Restaurant and bar operator Living Ventures has more than doubled gift card sales thanks to an online solution developed by digital marketing specialist Airship.
The new gift card platform was created to ensure that Living Ventures’ customers experience the same high levels of service and efficiency online that they enjoy in the company’s 39 acclaimed venues, which include the Alchemist and the Botanist brands, and standalone concepts such as Smugglers Cove in Liverpool.
Airship’s support for Living Ventures has now been recognised at the prestigious Institute of Promotional Marketing COGS Awards 2015, with the Gift Card initiative winning a Silver Award.
The platform developed by Airship enables customers to buy gift cards either online or at any Living Ventures venue. Customers can choose between a physical card which can be loaded with funds on-site or posted out, and electronic cards which are delivered immediately by e-mail.
Launched in November 2014, the new platform ensures that customers can share the experience of their favourite venue with family, friends and colleagues, building loyalty and increasing frequency of visit.
The system is fully integrated with Living Ventures’ existing Zonal EPOS system, ensuring that both venues and head office know when a card has been purchased or used.
Other benefits of the new platform include:
Cards tailored to each brand and venue rather than generic to the group;
The option to pay by mobile phone, as well as to redeem cards by showing a phone at venues;
Secure card payment and activation;
Immediate online access to check card balances for both physical and electronic cards;
Immediate digital replacement of lost cards.
Charlotte Solomon, group marketing manager for Living Ventures Restaurant Group, said, “In the first six months of using the Airship gift card platform we have seen a 103% increase in the sale of gift cards. The system is much more user-friendly than our previous solution, and the encrypted cards give the customer and ourselves security that we didn’t have previously.
“The gift card system is ‘live’ and works alongside our till system, giving us an accurate reconciliation. This aids the accounts department massively, reducing the man hours involved.”
Customers’ online experience is also much improved, adds Solomon. “The customer journey is more fluid, with a brand new shopping basket facility. Customers can now purchase multiple gift cards in one transaction and have them delivered or emailed to separate delivery addresses and with a selection of delivery services.
“Once the purchase has been made, the customer receives a confirmation email with all tracking information to track their gift card through Royal Mail. This has reduced the number of enquires we receive and has helped manage customer expectations of delivery dates.
“Overall, it’s a slicker and smoother process where both the customer and company have benefited.”
By using the central solution, integrated with Living Ventures established EPOS system, roll-out costs were minimised, allowing the gift card offer to be deployed immediately across the entire estate.
Dan Brookman, Commercial Director of Airship, says, “Customer loyalty can be more challenging for restaurant and bar operators in the digital age. Being an excellent hospitality operator doesn’t make you a digital marketing specialist.
“For a business such as Living Ventures, where high quality and high standards distinguish their venues in a very competitive market, the online experience should fully reflect the same experience, which is at the core of our proposition and what we’ve achieved with our gift card platform.
“One challenge every operator faces with gift cards is the need to know how much cash is out there to potentially be redeemed. Living Ventures’ accounts department smiled when we showed them the centralised reporting console, which means that at any time, staff can see real time transactions, redemptions and balance reports
“Ensuring that the platform was fully bedded-in across the summer was a priority, and it’s very gratifying that sales have more than doubled across that period. As we approach the peak gifting season and the busiest time of year for all operators, the benefits of Living Ventures investment in an integrated gift card platform should become even more apparent.
“We’re delighted that our work on this initiative has been recognised as industry-leading with the IPM COGS silver award.”