Daily deals are out, social loyalty is in

Last year was the year of the daily deal - sites like Groupon and LivingSocial saw enormous popularity as consumers flocked to their sites to utilize time-sensitive offers.

Last year was the year of the daily deal - sites like Groupon and LivingSocial saw enormous popularity as consumers flocked to their sites to utilize time-sensitive offers. The problem with these sites, however, is that they don't encourage customer loyalty.

For example, FastCasual reports that while most people tend to visit restaurants within a two-mile radius of their homes, Groupon typically drove customers who were an average of 3 to 5 miles away. So, once the deal was over, there was almost no reason for the user or users to return unless they experienced exceptional customer service.

Other forms of restaurant marketing tactics have also proven to be difficult to succeed with. For instance, radio and TV marketing campaigns are expensive to produce, hard to target and almost "impossible" to measure, notes the news source. Other traditional forms, such as newspapers, have become outdated.

Loyalty cards may increase customer loyalty and satisfaction in some scenarios, but they tend to get lost easily and become a hassle for consumers who don't want to carry too many cards. It's also difficult for people to tell how far along they are toward receiving a reward.

A tactic that marketers should consider in 2012 combines two effective forms of marketing - social media and referrals - with geolocation technology.

"People love to talk about food and restaurants, with family, friends and acquaintances," the media outlet explains. "When a menu item or an experience is good (or terrible), restaurants can be sure that their customers are going to talk about it."

The news source adds that more than 70 percent of customers come to restaurants because it was recommended to them by someone else. How can restaurants capitalize on this behavior? Integrate social media.

Customers who write reviews should be prompted to post them on social networks such as Facebook. This can be further enhanced by smartphone users, as they can be engaged by restaurants who utilize geolocation apps like foursquare. Furthermore, positive feedback about a restaurant on Facebook or Yelp can be posted directly to the company's website as a positive testimonial.

One example of a social loyalty program in action was conducted by Vons Grocery Stores, which teamed with foursquare to create a rewards program based on activities conducted on the app, notes foursquare's blog. Earning badges allowed users to unlock coupons for products such as Pepsi, SoBe, Izze and Tropicana.