Tasti D-Lite: Give Customer Check-Ins Their Just Desserts

There is little doubt of the importance of location awareness in a world gone mobile.

As digitally enabled customers walk around car dealerships, shopping malls and local retailers, they use their smartphones to check the latest info and make sure they’re getting the best deal, all in real-time.

Many businesses have figured out that reaching customers based on proximity to their location can bring them more business.

While there are still issues with point-of-sales systems integrating with loyalty programs and mobile shoppers, many business leaders at least have their heads pointed in the right direction.

But in addition to shoppers proactively pulling information to them, how much information are they willing to share with the business? Will customers do more than share their location in trade for a special offer from a business near where they are?

Over the past few years, Tasti D-Lite -- the dairy-based, soft-serve frozen dessert company that started in New York before spreading nationally -- found some answers.

In 2009, the company was well-established with mobile couponing on Twitter, which caught the attention of Foursquare, then a young mobile check-in app company. Tasti D-Lite worked with Foursquare and pioneered the check-in specials, which offered businesses the ability to promote an offer to potential customers based on their location.

The details of this early mobile venture and subsequent mobile learnings are detailed in The Tasti D-Lite Way, a new book being officially released in a week. The firsthand account is told by authors James Amos, Chairman and CEO of Tasti D-Lite, and BJ Emerson, vice president of technology at the company.

The company found that user-generated content around its products naturally moved to mobile, so they attached surprises to locations, such as secret items not listed on the menu.

One of the most significant lessons learned was the potential disconnect between the mobile or online experience and the local retail experience.

An example noted in the book was a Foursquare user who became “mayor” of a Tasti D-Lite location, a designation bestowed on someone who checks in via the app at one location more than anyone else.

The customer received the automatic $1 coupons via the Foursquare app, but was so excited she did a little dance at the store. When the woman told the cashier she had become mayor, he asked, ‘what does that mean?’

As the book relates, she replied: “It means I come here more than anyone else. It means I’m your most loyal customer, basically.”

The expectations around the mobile offer were technically met (she received the auto-coupon), but the in-store associate did not capture the moment and take the experience to the next level.

The chain learned from such experiences and educated employees about social and mobile. In the case of that woman, they recovered by inviting the customer to be part of a TV taping that appeared on Tokyo TV.

While much of the focus of The Tasti D-Lite Way is on innovative use of social media, there are some significant mobile lessons, especially as the lines between mobile, social and advertising blur.

The book recommends five ways to go beyond the mobile check-in:

  • Get passionate about listening. Use the tools available to set up alerts and notifications when certain actions occur. Getting visibility with the conversations happening around a business is critical.
  • Play the game. Download, sign up, claim your business and get involved. Do not delegate to someone else.
  • Make it part of the DNA of your brand. Push insights and engage with associates, suppliers and customers online. Push it from the inside out instead of needing to have customers educate you.
  • Bridge the gap. Bring the information into the physical location with a digital display. This could include interactive content and mobile offers.
  • Don’t make customer engagement a checklist. Be prepared for spontaneous and human interaction around the technologies.

The dessert company was a pioneer in mobile check-in, with POS and rewards program integration. The Tasti D-Lite way provides a good road map of how it aligns mobile, online and in-store experience. 

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2 comments about "Tasti D-Lite: Give Customer Check-Ins Their Just Desserts ".
  1. Ronald Stack from Zavee LLC , August 29, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.
    The Tasti D-Lite program gets everything right, and BJ Emerson is one of the industry's true innovators.
  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin , August 29, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.
    Yes, that is very true. And they were very early in mobile.