Case Study: Cosi Drives In-Store Visits With Mobile Campaign

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CosiMerchant: Cosi
Location: 16 states and the District of Columbia
Size: 100+ restaurants
Bottom Line: Adding a “gamification” element to a mobile campaign can generate consumer interest and drive store visits.

Traditional media buys can generate brand awareness, but when it comes to driving foot traffic, it’s all about mobile. “The most important thing for us is to drive traffic to either increase visits from current customers or to bring new customers in,” says Marc Lapides, director of marketing at Cosi, the fast-casual restaurant chain with more than 100 locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia. “We really wanted to find a way to use mobile technologies to drive people into the store.”

The company partnered with ePrize to develop Fall Into Cosi, a multi-channel mobile sweepstakes campaign that requires customers to show a decoder screen on their smartphones to Cosi cashiers, or print out game pieces from a dedicated microsite, for the chance to win an array of prizes. “The tools we’re using—be it mobile devices or other tools — require you to walk into the store and see if you’ve won a prize using the decoders that we have in each of the stores,” says Lapides. “It’s a combination of a physical tool and a digital tool that encourages you to come into the store.”

Adding a gamification layer to what would otherwise have been a straightforward mobile marketing campaign was a strategic decision on Lapides’ part. With so many marketers vying for their customers’ attention on mobile, Lapides knew he needed to do something special to rise above the noise. “I had a creative director once who used to work on radio advertising. She always had that joke at the end, where she said, ‘That was the reward for listening.’ Gamification is the reward for participating with our brand. We’re doing something for you because you’ve agreed to play along,” says Lapides.

To measure the effectiveness of any mobile campaign, Lapides looks closely at year-over-year and week-over-week sales during the periods when his campaigns were running. Lapides says he isn’t interested in “vanity metrics” so much as hard data that shows how much foot traffic can be associated with a specific campaign.

For the Fall Into Cosi campaign, specifically, Lapides is watching how many coupons from the campaign are redeemed in-store. “On each of the game pieces, whether it’s mobile or whether you’ve printed out an email, there’s a coupon attached to it,” says Lapides. “So, we’ll be able to track those coupons and see what the redemptions look like.”

Once the fall campaign is complete — it ends on October 31st — Lapides plans to parse the data he’s collected to figure out how many coupon redemptions came from new customers versus loyal customers. “[We’re looking to] see if frequency has increased among our loyal customers,” says Lapides. “If we brought new customers in or brought loyal customers in on a more frequent basis and got them to use that coupon, we’ll be able to really know it was a success.”

Outside of the Fall Into Cosi campaign, Lapides and his team are spending an increasing amount of time on location-based platforms like Foursquare. “We’re going to be focusing a lot on Foursquare, in particular. But we’re looking at some others, as well. Even possibly creating some of our own tools to get people to check-in to our locations,” says Lapides.

Lapides has tested out the geo-fencing tools provided by a few mobile advertising companies, with the goal of driving business to specific stores and locations. However, he says it’s still too soon to measure the results of those endeavors. “We’ve got a set of franchises and a set of corporate stores, all who want to drive people who are in their areas to their stores. We see success with geo-fencing,” says Lapides. “There is a lot going on in the local space and we’re just figuring it out now. But we know it’s critical to our business.”

In the coming months, Lapides has plans to launch additional mobile campaigns across multiple day-parts—all of which will involve a gamification layer. “We are eagerly awaiting some of the results from this campaign because we really set up a direction and say, ‘Well this worked for us. This didn’t,’” says Lapides. “Seeing what the results are, we can start to take those learnings and focus our future efforts.

The Takeaway
Customers expect to get something in return for their participation in mobile marketing programs these days, and adding a gamification layer to a campaign is an effective way of encouraging people to get involved. Customers are required to visit Cosi in-person to participate in the Fall Into Cosi campaign, and in doing so they have the chance to win prizes at varying price points. Lapides believes that offering a number of small rewards, as opposed to a single grand prize, helps boost participation levels. He also anticipates that location-based tools and geo-targeted campaigns will play an increasingly important role in Cosi’s marketing strategy in the coming months and years, as consumers get more comfortable receiving time-sensitive offers on their mobile devices.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.