“We saw minimal foot traffic, but our digital customers really came out in full force,” he said.
But as the pandemic has receded, as Chipotle’s brick-and-mortar locations have reopened their doors, and as customers have flocked back to in-person dining, the “digital customers” have continued to embrace that channel, Scoggins said.
As consumers navigate the pressures of inflation and seek value from Chipotle (and others), the opportunity is there to craft loyalty and rewards programs that not only drive revenues but boost the lifetime value of the customer relationship too. The reams of data traversing various channels have enabled Chipotle to craft personalized, contextual offerings with the aid of receipt-level data.
Scoggins’ conversation with PYMNTS was part of the Summer Loyalty Series sponsored by Banyan.
Scoggins noted that the seeds of personalized messaging had already begun to be sown to craft omnichannel rewards well before COVID changed the restaurant business. Beginning in late 2019, Chipotle had begun implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system and had just launched Chipotle Rewards.
“All the pieces came together at the right time in order to carry us through the pandemic and … meet our customers’ needs on day one,” he said.
Along the way, as customers were interacting online more often with the brand, engagement with the loyalty program surged as well. Consumers showed they wanted more ways of accessing those rewards beyond simply earning points to get a free entrée, Scoggins said. They also wanted to cash in their points however they chose.
“Consumers wanted to take control of their overall experience,” said Scoggins, who added that “their eyes were open to what that level of personalization can be.”
The continued embrace of loyalty and rewards is showing up in the numbers. The company’s most recent earnings results, released in late July, showed that membership in the latest quarter stood at 35 million, up from 33 million in the previous quarter. Digital channels have accounted for more than a third of food and beverage sales, and PYMNTS has estimated that Chipotle ranks within the top-10 Mobile Order-Ahead apps.
With a nod toward data-driven and continued personalization efforts, Scoggins recounted that Chipotle Rewards added the Freepotle perk earlier this year, which provides several free “food drops” throughout the year, appearing on members’ loyalty cards stored in digital wallets, including the wallets that are native on both Apple and Android devices.
“This is not just an enrollment tactic, but a way to drive engagement through the whole year,” he said.
By building out models that take into account the customers’ previous order histories and the channels across which they are interacting, the company seeks to determine what the next, best offer should be, Scoggins said. None of the offers expended to a given consumer may be exactly the same (they vary widely from consumer to consumer), and they can (and do) vary month to month. Consumers also can vote on the offers, “and all of this is data to help determine how to make future drops even more personalized,” he said.
At the center of it all lies receipt-level data, Scoggins said.
“You’re able to craft that consumer profile down to a very specific offer and deliver a relevant experience,” he said.
The same receipt-level data can be leveraged to move beyond the realm of simple transactions and foster a sense of community among customers while deepening the relationship with the brand, he said. This year, Chipotle launched its Doppelganger feature, which harnesses the order data to send emails to customers that order the exact same item at the exact same time.
The pivot to omnichannel ordering and interaction demands that merchants stitch together profiles that connect the proverbial dots as consumers engage with brands via email or social media channels. The consumers don’t care how they’re interacting with businesses, “and so we shouldn’t either,” Scoggins said. “Being able to tie this all back together is the key to giving them a seamless experience.”
Asked by PYMNTS about what might lie ahead for Chipotle’s loyalty programs, Scoggins said, “you cannot have a ‘set it and forget it’ program,” and that, in response to consumer spending and the macro environment, “being able to dial different aspects of the program up and down really is the only way to be successful.”
And, he added, no matter the merchant, “for loyalty programs, going forward, the prize now is personalization and relevancy.”