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Why Hospitality operators must work harder to win back Millennials

Is your restaurant, hotel, casino or stadium competing effectively when it comes to getting the most out of the Millennium market?  Are you capitalising on the fact they check their phones up to 43 times a day and a significant proportion (42%) think brands should offer loyalty programs and allow mobile payments through mobile?  If not, now is the time to reel them in and foster loyalty that lasts.

We all know it’s just common sense to market new technology, especially mobile technology, to Millennials (18-34 year olds).  They’re the Uber-using, social media addicted, mobile-obsessed, tech-savvy generation that demands supersonic service through any and every channel.  They’re also not short of a bob or two.  Millennials are expected to spend more than $200 Bn annually starting from 2017 and a staggering $10 trillion in their lifetimes according to Advertising Age.

There’s never been a better suited demographic for mobile self-service regardless of which industry you’re in.  From banking to retail, travel to hospitality – mobile is the channel of choice for Gen Y and the revenues are there for the taking.  For now.  A recent study by Aimia did confirm Millennials are the most loyal customer group for restaurants and coffee shops but that loyalty is falling.  According to the report, 52% of 18-24 years olds said they were loyal to restaurants, down 62% in December 2015 and the percentage of Millennials that are part of a restaurant loyalty scheme decreased from 31% in December 2015 to 26% in March of this year.  But don’t despair, this isn’t a demographic disaster that can’t be averted.  Up to now, operators have been guilty of missing the target when it comes to digitally delivered smart marketing for the younger generations but as understanding of how this group wishes to engage with brands deepens, so the successful, long-term capture of their custom grows.

Millennial loyalty to a particular brand and participation in specific loyalty schemes may be weakening but it presents a hugely lucrative opportunity for tech-savvy brands to outmanoeuvre their competitors and lure them back with some digital delights.  Loyalty isn’t on the decline because Millennials aren’t eating out.  In fact, they’re the most likely age group to plan increased spending on restaurant dining in 2016 compared to the previous year.  So here you have a bunch of affluent, mobile-minded diners, whose loyalty is up for grabs, as they look to dine out even more this year than last.  If you’re a hospitality operator and you’re not holding a mobile strategy meeting right now, you’re crazy!

It’s very easy to get carried away with a Millennial-centric approach but the opportunity for restaurants and other Hospitality operators to engage with older generations is under utilised >> take a look at our Rise of the Silver Surfers post to learn more.  Millennials aren’t the only ones with deep pockets and operators would do well to not underestimate the older over 50s demographic if they’re to stay ahead of the competition.

But back to that Millennial market – the question is, how do you encourage them to return to your brand time and again?  Here are some quick tips to galvanise Gen Y devotion:

Go Mobile.  It’s fair to say Millennials are on mobile all the time so it makes sense your brand should be too.  Whether it’s a mobile optimised website or a fully branded, native mobile application, put control of the customer journey in the palm of their hands to foster the levels of loyalty that’ll see serious returns.


According to Forrester, 62% of customers searching for a company on their devices expect a mobile friendly website and 42% expect an actual dedicated application.  So make sure your brand is optimised for mobile like the Marriott.  Their app allows guests to make requests for amenities before they arrive, manage their Rewards, manage their bookings and even chat with Marriott staff.

Don’t forget the personal touch.  Capitalise on the fact that 51% of Millennials are happy to share personal information if it means they could get more relevant offers and discounts.  The beauty of a mobile order and pay app is that you can capture very detailed information about guests.  Everything from what modifications they make to their orders, how they like their steak cooked, which stores they visit the most down to the table they prefer to sit at and their payment method of choice – all of this information is ready to be mined and used for lucrative smart marketing campaigns.

The ultimate in loyalty convenience.  42% of Millennials think brands should offer a mobile loyalty program.  Once you’ve captured their attention, make it easy for Millennials to stick to your brand.  In essence, help them help you.  By moving your loyalty to mobile, you give your guests the control to manage their rewards and you open a valuable communications channel to serve those highly tailored offers your Millennials are looking for.

Harvey Nichols’ loyalty app does just that.  Unlike traditional point-based schemes, customers receive extra points, flash sales and other perks based on how much they spend and their past preferences.


The time is now to embrace your digital diners across the complete demographic spectrum but perhaps pay particular attention to your Millennial market while their loyalty lasts.  If your brand doesn’t have a mobile strategy, now is a perfect time to develop one especially as almost half (46%) of all smartphone users say they couldn’t live without their phones!  Your guests’ digital mindset will only grow along with their expectation of mobile self-service and omni-channel control of their journey so make mobile matter and start reaping the rewards of loyalty success to keep your brand ahead of the pack.

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