In company research, Blimpie asked customers what more it could do for them. The response: "We'd like you to have a restaurant on every corner." Realizing it would take a substantial amount of time and money to fulfill that request, Blimpie offered an alternative: providing customers an easier way to find existing locations. Fortunately for franchisees, this solution had the added benefit of increasing traffic to their stores.
In spring 2001, Blimpie partnered with location-based directory Go2 to provide wireless Web users with menus, coupons and turn-by-turn directions to Blimpie Subs & Salads locations across the United States. Web-enabled phone, Palm Pilot or Blackberry users simply visit Go2.com and search for Blimpie by name or category (the chain is listed under fast food, catering, sub sandwiches, sandwiches and lunch) to find the nearest store. This information can be accessed via the wired Web.
"We wanted to make our existing restaurants more convenient to the consumers who were looking for us, and that's what Go2 really does for us," explains Joe Morgan, Blimpie's group president.
The Go2 partnership is one part of a technology program Blimpie has instituted to help franchisees. Other areas include an extranet that allows franchisees to communicate with one another, download printed materials such as coupons and compare store sales with other Blimpies in their territory. Another component allows franchisees to create individual Web sites that include coupons and other promotional items, catering menus and employment opportunities. "This is such a simple marketing program for the franchisees. Reaction has been exceptional," Morgan says.
The goal of these technology initiatives is to expand Blimpie's customer base and to make the company, and its franchisees, more successful. "We're looking to welcome millions of customers into our restaurants, and we want to do that through new products, new partnerships, new strategies and a commitment to serve customers what they want and how they want it," Morgan says.
For now, franchisees are already getting what they want: more customers. "This develops a whole new customer base," says Morgan, "because existing customers obviously aren't the ones who need directions."
This new customer base seems excited by the Go2 technology. "People will come into the restaurants with these Blackberry devices or their Web-enabled phones and show the employees the coupon we're running," Morgan explains. "There's this interaction happening."
With Web-enabled devices growing in popularity, Morgan expects these interactions to become even more common. "This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our ultimate solution for the customer," Morgan says. "If we're providing solutions for our customers, we know we're providing the best franchise opportunity for existing and prospective franchisees."