From Turmoil, To Texting, To the TCPA

THE DO’S AND DON’TS FOR TROUBLED RESTAURANTS AND THEIR MOBILE STRATEGIES

While restaurants are stewing in turmoil amidst the most challenging period for the dining industry in decades, another battle is brewing in parallel — the conflict between customers and marketers over text messaging privacy and anti-spam rights.

Since the start of the pandemic, consumer spending across food establishments decreased by as much as 70% — with independently owned restaurants being hit the hardest — as the Independent Restaurant Coalition estimates that up to 85% of these shops could close by the end of the year. These paradigm shifts have also drastically impacted customer psychologies and attitudes towards dining out: 89% feel it’s safer eating food from a grocery store or at home versus in a restaurant, and 72% don’t trust others (fellow diners) to act safely once businesses reopen.

In spite of this unprecedented turmoil, it is not a case of “desperate times called for desperate measures.” Restaurants must act swiftly but must also think strategically. Mobile-device marketing (e.g. SMS Marketing) and technology-enabled loyalty is one of the most effective ways at driving engagement, but ensuring customers feel comfortable should be the utmost priority for smartphone-seeking brands.

SMS MARKETING AND TCPA REGULATIONS

Text message updates have become an essential channel in the marketing pipeline for restaurants. Texting consumers is a very effective means to driving engagement and ultimately sales; not only have text messages outpaced emails when looking at conversion and click-thru rates, but 95 percent of texts are read in 90 seconds or less.

But alongside this explosion of mobile engagement has been clear customer pushback as tensions between perceived spammers and unwilling audiences reach all-time highs. Accompanying the FCC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) are some sobering figures explaining the state of the nation:

  • $6.6 million – Average cost of TCPA Class Action
  • 10X – Growth in TCPA complaints filed in the last decade
  • 87 – Number of TCPA class actions filed in April 2020
  • 1,705 – Number of TCPA complaints filed YTD

Flaunting regulations happens from within the smallest independent cafes to the largest QSR chains — and can result in severe consequences. Denny’s, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Checkers, and Papa John’s are all currently facing or have faced litigation in the past; the latter settling for a $16.5 million settlement after texting pizza specials to consumers without their consent.

For restaurant brands looking to make positive impressions and avoid alienating their audiences, here are a few tips to follow when adapting text messages and mobile communications into hard coded strategy:

  • Obtain consent and honor opt-outs

There are many facets and regulations as part of the TCPA, but two of the most pivotal factors revolve around ensuring audiences grant permission to be texted and provide them with a mechanism to remove this permission at their discretion. A text campaign should emphasize both components in an easy-to-understand format for customers.

  • Target properly

The best messages are the ones that speak the most intimately to those who matter. Not only will a dedicated targeting strategy create more resonant text messages and improve ROI, but it will reduce opt-out metrics as well as the potential for complaints and backlash.

  • Consider regional requirements

Different regions might be subject to local regulations or legislation in addition to federal mandates. Further, geographic sprawl opens opportunity for time-zone turbulence. Ideally, restaurants should only be texting customers between 8AM and 9PM of their respective time zone, so targeting specific segments based on their physical address — and not mobile phone number format or other categorization techniques — should be a priority.

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