Stiff competition among coffee shops has owners searching for perks to attract and keep customers.
Brewing the best lattes and espressos isn’t enough in today’s U.S. market where more than 24,000 coffee shops are battling for business. You need effective promotions to entice the 150 million coffee drinkers who enjoy at least one cup of java every single day.
One thing to keep in mind: What works for a barista in New York City might not draw traffic in Dallas. Demographics and economics often dictate the type of promotions that work best for coffee shops. If you’ve been in business for more than a year, you know your customers’ buying habits. Use that knowledge for coffee shop marketing.
8 coffee shop ideas to keep your business brewing
If you really want to make a name for yourself in the coffee shop industry, you need to offer something “extra” that doesn’t bankrupt your budget. Try putting a unique spin on one of these affordable promotion strategies for coffee shops:
1. Reward customers with free coffee shop mugs
Show appreciation to your “regulars” by giving them a free ceramic coffee mug printed with your logo, tagline or clever saying. Clients can qualify for the mug by using your store app or joining your loyalty program (see #2).
- Set a time-frame for customers to qualify for the free coffee shop mug to encourage frequent visits. Customers increase their buying frequency by 20 percent when they are close to reaching their next reward.
- Give the promotion a fun name such as the “Sip ‘N Style” or “That Crazy Coffee Club.”
- Use your business colors and theme to design your coffee mugs for consistent branding.
- Add customized mugs to the list of things to sell in your coffee shop.
2. Create a loyalty program for purchases
It costs a retailer up to 25 times more to lure a new customer than to sell to a loyal one. On top of that, existing customers spend 67 percent more on those delicious coffee shop treats than new customers. Need any more reasons to establish a loyalty program?
The most popular type of loyalty program gives customers points for buying things like frappes and iced coffees. It usually involves an app or a loyalty card that gets swiped or hole-punched when a purchase is made. After earning the required points or punches, something free is awarded.
- Make your loyalty program easy to understand. A simple “1 point per $1 spent” is simple to calculate.
- Don’t add a lot of restrictions that will discourage participation such as limiting the days when points can be earned.
3. Give bonuses for customer actions
Yes, getting customers to buy things is the ultimate goal. But there are other actions you can promote that will get them in your store. Reward customers for using your mobile app, liking and sharing your posts on social media and subscribing to your newsletter. Show your gratitude with extra loyalty points, free pastries or a personalized coffee sleeve.
- Give extra points or higher-priced coffees as rewards to customers who complete actions that require extra effort.
- Use new menu items as rewards to promote their debut.
4. Show personal interest in your clients
Acknowledge your customers’ birthday or loyalty program anniversary date with a personal shout-out via email, your app or whatever method of communication works for you. Include a free drink offer, a Buy One, Get One Free deal or some other type of gift to redeem.
- Keep your congratulatory message and design consistent with your company brand.
- Use text that encourages the customer to bring a friend or two to help celebrate the event.
5. Promote your values — carefully
Studies show that two-thirds of consumers want brands to take public stands on social and political issues. Letting customers know the steps you take to protect the environment is a good example. Use social media and in-store banners to explain your efforts and educate the public on the issue.
- Avoid getting involved in heavy political discussions or opinions, especially on social media.
- Create a policy that gives employees time off to volunteer for activities that align with your company values.
6. Offer daily specials
Customers on a budget will love knowing they can get a good deal on coffee shop menu items each day of the week. Promote your daily deals on social media using tempting images. Be sure to choose items that can be prepared quickly for people on-the-go.
- Advertise your daily specials far enough in advance. Customers will appreciate viewing a full Monday-through-Friday menu a few days ahead to help them plan.
- Make portions a bit smaller and cheaper for breakfast or lunch specials. Most customers expect this.
- Use a retractable banner stand to advertise your daily specials.
7. Get your game on!
Contests are very popular for engaging customers, especially when the rewards are delicious! One of the most successful coffee shop games today is trivia-based.
Use questions about your store to boost your customers’ connection with your brand. You may want to consider partnering with another store or related business to capture a wider audience.
- Award prizes to the first three to five people who respond with correct answers. It’s likely more than one person will ace the contest!
- Ask questions that can’t easily be found online. A savvy strategy is to craft questions with answers that can only be found in-store.
8. Be generous with free samples
With more than 120 different species of coffees and zillions of flavors and styles, it can be quite intimidating to place an order. Don’t hesitate to offer sample cups to customers, especially people like me who don’t know the difference between a mocha and hot cocoa.
- Don’t wait for customers to ask for a sample. Suggest it if they look bewildered.
- Be prepared to offer extra samples of new menu items.
- Never give samples of hot, caffeinated drinks or other menu items to children without approval by a parent or guardian.
What suggestion would you give for No. 9? Let me know in the comments section below!