-in regulation for text messages, because any text message you send can be sent only to a user who explicitly opted in to your message service,” Hoy says. “Buying lists or automatically enrolling loyalty club members into your text message database is a big no-no.”

But first you need to make people aware that your mobile channel exists. Pizzerias should leverage existing marketing channels (including e-newsletters, print, video and social
media) to spread the word. Also advertise your mobile campaign on the bottom of receipts, table tents, bag stuffers and fliers, on your website and on your social media accounts. “We’ve learned that providing an incentive can increase opt-ins by more than 500%—anything from a free sample to a buy-one-get-one-free, a percentage discount, or even simply telling them they will receive weekly/monthly deals,” Hunsinger says.

“Any text message you send can be sent only to a user who explicitly opted in to your message service. Buying lists or automatically enrolling loyalty club members into your text message database is a big no-no.”
—Greg Hoy, Hipcricket


Personalize—and track—your efforts

According to Bentz, no medium in history has been able to pinpoint-target your market better than mobile. “With geo-location mobile advertising on apps and mobile websites, you can target just the ZIP codes that you want,” he says. “Or you can geo-fence the local college campus so that the only people who will see your mobile ad are those people on that campus.”

Running a targeted campaign drives higher engagement and revenue with mobile consumers, Hunsinger points out. “Businesses can send unique, personalized, targeted and relevant content to their mobile subscribers that is truly meant for them,” he says. “Maybe you want to send a targeted campaign to males or females, or to consumers in a certain neighborhood or ZIP code. Or you can allow personalization, using their name or location in the message.”

When someone downloads the new Aurelio’s app, he opts in to push notifications, and he can be geo-targeted according to region and buying habits. “This allows for fencing, so we can send him a notification when he’s in the area of an Aurelio’s store or send push notifications to everyone at a nearby sports stadium, for example,” Mauriello says. “We can even reach him around other dining places—if he’s at a local chain for lunch, we can send a message: ‘Come to Aurelio’s for dinner.’”

The Aurelio’s system has other targeting abilities—locations can put a beacon in-store to greet any customer when he walks in or send a reminder to usual Friday customers to say, “We haven’t seen you today!” It can also track the habits of rewards members and even ask customers to review the restaurant after a visit. “We’ll ask for feedback and ask if it’s OK to post on social media, so we control those reviews,” Mauriello says. “And we can offer points for filling out info about themselves—what store they visit, when they come in, what types of offers they’re interested in receiving, and what their experience was like that day. We offer a little extra, like free breadsticks, for providing this information.”

Targeting customers with specialized offers will also increase loyalty. “The goal of any program should be to provide consumers with incentives that are not mainstream and will make them feel a sense of exclusivity,” Hoy notes. “Brands that do the best job with these types of programs take the opportunity to learn about their customer and tailor their programs to each—for example, Bob is not a candidate for a coupon that provides 50% off a salad if he’s never bought one.”

Finally, don’t forget to analyze your results. Hunsinger tells his clients to get as many subscribers as possible initially, but after a few months, data analysis can determine who has shown real interest in the program (including information about their age, sex, location, etc.). “Then you can segment the subscribers when sending a campaign, modify the incentive or modify the target audience if necessary,” he notes. “Do not allow assumptions to make marketing decisions; the data should speak for itself.”

Aurelio’s Pizza’s new app is designed to sync with its loyalty program so that customers can track their rewards, and the pizzeria can track customers’ buying habits. Photo courtesy Aurellio's Pizza.


Create app-tastic rewards

When you offer an app, you get your logo on someone’s phone, where they see it every day—and, like with any mobile marketing, you must offer value in exchange, such as rewards that are exclusive to mobile users. But apps should also be fun to use. Aurelio’s offers a game that customers can play to earn points for its loyalty program. “It’s all about creating a user experience that interacts with customers,” says Mauriello. “We already know that our most loyal customers spend three times more with us than other customers, and our app helps differentiate us as a relevant brand with a quality product.”

There’s even a social media aspect; when Aurelio’s customers sign up for its app on Facebook, they receive 50 points, plus an additional 20 points when one of their Facebook friends downloads the app. This allows Aurelio’s to find out which customers are active on social media—and which ones are true brand advocates. 


Perfect your timing

You don’t want to ignore or annoy your best customers, so give careful thought to your frequency of contact, as well as your timing, to maximize response. “Generally speaking, daily messages are way too much,” Hoy notes. “Only a small segment of your loyal customers would appreciate this type of communication. If the brand is trying to drive lunch traffic, send it an hour before that time so the brand and offer are top-of-mind. Typically, five to 10 messages per month is tolerable by the consumer; otherwise, brands risk an opt-out.”

Hunsinger suggests sending no more than a couple of messages per week. “We do not have any clients that send daily messages, nor would we suggest doing so,” he says. As far as timing, Hunsinger notes that opt-out rates can double on messages sent over the weekend vs. during the week. In fact, text messaging is most effective during business hours (10 a.m to 8 p.m.), and campaigns in mid-to-late afternoon typically help drive traffic best for pizzerias.

As Bentz points out, there is a fine line between your best customer and your worst customer—if you try to sell them too much, they may simply opt out of your database. “We recommend doing two to four broadcast text messages per month, and they shouldn’t all be mobile coupons, or customers will wait for them,” he says. “Use text messaging to announce a new menu item or to promote your pizza for the big game, and hold a sweepstakes to give away tickets to a local event. The bottom line is this: if you don’t have anything of value to send, hold off on the text messages.”

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.