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4 Ways Chipotle Rewards Gets Loyalty Right

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 14, 2019

Ever since their first foray into loyalty in 2016 with a summer themed continuity play known as “Chiptopia” - drawing more than 3.1 million registrations in the first few months of its existence and raising concerns over long-term sustainability of the initiative - the industry has been eagerly anticipating the next move from the brand. And on Tuesday, this anticipation has culminated in the next evolution of Loyalty for Chipotle…a full-scheme program called “Chipotle Rewards”.

What has been piquing industry interest in this program is an overarching focus on solid loyalty fundamentals and strategically aligned executions, all which work harmoniously to complete the picture for Chipotle Rewards. The program is more traditional in structure than Chiptopia; every purchase now earns points which can be later redeemed for free food. But what sets Chipotle Rewards apart from the crowd is the tactical ingenuity built into each facet of the program. Great loyalty nowadays must be a more valuable entity than the sum of its parts, and Chipotle Rewards has clearly put a lot of thought behind the building blocks of the platform.

Here are a few of the elements which Chipotle Rewards gets right:

Leveraging Established Technologies

The technology required to support loyalty programs is growing ever more complex, mirroring the constantly maturing sophistication of customers in 2019. The costs to develop this technology from the ground-up can be enormous. And while great tech can add tremendous value to the overall experience and usage proposition, it is valid to question if developing all this technology in-house is actually worth it in the long run.

For Chipotle Rewards, the brand has tapped into the power of Venmo, a leading payment app for splitting and sharing payments to businesses. Venmo is an already established technology, and it is one to which current Chipotle customers already flock in order to facilitate cost splitting with their peers when dining at the restaurant. "Chipotle is a beloved brand with a loyal customer following who already split and share their Chipotle orders in the Venmo feed," said Greg Fisher, vice president of global brand and integrated marketing, PayPal. In essence, Chipotle has tapped into a customer relevant, technology-imbued behavior, while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls and costs associated with brand-new development. It’s an ingenious strategy that only promises to insulate Chipotle Rewards’ bottom line.

Chipotle Reward's Gamified Interactions

The main role Venmo will play in the program is part of its phase one launch: an incentivized giveaway that provides new customers the chance to win money from a purse of up to a quarter million dollars, with payouts reaching approximately 25,000 new members every day until March 15, 2019. Customers must submit their Venmo-activated phone number, and the winners are notified within 24 hours.

Gamification is an exciting way for customers to be drawn into the meat and bones of new programs, inspiring registrations during the critical stages of program development. Chipotle Rewards understands what new members want, and has used technology to create a gamified interaction - and with a 24-hour timeframe for winners to receive their prize, it promises to be an experience that compels instant-gratification seeking fans to adopt trial and build a lasting connection with the brand.

Program Branding That Speaks The Customer’s Language

Getting the word out on a new program can be a challenging stage in the lifecycle of any loyalty initiative, and keeping the lifeblood of the program entrenched in a format that not only reflects the parent brand itself, but adds value to it, can be a significant factor in program success. It’s not enough for a loyalty to program to offer the latest and greatest tech tools and functionality; at the end of the day, loyalty is a marketing initiative, and as such, the marketing communications and branding that encapsulate it must be tactical, engaging, and customer-centric.

Fortunately, the tone of Chipotle Rewards is a wonderful incarnation of its parent brand: fun-focused, food-forward, and with compelling design and dynamic copy. When engaging with program touchpoints like the Chipotle Rewards website, the user is left with an experience that directly parallels the rest of the Chipotle brand universe. To bring the program to life, sharp taglines like “The Only Thing Better Than Free Money Is Free Chipotle” simultaneously highlight the value of the program while underscoring the important role Chipotle fills in the lives of its customers.

Valuable & Personalized Chipotle Rewards Structure

The engine of any loyalty program is fueled by the intelligence supporting its rewards and points scheme. Chipotle’s first foray into loyalty with Chiptopia drew criticisms of a redemption journey that was too confusing for the average customer.But Chipotle Rewards’ streamlined points structure greatly simplifies the accrual experience while remaining highly valuable for the customer, and sensible for the business. Those who enroll earn 10 points for every $1 that they spend, and they are eligible for a free entrée after 1,250 points. Assuming an average customer receipt of $12-$17, a member should have no problem earning their free meal within ten purchase interactions.

But that’s just the base reward scheme. The strategy embedded into Chipotle Rewards presents ample opportunities for customers to receive bonus incentives and personalized offers - like extra points at birthdays and targeted gifts based on segmentation & data acquisition. In fact, a key element of the Chipotle Rewards strategy is to incentivize customer data provision in exchange for hyper-targeted offers, fueling an ongoing CRM that churns behind the scenes, ultimately driving trial, menu exploration, and brand affinity.

Customers and industry professionals alike are looking forward to the progress Chipotle Rewards promises to lead. And for good reason: Chipotle Rewards is a compact, value-entrenched promise to reinvigorate brand loyalty with a tactical approach centered on strategically aligned executions. While long-term success in the dynamic (and often times turbulent) loyalty industry is never guaranteed, certain brands seem to rise above the clutter and excel at what they do. These are usually the brands that build intelligent programs which begin from the ground up, growing from a foundation of well-crafted building blocks. And it is these brands who have already put themselves at a distinct advantage in the face of intense competition, and at the hand of hungry audiences.

Editor's Note: It was pointed out (thanks James Christensen) that, although Chipotle's new reward program appears to be hitting on all cylinders, their app not so much. Let's hope they work out the bugs quickly.