How to Create a Top-Notch Loyalty Program With the Help Of Your Brewery POS System
Learn how to build a loyalty program with your brewery POS system that will grow your business and reach new guests from Hi-Wire taproom manager, Kindsey Bernhard.
Loyalty programs are such a great way to grow your business. Loyalty programs drive traffic, engage your customers, and build your brand. Think about all the rewards programs you are part of in your personal life (groceries, clothes, shoes, etc). The same reasons you are a part of those programs are the exact same reasons someone will join a loyalty program at your brewery.
At Hi-Wire Brewing Louisville, our Mug Club is our loyalty program. To join our Mug Club, customers pay $20 for a year-long membership. This membership includes 20oz pours of select beers in a special Mug Club stein for the same price of a 16oz pour, and 20% percent off all to-go beer and merchandise. Our Mug Club members also receive monthly emails from me about new and upcoming beers and events happening at the taproom. The $20 alone is worth the exclusive emails from me, if I do say so myself.
So Why Are Loyalty Programs Important?
The Regulars: Old and New
The most important reason for having a loyalty program is to reward your customers, and especially your (you probably guessed it) most loyal customers. Your “regulars” are important to your business and you should want to reward them for their continued support. By rewarding your regular customers with discounts or “free” beer, it makes them feel important and empowered. It’s what keeps them coming back to your taproom, even more than before.
Loyalty programs not only reward regulars, but create new ones. If a customer knows that at your taproom they can get 20oz of beer for $6, while at the brewery down the street they only get 16oz of beer for $6, they are more likely to come to your taproom. That “free” extra 4oz can go a long way. And knowing they can get a discount on their favorite 6-pack to-go makes their buying choices a lot easier.
People love a good deal
Three certainties: death, taxes, and people loving free or discounted things. If you know someone who likes to pay full price for something, well then call the Men in Black because those people are not from Earth. I always have to browse the clearance section at any store. You just never know what might be there. Most loyalty programs offer some form of discount whether it’s on beer or merchandise, and people won’t be able to resist. It’s human nature.
The last reason loyalty programs are important is because FOMO is real. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is not going away anytime soon. If a customer is in your taproom and sees someone else drinking out of this really cool, fun-looking, large beer mug, FOMO hits. That person is going to want to drink out of the cool mug too! I bet 5 minutes later, they are signed up for your mug club and drinking out of the cool, fun, large beer mug, too. FOMO never loses. Trust me, I’ve witnessed this multiple times at the Hi-Wire taproom.
Brainstorm Program Type
So you’ve finally decided to start a loyalty program in your taproom, but what kind of loyalty program, how much will it cost, and what perks will be included? There are many kinds of loyalty programs you can implement, but it’s all about finding the right type that fits your brand, business, and your customers. Many breweries make the mistake of deciding on a loyalty program without their customers in mind. These loyalty programs usually aren’t very popular and successful.
Do your research. Ask yourself these three questions:
- Does it align with our brand?
- What makes sense financially?
- Will our customers like it?
Three loyalty programs commonly used in taprooms are: a Mug Club, Reward Point System, and Punch Cards.
The Mug Club loyalty program is probably the most popular program used in Hi-Wire’s taprooms. Mug Clubs members usually pay a yearly fee and receive discounted pours in special mugs. Some breweries offer custom mugs for their loyalty members, and some use the same mug for all customers.
At the Hi-Wire I manage, we made special Louisville Mug Clubs with the state outline and city logo. These mugs are used like our other glassware and stay at the taproom. When one of our loyalty members orders a beer, it is served in the Mug Club stein. We do allow customers to buy these mugs to take home, but they do not need to bring that mug in each time. We have plenty at the taproom ready to serve.
The other Mug Club route you can take is personalized mugs for each of your members. Taprooms that do this usually provide special lockers or cubicles for members to store their mugs. When a member comes into the taproom, they retrieve their mug to be filled by the bartender. Some even customize the mugs by putting the customer’s name or the year they signed up! By offering a customer their own mug, you make them feel important and special.
Mug Clubs should also offer special discounts on merch and to-go beer, and access to new beers and events. Some Mug Clubs programs give out gifts each year to their members based on how many years they’ve been a part of the program. A Mug Club loyalty program has endless options, so make sure you take the time and thoroughly think it through.
The point system is a fun loyalty program, almost like a game. You assign certain points for each beer and when your customer reaches a certain level in points, they can redeem them for a prize. Remember as a kid you would win tickets at the arcade and if you had 500 tickets, you could win a stuffed animal. This is the adult version, but for beer and brewery merchandise.
The point system loyalty program can be difficult if your brewery POS does not have the capability of assigning and tracking points. There are brewery POS systems that have this capability, such as Arryved, so if your POS does, a point system could be a lot of fun for both you and your customers.
The punch cards loyalty program is commonly used in coffee shops and bakeries. However, this type of loyalty program can be easily used at a brewery. For every “x amount of draft beer” a person buys, they will get their next beer free. If you cannot, or don’t want to, give out a free draft beer, you can give out a free shirt, other merchandise, or even beer to-go instead.
The brewery POS system we use at Hi-Wire can track the accumulation of these credits earned, and associates them with a customer’s name, email address, and credit card. That makes it easy to keep track of each members’ credits, and customers don’t have to carry a punch card around with them.
Get creative and figure out what your customers might enjoy! There are lots of options.
So you’ve figured out the details of your loyalty program, now it’s time to let your customers know! There should always be a strategic plan in rolling out something as important as a loyalty program. Ask yourself:
- When should I start promoting it?
- How long should I promote it before it starts?
- What are the various ways I can get the word out?
A great time to start up a loyalty program is after a busy week and weekend at the taproom. This is a great time to let all the customers that come into your taproom know about the program that will be starting soon. Building hype around anything is important. Just like you do with events or new beer releases, hyping up your loyalty program gets people more excited to join and be a part of it.
And of course, the best way to promote a loyalty program is on social media. That is where most of you customers learn about things happening in your taproom. Your social posts should have full descriptions of what the loyalty program entails and a picture of your mug or punch card. Great visuals are important for social media posts.
An overlooked way of promoting your loyalty program is with posters for the taproom. This is a marketing tool that many taprooms forget about. Before Hi-Wire launched our loyalty program, we printed out several 11×17 posters about our Mug Club. I hung these posters in places where I knew people would see them—on all the doors, in the bathroom stalls, behind the urinal—places where I knew people’s eyes would land. And it worked! We had several customers asking about the Mug Club a week before we officially launched it.
Your brewery POS system can also help promote your loyalty program. For example, you could email existing members incentivizing them with extra free merch or higher discounts to refer a friend. Our brewery POS system at Hi-Wire lets us email customers, and I’m grateful for this easy communication tool.
Another great way for your bar staff to promote your loyalty program is by up-selling at checkout. If a customer is buying a 6-pack of beer, tell your staff to ask them if they are part of your loyalty program. If the answer is no, tell them that if they sign-up they can receive 20% off all to-go beer. This example is specific to what we do at Hi-Wire, but the concept is the same for all loyalty programs. Upselling doesn’t have to be awkward, and it’s very much worth it!
Your loyalty program has been created and promoted. Now it’s time to implement it in your taproom with these 3 steps.
Step #1: add it to your brewery POS system
Depending on how your brewery POS system’s interface is set up, you will likely need to add a button for the yearly membership fee, a button for each mug club beer, and a button for your discounts. At Hi-Wire, we have a “Reservations” menu where our Mug Club yearly fee button resides. Under our Draft Beer menu, I added a “Mug Club” pour option for the beers that are served in the mug club. I also created a Comp Type titled “Mug Club” that automatically applies a 20% discount when applied. Every POS system is different, but adding these three buttons is important in implementing your loyalty program and makes for a faster checkout for members.
Step #2: Train your Bartending Staff
How is a membership rung up? How are comps added? How does the point or punch card program work? Before starting your loyalty program, have an all-staff meeting with your bartenders. This is where you can train them on how to ring up for the loyalty program yearly fee, the mug club beers, and how to apply the discount.
This meeting is also a great time to practice upselling. Like I mentioned before, upselling can be awkward and your bartenders are the ones who are going to be doing it the most. Find some tips for upselling and share those during this meeting. One of the tips I share with my team is to try to make upselling more conversational. If the upselling feels forced, the customer will notice, and will likely tune out your pitch and decline the offer.
Step #3: Let Your Customers Know
If you see a customer who frequents your taproom and always has a few beers and buys a package to-go, this is the perfect opportunity to upsell your loyalty program. This person isn’t a regular that signed up on day one, but someone you know would benefit from your loyalty program just as much. When the customer goes to check-out, this is the perfect opportunity for your bartender to go into detail about the program and all the benefits of being a member.
For your loyalty programs, you will want to collect the person’s full name, email address, and the date they signed up. You can also collect their date of birth, so you can get them a birthday “present.” Who doesn’t love a free beer on their birthday!? This could be an additional incentive for members to sign up. Collecting email addresses will be important when you start your email marketing campaigns, and your brewery POS system can store this information for you. The date the person signed up is important if you are doing a yearly program. You will need to email those members after a year to inform them about renewing their membership.
There are multiple ways you can physically collect the information. At Hi-Wire, we are old school and have a paper sign-up sheet where my bartenders write the customer’s name, email and sign-up date. I then have to take the time to manually type this information up on a Google Excel Sheet. It takes too much of my time that could be spent doing something more important, so it’s on my to-do list to start utilizing our brewery POS system’s digital tools for this.
The better way to collect this information is via your brewery POS system. There are brewery POS systems like ours that have some kind of “insider” or “loyalty” already built into it. When starting your loyalty program, check if your brewery POS is one of those. It can really help you start your loyalty program and run it successfully.
While we at Hi-Wire are still collecting information like it’s 1993, I plan on transitioning to collecting our member’s information via our brewery POS system very soon. This way I can collect our member’s information digitally, and upload it straight to our brewery POS system, where I want this information to live anyway.
If you plan on starting a point system program, having your member’s information already on your brewery POS system will be the easiest and best way to successfully operate a point system program. If your brewery POS system has the ability, you can track each member’s “buying habits.” You can answer the following questions through your brewery POS reporting tools:
- What is the average check size of your loyalty members?
- How much package beer are they purchasing?
- Are they buying more core package beer or specialty beer?
- Are they purchasing merchandise?
- How long are they staying in your taproom?
By fully integrating your loyalty program into your brewery POS system, you can really learn about your customers, which can only help your bottom line.
You want your loyalty program members to feel important. You can do this by sending monthly emails to those members. There are many different (free) email marketing websites where you can upload their email addresses for monthly email campaigns. Remember, you should collect emails through your brewery POS loyalty program. I send the Mug Club members at Hi-Wire two emails a month with curated content just for them.
Our members get emails with information of new beers coming to the taproom before the general public finds out either by social media or seeing it in the taproom. The emails usually include a long description of the beer, pricing of it, and if or when the beer will be on tap. If a beer is limited, I make sure to include how much we have so the customer knows not to wait to purchase that beer. The more information, the better.
In my emails I also love to include information on upcoming events and other information about taprooms. Emails help get more eyes on events happening in your taproom, which in turn helps drive traffic. A lot of this information is posted on social media or put on a poster hanging in the taproom, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is on social media. Everyone has an email nowadays.
The most important thing you need to do with these emails is to have fun. People’s inboxes are flooded with promotional emails, so make yours stand out from the others. Include jokes, memes, emojis, fun pictures, etc. People will delete emails the minute they get bored or disinterested. Don’t allow that to happen. When I write up my weekly emails, I have so much fun writing them and even make myself laugh. My open rate proves that my terrible sense of humor is working.
The initial rush of people signing up for your loyalty program is exciting. However, after the first three or four months of rolling out our Mug Club program at Hi-Wire, the signups started to dwindle. After multiple sign ups each day, I started to see sign-ups once a week or less. I knew I needed to do something to fix this.
Noticing the decline was easy to see when looking at my brewery POS system reports. Reservation sales were going down. And, the number of emails I was sending every month stayed the same, so I could tell no new members were joining.
One thing I realized was that we hadn’t posted about our Mug Club on social media since the first couple of months of starting the program. I took a new picture of a beer in our mug club and we posted it on all our social media channels. We saw an immediate response with new Mug Club sign-ups. Now every month or so, we make sure to post on social media about our program with a new picture.
Another way to continue to grow members is through a bartender incentive. If sign-ups are slowing down, start a competition among your bartenders. The bartender who has the most Mug Club sign ups that month wins a prize. A healthy competition among your staff can increase both motivation and loyalty program members. It’s a win-win for both you and your staff members.
Like I mentioned earlier, having a brewery POS system that is fully integrated within your loyalty program is important for learning about your customers. Your brewery POS system reporting tools can help with identifying when signups are slowing down, or on the other hand, very popular.
Was there a peak in sign ups around a certain beer or event? Your brewery POS system can tell you that. Was there a lull of sign ups during months when people go dry? Your brewery POS system can tell you that, too. This is information that you can only see when you fully integrate your loyalty program with your brewery POS system. If you have the ability to do this, it can turn a good loyalty program into a great loyalty program.
Loyalty programs are a lot of work to start and maintain, but are very much worth it. They can help increase sales and enhance your customer experience. Successful loyalty programs drive traffic, engage your customers (old and new), and grow your overall brand. Your brewery POS system can play an integral role in this. Everything sales-wise in your taproom goes through your brewery POS system, and your loyalty program is no different. So when you decide to start your top-notch loyalty program, keep your brewery POS system in mind and how it can help. Because trust me, it can in so many more ways than you can imagine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kindsey Bernhard is the Taproom Manager at Hi-Wire’s location in Louisville. She also hosts a podcast called Boys Are From Märzen, which is a craft beer podcast featuring women in the industry. In her free time, Kindsey loves spending time with her dogs, Oberon and Otto.