You know the saying, “There’s an app for that”? That’s what restaurants want customers to think the next time they crave their favorite drink, burger or burrito.
While chains ranging from McDonald’s to Chipotle have been pushing loyalty apps for a while, they have become increasingly important in the fight for market share as inflation-pinched consumers look for more value from rewards programs. This has forced loyalty teams to rethink offers and dig further into customer insights on what will keep them coming back.
“You can’t rest on your laurels,” said Jason Scoggins, senior director of loyalty and customer relationship management at Chipotle, which has over 33 million rewards members, most of whom use the app. “Customers are evaluating every rewards program they are a part of, and not just restaurants, but also industries like travel and hospitality. There are other brands who are setting the bar for what customers expect from a program, so now we are working to compete with and exceed those expectations.”
During the pandemic, more customers started ordering food online and limiting their in-person visits, thus affecting their connections to a brand. Companies started relying on apps and loyalty programs as a way to rebuild some of that lost connection, and to get a fair amount of first-party data in the process, including emails, birthdays and ordering habits. All of that data has been used to drive more engagement with consumers or encourage them to buy more.
But at a time when inflation-conscious customers are looking to save, many brands are also facing economic headwinds. As a result, they have increased the amount of purchases customers have to make before rewards kick in, or have made rewards less frequent—both of which are counter to what younger consumers want from their rewards programs. Fifty-seven percent of Gen Zers have one or more fast food apps on their phone, and their top reason for using them is to save money, according to a survey by performance marketing and customer acquisition firm Fluent.