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Chipotle Leverages Gamification To Promote Rewards Exchange

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 29, 2021

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced the launch of Rewards Exchange last week, the most significant change to the Chipotle Rewards value proposition since its debut in 2019. The new Rewards Exchange offers members a faster path to earn rewards, with a big expansion in the options available to members.

Since its debut, Chipotle Rewards points exclusively went toward “free Chipotle”, meaning free menu entrees. With the new Rewards Exchange, members can exchange Reward points for more than 15 different reward options, including free guac, drinks, and Chipotle Goods. Members can also redeem their points to support a variety of Chipotle's non-profit partners like The Farmlink Project, National Young Farmers Coalition, and the National Urban League. Those who are enrolled in Chipotle Rewards continue to receive 10 points for every $1 spent in the restaurant, online, or in the app.  

To celebrate Rewards Exchange and to create awareness of the program changes, Chipotle introduced a video game contest experience, Chipotle Race to Rewards Exchange. This quick hitting promotion lasted just 48 hours and concluded June 25. Winners haven’t been announced yet, but all who entered the video game based contest could choose their mode of eco-transportation and navigate a farm-inspired map, with the highest scoring player winning a 2021 Tesla Model 3. In addition to the top prize, the second, third, and fourth place eligible finishers will be awarded an electric bike, and eligible players ranking five through 10 will win an electric skateboard. 

The Chipotle Rewards program is one of the most successful in its category today when measured by active members per store location. Based on early 2021 numbers, Chipotle boasted approximately 4,285 active members per location, nearly 3X the 1,493 at Starbucks. The move to accelerate the earning power of its members and to add reward options shows how much Chipotle values its loyal member base and is listening to them to continue to keep its program highly engaging. 

Underscoring the program upgrade with the Race to Rewards video game could be news just as important as the program changes themselves. The use of gamification is often preached, but sometimes it is hard to find strong market examples of the concept. Chipotle offers a stellar example of the use of gamification as it jumps on the bandwagon of newly popular low-fi video game titles.

We asked our resident expert on gamification to share his thoughts on Chipotle’s program enhancement. Steve Bocska, Guest Faculty Instructor in Gamification techniques at The Loyalty Academy and CEO of PUG Interactive, told us:

“It's a very solid concept. Two thumbs up from me. They're bringing together hyper-engagement mechanics of simple arcade video games with (longer-term) loyalty rewards outcomes. They've basically created a low-fidelity version of the solutions we bring to market at PUG. It's missing segmentation and adaptive questing, but otherwise it's right on target. Best of all worlds. This is the future.” 

Chipotle has rebounded strongly from past food quality issues and even got a nod from plant based athlete guru and podcaster Rich Roll when he cited Chipotle in a recent podcast as one place he always depends on to get quality vegan food when he’s on the road. With the new Rewards Exchange, a member can enjoy lower thresholds of redemption on lower priced menu items and ramp up point earning velocity through game-play. For example, the first 500,000 players who passed two Chipotle restaurants in the game each day received 250 points in their Rewards account, enough points to redeem for an order of chips.

We don’t know the final outcome of the gamification tactic, but we do know that Chipotle did a lot of things right with this program enhancement. According to Chris Brandt, CMO, Chipotle,

"This is one of the many ways we're super-charging our superfans and offering exclusive experiences to our most loyal guests."