Enhancing engagement and customer experience at the Rainforest Café.

8 minute read

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Increasing customer engagement and generating new and repeat bookings are high on the agenda for any Marketing Manager in the hospitality sector. I caught up with Simon Yandell, Sales and Marketing Manager for London’s Rainforest Café, at a recent Sign-Up.to seminar and asked him to explain how he is using Sign-Up.to to address his own particular marketing challenges.

Established in 1997 and now with outlets in UK, Canada, Japan, France and the United Arab Emirates, the Rainforest Café has rapidly become established as a unique and highly successful hospitality brand, offering a mixture of casual dining, shopping, entertainment and social education. It is one of over 30 dining and hospitality ventures owned and managed by the Glendola Leisure Group, 20 of which are now active users of Sign-Up.to software and services. In addition to the UK Rainforest Café, Glendola Leisure venues include the Irish pub Waxy O’Connors in London, Glasgow and Manchester, Brogan’s and the World’s End Pub, both in London.

Simon manages a small marketing team and is responsible for all aspects of sales and marketing within the UK Rainforest Cafe operation, to include the restaurant, club, private hire and highly successful Santa’s grotto, London’s best Christmas themed experience which operates during November and December each year.

Although already a strong brand and located in a prime central London location, Simon still faced significant challenges in generating and communicating with his customer audience, both for the Rainforest Café and for the growing Santa’s grotto experience.

Simon explains his marketing journey and the nature of his current engagement with Sign-Up.to.

“Traditional media advertising, poster placement and direct mail leafleting had brought us so far, but as our business expanded this was becoming increasingly time intensive and proving difficult to scale. Our initial attempts at email marketing addressed some of the issues but we were frustrated by the limited functionality our service provider offered, particularly in the areas of personalisation and market automation.”

Based on a successful previous engagement Simon contacted Sign-Up.to. His first step was to undertake a Permission Marketing Diagnostic – a detailed and fully objective assessment of his team’s current e-marketing capability. Simon also attended one of Sign-Up.to’s free Discovery mornings. This was a chance to get to know the Sign-Up.to team and to gather expert insight on how to plan and implement a successful Permission Marketing strategy.

“The Permission Marketing Diagnostic was a great starting point. It helped us to understand our current limitations and guided us towards ambitious but achievable goals for our future expansion. It also set out a program of practical improvement to address the gaps in our current capability. Marketing automation, audience profiling and personalisation were areas identified as potentially valuable, and are items which we are now actively working on.”

Simon’s initial focus was on email, using the Sign-Up.to platform to create and deliver the Rainforest Café monthly newsletter. Issued to over 80,000 opt-in subscribers, collected mainly online, the newsletter reflects the youthful and vibrant nature of the restaurant itself – a mixture of topical news, menus, competitions and conservation education. With 64% of their opens being identified on a mobile device the use of a responsive design template was considered essential and has been an important element in the success of the Rainforest Café newsletter.

The newsletter also takes advantage of the social media integration of the Sign-Up.to platform by including active links to The Rainforest Café’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram feeds.

“Our monthly newsletters are now a regular marketing feature and our open and click through rates are above target and continuing to increase. With this in place we are now in a position to ramp up our communications to include regular and seasonal offerings such as our 24/48 hour Santa’s Grotto promotion, and to take full advantage of some of the more advanced features that the Sign-Up.to platform has to offer”.

Marketing automation and geo-profiling are two of the features which Simon now aims to use to further improve the efficiency and engagement of his campaigns.

As the name suggests, Marketing Automation allows large or complex campaigns to be run much more efficiently, with list management and outbound messages being generated automatically based on individual data or responses.

“Marketing Automation will be a key focus for the coming months. We’ll use this to manage our welcome, vouchers and birthday offer emails. With over 80,000 current subscribers the ability to automate this process represents a major efficiency improvement for a small team like ours. It’s also a great way for us to engage with our customers on a more personal level, offering timely information and incentives which are highly relevant to them as individuals.”

Simon is also investigating other ways of adding further personalisation and relevance to his marketing outreach.

Geo-location is one of five new audience profiling options available from Sign-Up.to, creating a number of options for precise targeting based on a subscriber’s identified location. Location data can either be collected, for example by captured postcode, or gathered automatically via each subscriber’s IP address. This can then be used to include, or exclude, subscribers according to their whereabouts, providing a highly useful targeting for local venues or services. Other Sign-Up.to profiling dimensions include individual preferences, list screening and previous engagement history.

Integration is another key step for Simon and his team.

“We’ve increased from 1,000 covers per year to 10,000 per month online, so integration with our online booking and vouchering systems is a next priority, along with goal tracking against specific purchase and vouchering targets. This will allow us to synchronise our marketing with our other in-house applications, mobilise our data and identify real revenue achievement against each campaign.”

Simon concludes.

“Our mission is to create the best hospitality outlets, providing great service in a fun and entertaining environment. Promoting our brand, engaging prospects and enhancing our customer experience are central to achieving this. It’s still early days, but in working with Sign-Up.to we have already taken our marketing well beyond our previous capability, with much more still to come!”

Read more customer stories here.