Coupon Use and Message View Rates Off the Chart – How One Cafe in Niigata Accrued Over 6,000 Friends Through LINE@

From afternoon cocktails to late-night tea, the Niwatori Cafe in Niigata Prefecture was conceived as a stylish space in which its patrons could feel at home. We asked Mr. Wakasugi how he succeeded in gathering over 6,000 friends through LINE@ to his cafe's account, irrespective of location.

Aiming to Gain Repeat Customers

When and how did you first learn about LINE@?

We started using it in December of 2013. About six months earlier, someone proposed using LINE@ at a staff meeting, and it all started from there. We had heard that LINE@'s message view rates were much higher than that of email-based newsletters and hoped it would boost our numbers.

Were you running an email-based newsletter previously?

We were, starting in 2008 when we first opened. We were sending it out to about 7,000 readers, but only around 3% actually looked at it. Needless to say, we weren't feeling much of an effect so we phased it out after we started using LINE@.

Have you used any other marketing devices besides newsletters?

We started a Facebook account after starting the newsletter. We currently use Facebook together with LINE@. We regularly post updates on Facebook two to three times per month to try to reach out to new customers with information about our cafe. Conversely, we mostly use LINE@ as a tool to gain repeat customers.

Email-Based Newsletter's 3% View Rate Surpassed by LINE@ Messages with 50%

How would you rate LINE@'s performance compared to that of your previous newsletter?

The thing that really stands out about LINE@ is that it helped us gain repeat customers as expected. Only 3% of users looked at our email-based newsletter, but with LINE@ more than 50% do. We were very impressed with that level of response. We also found that the use rate for distributed coupons surpassed 30%.

Of the 72 people who won our coupons through a lottery we advertised through LINE@, 21 of them went on to actually use them.

How often and in what ways do you use messages and the Timeline?

We send messages to users three to four times per month, mainly consisting of coupons. We update our Timeline with new menu item news about once a month and around the end of every month to introduce the next month's menu. When designing the messages, we try to always include content that will resonate with our target audience. For instance, we send out messages advertising lunch, party, and dessert menus separately. We target students on spring break for our lunch menus, businesses for the party menus, and newcomers to Niigata with our dessert menus. By finely targeting our message demographics, we can avoid generic content and always send out information that will appeal to our diverse customer base. Doing this, we're always able to get a strong response from each batch of messages.

The number of friends you have accumulated is quite high both for an eatery and your location. What's your secret?

The only advertising we've done for it are on the cafe's table tent displays. We have concrete incentives on it like "friend our account to get this same-day coupon" which really encourages a lot of people to add us right then and there. Just with the table displays we've had about twelve to thirteen people add us per day on average. We're planning on getting the word out a bit further with fliers.

How do you manage the system?

Right now, I handle it alone. At the start of the month I look at the results from last month and then schedule all the messages planned for the month in one sitting. The whole process takes about three hours per month. That includes things like editing images, writing message text, and responding to one or two reservation requests per day, so it's a very light burden.

Palpable Rise in Coupon Usage

Have you had any hit coupons?

We concentrated our first two months using LINE@ on just attracting as many friends as we could and would send out random coupons on the weekends. Customers could use the coupon of their choice as many times as they wanted while they were still valid. For our random coupons, we had one truly killer coupon, shuffled in with about 200 other coupons (laughs). You never knew what you were going to get, but if you were patient you were bound to land on something good. Customers enjoyed them and they became quite popular. We would advertise the random coupons on our friend request messages.

Did it work?

We were looking to bring our total friends up to 2,000, and by the end of those two months we had already grown by 1,000.

Did you find any other successful tactics?

When we added hard cider to the menu, we threw out a quiz that asked "What goes in hard cider?". Using the keyword response, anyone who answered along the lines of "apples" would get a free hard cider coupon. That one was a big hit.

When we launched a similar quiz for desserts we got an even bigger response. The amount of users who guess the right answer wasn't that different from the cider quiz, but the usage rates for the coupons was much higher. Thanks to that promotion we got a good idea of where most of our customers' interests lied (desserts over drinks).

It also allowed us to come up with ways to encourage our dessert-loving crowd to try out our drinks. We came up with drinks that would appeal to our mostly female dessert demographic and promoted it through another round of coupons. We ended up getting a much stronger response than with our cider promotion.

What LINE@ features do you want to put to use in the future?

About 65% of our LINE friends view our Timeline, so I'd like to put up more regular, casual content that customers can easily relate to, like thoughts from the owner or the cafe's specialties. By doing this we can stay on our customers' radar, ready to launch messages just at the right time when we want to draw in a crowd. Updating the Timeline doesn't bother users with notifications, so it pays to update it regularly to encourage our existing customers to try us again.

What advice do you have for other businesses starting out on LINE@?

The fact that LINE@'s female demographic was perfectly in line with ours is probably one of the reasons why we've had so much success. One thing that's important is to figure out who your target demographics are and pinpoint them with relevant messages. That's something that LINE@ is very good at. LINE@ has been perfect for keeping pace with the needs of our repeat customers. That's why we want to continue using it going forward.

Thanks for sharing with us.