During the pandemic, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) leaned heavily into online and mobile ordering technologies. At first, restaurants needed online ordering platforms simply to stay afloat — but with that foundational architecture now in place, they are turning their attention to creating hyper-personalized experiences curated by way of data-heavy loyalty strategies.
While QSRs were struggling to maintain customers under COVID-19 restrictions, convenience retailers recognized the opportunity to gain some of that market share with foodservice programs specifically designed for meals on the go. Many of these retailers relied upon third-party delivery services (3PDs) early on. However, as convenience retailers continue to evolve their own foodservice programs, they can learn a lot from restaurants and the digital innovation that is driving customer expectations.
Here, we discuss how three beloved QSR brands evolved their loyalty programs by offering the services and experiences customers crave.
Digitally Recreate In-Store Experiences
Panda Express launched its web and mobile ordering experience in tandem with marketing efforts to evolve its brand and foster growth plans.
A visit to Panda Express is a sensory experience, so it needed to digitally recreate the best parts of an in-store visit — visual interaction with the food and seamless station-to-station order flow. To achieve this, photos of their colorful dishes appear throughout the online ordering process so customers can see what their final order will look like.
In 2022, Panda Express launched its loyalty program, which features points earned from every dollar spent, birthday rewards, a monthly gift and more — around the theme “Good Fortune.”
The brand’s iconic panda bear takes the customer on an interactive journey that subtly highlights its key brand tenets of authenticity, generosity and inclusivity. The loyalty rollout resulted in increased ordering frequency, average order value and incremental revenue, in addition to elevating brand perception.
The takeaway: Loyalty goes beyond discounts — it can be anything that creates a stronger connection between the customer and the brand.
In fact, the best strategies hit on both transactional and emotional elements. Convenience retailers have traditionally relied on discounts, which can deliver short-term loyalty, but more progressive brands are also adopting a more productive balance, focusing on customer connection over the long term.
Gain Data Via Online Ordering
When Jack in the Box wanted to up the ante to provide a more personalized and seamless digital guest experience across consumer touch points, it moved the entire ordering experience within the brand framework. This reduced reliance on 3PD services and allowed Jack in the Box to gain access to critical data and insights into its customer base’s ordering habits.
Now, customers can see suggested items during their ordering flow and gain rewards like double points on delivery orders, while interactive features like an animated Jack in the Box mascot create “surprise and delight” moments that foster engagement and cultivate emotional loyalty.
The takeaway: To provide the level of customization that customers expect, brands need data. Bringing all ordering under one brand umbrella ensured Jack in the Box received the maximum amount of information related to every order. This can be especially challenging for convenience retailers who have not established technology and processes to enable data collection, much less aggregation and analysis. However, as demonstrated by Jack in the Box, this is essential to providing customers with a high level of personalization and a customized digital experience overall.
Unlock Digital Capabilities With a CDP
In addition to a full-service restaurant (FSR), Dave & Buster’s has a video arcade and games component, which makes it a unique foodservice destination. A visit to Dave & Buster’s is more than a meal — it’s an experience guests associate with special occasions and celebrations.
Integrating a customer data platform (CDP) helped Dave & Buster’s gain a more holistic view of its customer base in order to administer appropriate value propositions in its loyalty offer.
A CDP accepts data inputs from multiple sources (such as email lists), builds profiles and activates audiences. It acts as a centralized data capture library that helps marketers segment out their campaign audiences.
Integrating a CDP into its existing tech ecosystem allowed Dave & Buster’s to track digital events more robustly and extract granular data from guests who viewed certain content. From there, brands can create personalized messages and even propensity models that analyze which customers are most likely to return.
The takeaway: Although many c-store brands may not be ready for a CDP, it’s important to know how it might fit into your existing ecosystem and what it makes possible. For brands who are committed to building long-term customer loyalty on par with restaurants and QSRs, they must invest in the same technologies and platforms such as a CDP that will allow them to deliver a similar digital experience that leverages every touchpoint to further enhance their connection with their customers.
As convenience retailers build out their tech stacks and lay the foundation for future integrations, they can learn valuable lessons from the QSR industry. Knowing what is possible in terms of robust loyalty programs and consumer expectations for hyper-personalized experiences helps brands better navigate the path to digital maturity.
Abbey Karel is vice president of business development for convenience at Bounteous. With a background in mobile product management in retail, Karel’s focus is on deeply understanding clients’ needs to optimize global teams throughout the product lifecycle and driving strategic, long-term partnerships centered around co-innovation.