April 28, 2011, 5:14 PM — On busy weekends in Las Vegas, getting a drink at many bars and nightclubs can be a full-contact sport. First you muscle your way through a crowd to get near the bar. Then you shout your order and hope the bartender hears it right.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is advancing a different approach. In April, it deployed a system that enables customers to use their smartphones to order food and drinks, which are then delivered to their location by a server. The technology, dubbed Kickback, is the flagship product from startup Kickback Mobile.
To participate, customers download a free app to their smartphones and register with their credit card information. From there, Kickback uses GPS technology to determine which of seven Hard Rock venues the customer is visiting and pushes menu options accordingly. The app can also be used for room service.
"As long as [customers] have a smartphone, they are part of the community," says Todd Moreau, vice president of food and beverage with the Hard Rock. Moreau advocated for the project, working with Hard Rock Director of IT Mike Essig to make it a reality.
Tracking Big Spenders Kickback offers a number of benefits. For customers, it means that ordering food and drinks at the resort's pool, concert venue and food and beverage outlets no longer requires adventures at the bar.
Hard Rock gains full integration with its CRM and point-of-sale systems, and a way to track the purchases of big spenders. Hard Rock also hopes to use Kickback to develop and push promotions-for example, a marketing campaign for a particular liquor-based on a customer's preferences, spending habits or location within the resort, says Kickback Mobile CEO Leo Rocco.
Kickback uses a technology called geo-fencing, which uses a smartphone's GPS capabilities and triangulation based on nearby cellular towers to estimate where a customer is located when she places an order. Customers select where the server should deliver the order using a predefined list. They can even purchase food or drinks when they aren't at a Hard Rock venue and have it delivered to friends who are there.
The technology is turning heads. While executives at other Vegas casinos wouldn't comment on the particulars of Hard Rock's new approach, Scott Voeller, vice president of brand strategy and advertising at MGM Resorts, says there's no disputing the importance of mobile apps in CRM.
"Customers may not always be in front of a computer, but they always have their phones with them," he says. "Assuming they've opted in to your application, it allows them to stay connected with the brand."
Moreau and Essig say they expect to put Kickback through its paces during Hard Rock's weekly Rehab pool parties this summer.
Revelers, take note: Your days of elbowing your way to the bar are almost over.