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Using technology to reach millennial customers

Heralded as a great enabler in the world of facilities management, technology is becoming more essential as our lives, and the lives of our customers, are increasingly lived out online.

Following earlier blogs by her colleagues Andrew Wilkinson and Chris Bray, here, Jo Cash, European Marketing Director for Sodexo Universities and Schools, describes how the organisation is using digital marketing to channel its education business.

As my colleagues Andrew Wilkinson and Chris Bray have explored in previous blogs, technology is clearly a great enabler in the world of facilities management and is becoming more essential as our lives, and the lives of our customers, are increasingly lived out online.

Having recently joined Sodexo, I’ve seen from my background in marketing for high street retail and food brands, the essential role of digital marketing in brand-building and in developing and maintaining relationships with customers.

Whilst our heritage at Sodexo is as a contract caterer, certainly for our universities and schools businesses, the competition is the high street. Among Sodexo’s broad customer base, we have some of the youngest and most digitally-engaged audiences to reach. Our millennial customers have grown up with technology and spend several hours a day on their smart phones. In order to market our services to students it is vital for our teams to focus on digital channels.

At each of our university contracts Sodexo employs a student experience manager, whose role is to build a relationship with students on campus, act as a key point of contact and also market Sodexo’s services to the student and staff population. Much of their work involves creating local channels on established social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and building a two-way dialogue through those channels.

In order to get more cut through, we are looking at apps and finding the right digital partners to help us connect with and engage students. A great example is our partnership with VEVA, a ‘social discovery’ app, that provides a simple way to socialise by showing who’s free to meet on the day, where to meet nearby and the best food or drinks promotions.

At City University, where we run several cafés, bars and restaurants, we partnered with VEVA to create a customised app for students to use, supported by a web portal for Sodexo staff to administrate venue profiles and quickly set up targeted promotions to attract footfall.  The app was promoted heavily during Freshers’ Week with onsite flyers and promotions and a schedule of events at the university bar. Students really brought into the brand and loved the last minute deals.

As a result, 1,000+ students downloaded and are using the app. Our teams are able to reach these customers with push notifications on offers and last minute deals to draw in spontaneous footfall and to keep them up to date on what’s going on. They can also share wider information on site opening times, food available and new product ranges. For students, who might be navigating a new city and building a new friendship group, the app also provides a great way to make all-important social connections.

In summary, the app is helping our teams co-ordinate their marketing in an effective and efficient way, increasing revenue and footfall.

Technology and digital solutions are absolutely front of mind for our business. We look forward to ThinkFM as a platform to debate, learn and collaborate.