This interview is part of our Moving Forward Blog Series, where we ask major brands how they’re adapting to changing consumer expectations from a loyalty perspective post-pandemic.
Since Chipotle launched its Chipotle Rewards loyalty program last year, it has gained more than 8.5 million members.
Leveraging their digital tools to spark customer engagement and grow program membership has been paramount. And that’s why its loyalty strategy focuses on effective and relevant communications that are personalized.
Chipotle truly listens to its customers, illustrated by personalized tweaks to Chipotle Rewards which resonate quite well.
So, how has the fast casual managed rapidly changing consumer behavior due to COVID-19 from a customer loyalty perspective?
We caught up with Jason Scoggins, Director, Loyalty & CRM, Chipotle.
Here’s what Jason had to say about:
- How Chipotle’s customer behavior has changed since the pandemic began.
- How the company has addressed those changes.
- How the brand is leveraging its loyalty program to continue building customer relationships post-pandemic.
Jim Tierney: Chipotle eclipsed $1 billion in digital sales last year. How have customer behavior and expectations changed during the pandemic as you are in the process of opening more of your restaurants?
Jason Scoggins: Even with in-restaurant dining opening back up, our digital sales momentum remains strong. We’re finding that the majority of guests are opting to take their food to-go.
Jim: Consumers have found new behaviors during the pandemic. How do you think these new behaviors will impact Chipotle now and after the pandemic?
Jason: Increasing access and reducing friction is key. We’re providing guests with more means to experience Chipotle how and where they want it.
Jim: Listening to your customers is a top priority. How has that changed, if at all, during the pandemic?
Jason: Chipotle remains steadfast in our commitment to the health and well-being of our guests and employees while providing our safe, delicious, high-quality food made from real ingredients.
Jim: Having loyal customers is always important for brands. As brands slowly emerge from the pandemic, what are your customer loyalty goals?
Jason: Over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in new members which was driven primarily by customers discovering the brand through our digital channels.
Coming out of the pandemic, we are really focused on leveraging Chipotle Rewards to keep those customers engaged – whether that’s driving continued behavior toward our digital channels or introducing them to our in-restaurant experiences.
Jim: How is Chipotle responding to consumer behavioral changes and how can the brand leverage these changes to attain greater loyalty?
Jason: We have definitely seen customers pivot to digital ordering, particularly when it comes to order ahead for pick up.
This is a huge benefit for the customer as it keeps contact to a minimum and it also keeps the line moving for those customers who prefer to order in the restaurant.
This summer we have taken these learnings and began targeting specific customer segments with bonuses to further encourage the order ahead behavior.
Jim: Are there any specific changes or updates you’re planning to make to your loyalty program?
Jason: We are always listening to our customers and looking for ways to optimize Chipotle Rewards. While we don’t have any major changes in the immediate future, you will definitely see new features pop up along the way.
A great example of this is Guac Mode that we launched in February for all members who joined the program within the first year.
This was an addition to the core program that came from feedback we received from customers who wanted to be rewarded faster and more often.
Now those founding members get a free side of guacamole or other surprises each month.
Jim: What will customer loyalty look like in the “new” retail reality?
Jason: Now, more than ever, brands need to leverage the power of their loyalty programs and build those long-term relationships with their customers.
With all the uncertainty, customers are being more selective with their spend and brands that can create personalized and relevant loyalty programs will be the ones that customers gravitate toward.
Jim: What is the most important thing retailers can focus on for the rest of 2020?
Jason: If you haven’t already, now is the time the make sure your data is positioned to drive your program.
Obviously, the key input to a successful loyalty program is the data behind it.
Make sure you are capturing everything you need and that you have the systems in place to make that data accessible to your loyalty platform.
Jim: An attractive loyalty program can be a key differentiator for a brand. How can a loyalty program spark engagement and increased revenue as the country slowly re-opens?
Jason: Listen to your customers. Obviously, there are tons of tactics to drive engagement like bonuses and challenges, but not everything works for every brand.
For Chipotle Rewards, we are constantly reaching out to our customer base (both members and non-members) to find out what they want from the program.
From there we figure out how to deliver that while making sure that whatever the enhancement is, that it feels authentic and on brand for Chipotle.
We’ve found that if you can do that correctly, then the engagement and revenue will follow.
Chipotle has demonstrated the power of its loyalty program and the power of its delivery during uncertain times.
Loyalty is a key differentiator among brands, and Chipotle has shown how impactful it can be especially post-pandemic.
It’s no secret that consumers are shopping online more than ever. But, as Jason clearly points out, even brands that we may think of as traditionally more brick and mortar oriented are still thriving in the digital world.
As Jason discussed:
- Make listening to your customers your top priority. Be willing to optimize your loyalty program based on their feedback. Don’t ever set it and forget it.
- Try to reward as often as you can. Modern consumers don’t want to wait for value. Find more opportunities to surprise and delight your members.
- Make sure you’re not only collecting customer data but also positioning it to shape and drive your loyalty program.
If you’re interested in being a part of this series, or if you just want to learn more about premium loyalty programs, contact us here.