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How Caribou Coffee Boosts Loyalty Program Engagement with Incentives [Interview]

As it approaches its 30th birthday in December, Caribou Coffee prides itself on offering a seamless ordering experience and always making customers happy. 

Founded in 1992, Caribou Coffee has more than 700 stores worldwide and over 2 million members of its Caribou Perks loyalty program. Company officials love using incentives throughout the year tied to their Caribou Perks loyalty program to attract more customers, elevate engagement and strengthen ongoing relationships. 

We caught up with Caroline Larson, Senior Director of Marketing at Caribou Coffee, to learn more about how the company values strong connections and uses incentives to engage its loyal customers throughout the year. 

Jim Tierney: Can you talk about Caribou Coffee’s high-level strategy when it comes to customer loyalty and how that was impacted by customer behavioral changes since the pandemic started in March 2020? 

Caroline Larson: Our goal has always been to create a seamless and rewarding ordering experience for our guests, especially as their ordering habits evolve. 

Since the start of the pandemic, guests are more likely to order ahead or pick up their drink through a drive-thru rather than come inside and sit down with their coffees. Luckily for guests who prefer a convenient, drive-thru experience, our Caribou Cabin models exclusively offer drive-thru and walk-up orders. 

For our Chalet locations without a drive-thru, the curbside carryout option has become a preferred and efficient alternative. We’ve had to adjust our delivery options as well, teaming up with third-party partners to meet guests where they are most comfortable ordering. 

You can still see those habits are resonating with customers over two years after the height of the pandemic. 

We’ve also recently made it easier for all guests to have control over their ordering experience. The newly redesigned Caribou Coffee App allows all guests to save their favorite customizable drinks and frequently visited stores. 

With the app, Caribou Perks members can do even more – like sharing rewards with friends and checking in to earn or use reward points at each visit.   

Jim: What are the company’s overarching goals when it comes to customer loyalty and how does your loyalty program, Caribou Perks, help achieve those goals? 

Caroline: At Caribou, having a real connection with our guests comes first. With our loyalty program, Caribou Perks, we want to make sure the experience feels as authentic and personal as visiting one of our coffeehouses. 

Caribou Perks members receive exclusive personalized rewards, sneak peeks and previews. And with our points-based model, Caribou Perks members are in control of how and for what they redeem their points. 

Whether it’s a hot brewed coffee, free egg sandwich or $5 off online, we allow them to decide.   

Jim: Specifically, why do you think consumers are loyal to your brand? 

Caroline: First and foremost, we offer an array of drinks and food that are not only delicious but crafted to our guest’s liking and dietary needs. We create innovative, high-quality handcrafted beverages and offer an all-day breakfast menu including gluten-free, vegetarian and plant-based items. 

We are also committed to only using real, clean ingredients. 

In fact, Caribou Coffee became the first major U.S. coffeehouse to serve 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees and espresso and the first national coffee chain to offer 100% clean label beverages, which means none of our beverages contain chemicals or artificial flavors. 

Second, our people are another reason why guests continue to come back to our stores. Caribou has always strived to create an environment where people feel welcomed, and we live for creating those “day-making” experiences for our guests.   

Jim: Do you plan to leverage incentives in your loyalty program at various times of year to increase membership and elevate brand advocacy? 

Caroline: Absolutely! Throughout the year we leverage incentives during key times, as well as referral campaigns, which are exclusively available to Caribou Perks members. 

A core feature of our program is the “share-a-Perk” feature, which allows Perks members to send rewards to their friends. Perks members can help make someone’s day by sending a coffee or beans to their loved one along with a personal note. 

It’s an easy way to put a smile on someone’s face and really helps elevate brand advocacy. 

Additionally, as part of our refreshed rewards program, we made it much easier for people to enroll and sign up for Caribou Perks. 

With QR codes and text-to-enroll options, we are hoping more people will take the opportunity to sign up for our rewards program before our next campaign. To enroll in Caribou Perks, guests can visit or text “Perks” to 762-CARIBOU.   

Jim: How does using incentives tied to your loyalty program help you “be in the moment” with your customers? 

Caroline: As a brand that focuses heavily on connections, our offers are based on insights that help us be in the moment with our guests.  

From the moment that they sign up, we start to learn what our Caribou Perks members like and what they need. 

An example of how we “be in the moment” is rewarding our customers for mobile orders. We have done incentives to reward people for this behavior and have also used rewards to educate people on this option and help change their behavior. 

Another example is understanding our guests’ beverage preferences and giving them incentives to try specific limited-time offerings based on their menu preferences.   

Jim: What kinds of incentives do you use and what drives those decisions? 

Caroline: We like to celebrate when our guests want to celebrate. Whether that’s around a special birthday, a holiday or maybe a certain time of the week. 

Just as we offer guests a special offer on their birthday, as Caribou approaches our big 30th birthday later this year, we will be giving guests ways to celebrate with us during the month of December. 

Earlier this year, we offered a MonDaymaker deal that lasted all summer long on Mondays to help guests kick off their week on a high note! So, whether it’s a big milestone or just a pick-me-up on your way to work, we are always looking for meaningful times to offer incentives. 


Be Authentic and Your Customers Will Become Brand Advocates 

When you collect data from incentives tied to your loyalty program you can better personalize the customer experience, a referral program and social advocacy. 

Using incentives all year is a perfect way to amplify your loyalty program, as Caribou Coffee exhibits so well. And allowing members to “gift” rewards to family and friends is unique and impactful. 

If your brand has priorities like these, you will show your authenticity and your customers will support, advocate and spread the good word about you. 

If you’d like to talk to us about how incentives can amplify your loyalty program, or any other customer engagement needs you might have, reach out to chat with our loyalty experts any time. 


ebbo helps brands achieve their customer loyalty goals with full-service, end-to-end solutions and also creates original educational content straight from the experts to help loyalty marketers stay on the cutting edge of customer engagement.

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