Officials at Chipotle have strong two-way relationships with their customers built on trust.
They leverage a variety of incentives throughout the year to engage their loyalty program members.
Each incentive produces key customer insights that can be leveraged for members of Chipotle Rewards, which launched in 2019 and now has more than 30 million members. In June the program launched in Canada.
We caught up with Jason Scoggins, Senior Director of Loyalty & CRM at Chipotle, to learn more about how the company uses incentives to engage loyalty program members throughout the year.
Jim Tierney: Do you leverage incentives throughout the year and tie them to your loyalty program to increase membership and elevate brand advocacy?
Jason Scoggins: At Chipotle, we are always keeping our loyalty members front and center as we plan out our promotions calendar.
Primarily, we reserve the majority of the incentives for our membership as a benefit for belonging to Chipotle Rewards—whether that would be through our Extras which is our gamification layer of the program or offering exclusive access to our larger engagement tactics like Boorito at Halloween.
Of course, there are also incentives offered to the larger Chipotle customer base, but we always make sure that there’s an added layer just for our members.
Jim: Can you talk about your high-level approach to the use of incentives to increase customer engagement, brand awareness and loyalty?
Jason: Obviously, those are three things that we are always looking to increase, and it’s important to use each of those goals as a lens when designing promotions. If you can approach a promo asking yourself, ‘will our customers care?,’ ‘will they learn something new about Chipotle?’ and ‘will this drive an incremental visit?’ and the answer is ‘yes’ then we’re off to a good start.
Jim: How do incentives help Chipotle be “in the moment” with your customers?
Jason: At Chipotle, we’re always focused on being culturally relevant, and when you layer that on with the mission of Chipotle Rewards to make our customers feel known and valued, then you really unlock the magic.
It’s about being plugged into what is impacting our customers in culture, and then taking all of the data and insights that we have on those customers and bringing it all together. Then we’re able to deliver the most relevant campaigns—whether it’s a promotion that leans into cryptocurrency like ‘Buy the Dip’ or it’s launching Cilantro Soap with a surround loyalty play.
Jim: What kinds of incentives do you use and what drives those decisions?
Jason: We have a mix of engagement tactics, including some that are legacy promos that our customers look forward to every year like Boorito.
Other incentives, particularly those that are linked with Chipotle Rewards, are truly data-driven.
Not only are the audiences targeted based on their specific behaviors, so are the offers. For instance, we may offer an Extras challenge to get our lunch customers to try a new daypart like dinner for their next meal.
Some customers may only receive a badge for completing the action, whereas another guest may earn a badge plus bonus points. That is all decided based on each customer’s propensity to complete the action.
Jim: What are your over-arching goals for incentives you use?
Jason: Ultimately, our incentives are meant to drive incremental sales, but some take a different path to get there based on who the targeted audience is. Sometimes we’re targeting net new customers as a way to drive acquisition, and other times we’re targeting lapsed customers in an attempt to bring them back into the fold.
Jim: How much research do you do with customers about incentives they are attracted to?
Jason: We learn with every incentive we implement. We are able to see which customers are motivated by what promos, and then that goes into building out that individual’s profile. So, with each engagement tactic, we get smarter. Of course, if we’re looking at a net-new promo then we will also go to one of our customer panels to gauge interest as well.
Jim: According to our 2022 Customer Loyalty Data Study we released earlier this year, 17% of consumers say they post about their favorite brands using their hashtags/handles. This stat shows there’s a big opportunity for brands in this area. How do you motivate customers to engage with your brand on social media?
Jason: It really depends on the engagement tactic.
Earlier this year, we reopened access to Guac Mode, which is one of the most popular programs within Chipotle Rewards. Only a select number of customers are “Guac Mode Verified” and by being so, they qualify for free guac drops throughout the year. The program had been closed to new participants for two years, so we wanted to make a big splash when we opened access for a limited time last spring.
As part of the incentive, we partnered with Cash App and customers could potentially win money by posting a $Cashtag. To date, it has been our most successful social activation in regard to overall engagement.
Jim: What types of data do you collect from incentives?
Jason: We are learning with each incentive that we launch. We know if a customer responds or not, and then we’re able capture that data and use it when building out audiences for future incentives.
Jim: What’s the most important ingredient in an incentive to engage consumers?
The more we can know about our customers enables us to determine what will motivate them, and then we’re able to target just the right customers with those incentives. That’s when we’re most successful.
And, of course, if we’re able to offer something like a BOGO, then that works too because everyone loves free Chipotle.
Understand Your Loyalty Program Members and Engage Them With Relevant Engagement Tactics
As Jason explained, Chipotle uses incentives regularly throughout the year to engage its loyal customers because “it’s all about “being plugged into what is impacting our customers in culture, and then taking all of the data and insights that we have on those customers and bringing it all together.”
It’s apparent that Jason and his team at Chipotle work extremely hard throughout the year to understand their customers’ expectations and behaviors and targeting them at the right times with the right promotions.
Data, as Jason added, is the most important piece of any successful incentivized engagement. If you know your customers, they will trust your brand and engage with you.
If you’d like to chat about incentives or any of your customer engagement efforts, reach out to our experts hear any time.