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More Than Just Smoothies

Tropical Smoothie Cafe – the name inspires thoughts of cool smoothies for beating the summertime heat, but Tropical Smoothie Cafe is so much more than that. They offer made-to-order smoothies using real fruits and vegetables along with healthy flatbreads, sandwiches, wraps and bowls. The relaxing atmosphere of each store makes this cafe a place unlike any other.

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What Tropical Smoothie Cafe was looking to do

When Tropical Smoothie Cafe came to us, they were looking to raise awareness of their locations, to break into the food sector and to obtain a marketing solution that was accessible to all their franchisees on an opt-in basis. Their goal was to reach incremental audiences that were likely to convert, both digitally through the app or via walk-ins to the cafes. Cardinal identified three core audiences that met this objective: food competitors (such as Panera Bread Chick-fil-a, Chipotle); smoothie competitors and like brands (including Planet Smoothie, Jamba Juice, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts); and existing Tropical Smoothie Cafe customers.

In order to accomplish these goals, Tropical Smoothie Cafe needed a digital marketing company with a proven track record and a history of success in gaining an immediate and worthwhile return on a company’s investment. That’s when the company turned to Cardinal.

What Cardinal did to meet Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s expectations

Knowing that the company wanted to accomplish an awareness and transaction-driving campaign, we developed a strategy to target customers of food and smoothie competitors when those customers were near a Tropical Smoothie Cafe establishment. Through the use of Facebook, Instagram and mobile programmatic display ads, we rose to the challenge of making targeted consumers more aware of the all the company had to offer. Digital ads focused on the $5 Flatbread + Side deal for the next month as we monitored, optimized and tracked results.

To add our Cardinal spin on the campaign, we set it up in a way that also met the need for franchise-level budgets and reporting. Each café had the opportunity to “opt-in” to the program, deciding how much they wanted to invest (based on cost & reach estimates provided by Cardinal to the field marketing team up front). Each franchisee’s program was customized to their geographic area and the digital landscape within that trade-area.

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How Cardinal’s initial strategy played out

Ads started running at the beginning of March and ran through the end of the month for a 4-week push aligning with traditional advertising of the $5 Flatbread. Between social media and mobile display inventory, the campaigns generated more than 17MM impressions with an average CTR of .23 percent. Despite being smaller impression pools, both the Smoothie Competitor and Tropical Smoothie Café customer audiences generated CTR higher than the program average.

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Identifying new challenges

With a solid delivery strategy in place, the biggest challenge was still ahead of us: How would we measure success for each location without any sales or online ordering data? The vast majority of Tropical Smoothie Cafe customers simply walk in to place their order; and although the app allows for order ahead with rapid pick-up and pay in-store, that only represented a small subset of total in-restaurant activity. We didn’t want to be another agency talking to our client about ad impressions and clicks. The result was a unique focus on footfall/store visits: How many people actually walked into a Tropical Smoothie Cafe location after seeing an ad impression, and, even more importantly, what effect did an ad impression have on a customer’s likelihood of walking in?

Reaching out to our networks, we developed a partnership with Blis. Blis’s mobile advertising technology would allow us to map out the four walls of every participating Tropical Smoothie Cafe to understand device activity on a daily basis. Matching those device IDs back to our ad impressions would allow us to see 1) a control group of devices withheld from advertising to measure a standard footfall rate, and 2) footfall rates across all of our various audiences when an ad impression had been served. Although Facebook’s Store Visits objective was designed to accomplish the same objective, limitations with early iterations of their technology could not discern between the walls of business in strip malls or congested areas. For this reason, we primarily focused on the mobile display advertising component moving forward, using social media advertising to gain audience and messaging insights.

Control vs Exposed Results

What we learned

Results by audience showed that all four of the core audiences identified at the onset of the campaign were effective at driving uplift when exposed to an ad. While Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s existing customers naturally had the highest control group footfall rate, we were able to increase their likehood of walking into a café by 61 percent with a single ad impression. Conversely, our competitor brands had the lowest control group footfall rate going into the campaign, but we were able to have the largest influence on purchase behavior within this group by targeting them with Tropical Smoothie Cafe ads.

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At the individual café level, the same metrics were used to determine success. While the marketing team was able to view performance of the program as a whole, a customized dashboard gave the regional team the ability to quickly create PDF reports for each franchisee, including exact amount spent, impressions, control vs. exposed devices, and in-store footfall rates within each group. Additionally, each franchisee was able to view performance by audience – information which could then be used to inform LSM activity in the future.

Top stores within the program saw footfall rate lifts over 100%, not considering cafes where the control group was not large enough to qualify as statistically significant.

Data at the café level allowed the field marketing team to bring informed marketing results to each franchisee – something they had not been able to do prior.

How the campaign dictated future marketing

The Cardinal team utilized campaign and café-level data to identify key program enhancements for the Q3 opt-in program.

Learning Next Steps

Through our social media marketing efforts, we identified key learnings around core audiences (smoothie competitors), audience demographic, and creative units. But we also learned that limitations with Facebook’s Store Visits KPI for businesses primarily location in strip malls posed a major roadblock in measuring success. Conversely, mobile display advertising presented the perfect solution to our tracking problems. Future media spend would be concentrated on mobile ads until Facebook technology advanced to match that of Blis.