Profitable Christmas: Data capture for January

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

A surprise gift in a sealed  envelope could encourage  people to come back
A surprise gift in a sealed envelope could encourage people to come back
Christmas is a time for good cheer, plenty of treats, and general jolliness. But if you’re in the hospitality industry, Christmas is all about welcoming those extra people who come through your doors, and making sure you find ways to bring them back.

In this day and age, data capture is absolutely key to successfully building your restaurant, pub or hotel. If you don’t know who your customers are, you have no way of contacting them again and enticing them to return.

And Christmas is the perfect time to boost – or build – your customer database. Below are a few simple steps you can follow to make sure you can make the extra Christmas business last throughout the year.

Reasons to hand over details

People won’t pass on their details unless you give them a good reason to, explains Mark Creaser, the head of marketing at Explosive Marketing.

“At the end of the meal or a visit, invite your customers to fill in a simple form with their contact details – but set out a few good reasons as to why they should do this.”

You could offer a discount scheme, a membership scheme or a VIP scheme – always adjusting offer to match your venue.

“Lower end venues could offer money off or a free drink, for example. Higher end places should focus on additional value. For example, you could offer exclusive access to private rooms or priority reservations.”

And once you have the data…?

Once you’ve collected the data, don’t loose time sending out your offers so you’re still fresh in peoples’ minds. If they’ve given you their details, the sooner you contact them the more likely they are to remember why they left you their name.

How you choose to contact people again depends on your venue and your offering. “The principle remains the same: Know your customers and keep in touch with them. What changes is the medium, depending on the outlet,” says Creaser.

For example, a nice hotel should think about sending something tangible to their customers: a “sexy, smooth direct mail that looks the part and feels the part”.

A mid-market restaurant could opt for an e-mail campaign. This is cheaper and requires less planning, but it’s still an effective way to get peoples’ attention. Make sure the e-mail is html and properly designed, and again it should convey the look and feel of your establishment.

Pubs could opt for text messages instead, which work well and are low cost. The decision to go to a pub is not as big or as planned as a decision to eat out or stay in a hotel, so the immediacy of the text message also suits the purpose.

Use Christmas to work in January

Tailor your offers to fill empty places in January when business traditionally drops off.

Even without capturing customer data, there are a number of ways you can encourage people to come back within weeks, says Creaser.

For example, for any Christmas booking over a particular spend you could offer your customers an envelope containing a deal for January. (This will not only help bring people back in January, but will also help drive up sales in December.)

You can add an element of intrigue – while at the same time reducing the cost to your business – by using a sealed envelope or a scratch-card, which mustn’t be opened until the customers come back in January. This gives them the chance to win one of several offers of different value, but your headline can still be eye-catching (e.g. ‘Free meal in January’).

“This is a low-cost approach as you’re not spending money on a database or on direct mail, you’re simply handing out Christmas gifts,” says Creaser.

Read more articles in this series here​.

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