Wahoo's Fish Taco Delves Into Mobile Marketing, Targets Group Interactions

The taco chain is reaching its core customer group-Millennials-through a targeted mobile strategy.

Wahoo's Fish Taco, a seafood restaurant and franchise headquartered in Santa Ana, CA, knew it needed a mobile strategy to maintain a relationship with its customers. Fostering group interactions among customers was also critical for the company.

"Our core customer base is the Millennials and they live in the mobile environment so we needed to reach them and our other customers through mobile," explains Tom Orbe, vice president of sales and marketing at Wahoo's Fish Taco. "The new currency is about building relationships so we also wanted a way to communicate with groups of different people."

Wahoo's Fish Taco tapped San Diego-based mobile app developer CircleShout to develop a loyalty app last year. Customers receive a QR code for a free taco when they download the app and check in for their first visit at a participating location. By scanning a QR code at the register, users earn points for other menu items and promotional giveaways.

In addition, Wahoo's Fish Taco can create clubs or social groups for customers who share a common interest to join within the app. More than 10,000 people who downloaded the company's app, for example, are part of Wahoo's Fish Taco's General club and roughly 200 members joined the La Jolla club. Club members can receive targeted offers from the taco chain, and post questions or comments about the restaurant's service on a message board. The app also includes surf reports in a nod to surfers who frequent many of Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurants, Orbe adds.

Wahoo's Fish Taco launched the app last November and since then, more than one-third of the members or app users have dined at a restaurant at least once per week and more than half redeem the coupons.

Given that mobile apps have become a common marketing tool, acquiring active users is a challenge for many businesses. Nearly all of Wahoo's Fish Taco's 65 locations are equipped to accept the app's coupons (a handful of restaurants are installing QR code readers) and the company is "pleased with the results so far," Orbe says. "We're just getting started and we're looking forward to doing even more with the app."

The company's road map includes letting app users place orders and redeem their rewards remotely through their smartphones or tablets. Wahoo's is also exploring geofencing features to deliver timely and location-based offers, Orbe adds.

Wahoo's Fish Taco was CircleShout's first customer and the startup is in discussions with several other restaurants, according to John Townsend, president and CEO of CircleShout. Prior to designing the app, Wahoo's requested that a CircleShout staffer shadow one of Wahoo's restaurants to understand the company's customers and culture.

"Driving guest traffic up during slow periods and encouraging interactions with customers is a priority for businesses," Townsend says. "But deciding what to include in your app can be difficult, so it was important for Wahoo's that we understood their customers."