POS Driven Loyalty Enrollment Shortcuts Betray QSR Retailers

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on June 22, 2022

There is a short list of preferred methods to manage loyalty program enrollment in QSR retail. We covered the most commonly seen enrollment methods here.

As a loyalty manager, its tempting to parse out the many elements of the customer experience into individual tasks. But you’ve got to think about enrollment, data collection, profile building, data security, customer identification, offer delivery, reward redemption and feedback loops as part of an interrelated ecosystem rather than a checklist of tasks to be completed.

Enabling program members to identify themselves at the point of purchase and easily account for their purchases is not only a critical step in delivering program value to customers but solves the most fundamental issue for any retailer in launching a loyalty program — identifying just who is buying their product.

If you become enamored with one particular form of enrollment, mobile apps for example, without thinking of how to identify customers each time they show up in your locations, you may unintentionally create a major point of friction that destroys the loyalty experience for program members.

The tacos are good, but the rewards program ain't

Tijuana Flats is a privately held Tex-Mex restaurant chain with over 135 locations throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana. Locations are fast-casual hybrids with fresh food, hot sauce bars, art murals, and an off-beat interior design influenced by surf culture, punk rock, and urban vibes.

The rewards program is mobile app centric. As a favorite of customers for Taco Tuesday, Tijuana is a magnetic QSR brand, one that can potentially build a strong loyalty program even with the path to enrollment limited to download and signup on the mobile app.

But here’s where the program gets a little spicy for most members. The only way to earn credit for purchases is to ask for a paper receipt and either scan the bar code on the receipt from the app or manually enter a sixteen or so receipt number into the app. Just like most people have limits on their tolerance for hot sauce, there are few people asking for their paper receipts in our post-pandemic world and fewer yet that want to take time to open the app and scan the barcode or sit down and enter a long number into the app. Who needs more homework in our busy world?

We inquired to Tijuana Flats and learned that locations do not have optical scanners that would scan a barcode from within a member app nor do they offer an option to enter an “alternate ID” like a phone number to give members credit for their purchase. These are tech gaps that can be closed, but the process should have been thought out before the program launched.

Delicious acai bowls with an unappetizing loyalty program

As their story tells, Playa Bowl started with a pair of blenders, a patio table, and a fridge. The chain serves healthy and tasty açai, pitaya, coconut bowls, and smoothies with sustainability and community in mind. “Born on the beach and built for the world,” Playa Bowls has flourished into over 140 stores.

Everything about Playa Bowls is super cool except maybe their loyalty program. The shortcomings we have witnessed are mostly linked to the limitations of the loyalty solution provided by POS provider, Clover.

The Clover loyalty system offers a tablet device that stands a sidekick to the e-cashier as the point of engagement with customers. On the surface, the ID process is easy and intuitive. Program members enter their phone number into the keypad and can see their program standing, meaning their point balance and eligibility for a reward.

The challenging part of the system is there is no interactive messaging. Customers are not prompted to enter in their phone number before or after a purchase is rung up. If a member is eligible for a reward, it is not clear how to redeem the reward. We have tested the system several times and had to ask the Playa Bowl smoothie-barista if we should punch a button before inserting a payment method or after. We have not been able to clearly understand the order of execution here and most times it appeared as though the associate hit a button on their side of the register to redeem our points for a reward.

As much as we advocate for c-level support of customer centric marketing and emphasize the relative complexity to execute well in customer loyalty, many QSR retailers seem to treat loyalty programs as an easy add on that doesn’t need much attention or unique enrollment methods.

Cloud based POS providers typically have a native loyalty solution included with their equipment but often it is simple and doesn’t allow for customization. Unfortunately, the result is what we witnessed at Playa Bowl, a system that entices customers to invest more in a great brand, but an in-store experience that leads quickly to disengagement.

When customers miss out on getting credit for purchases in their loyalty program, the program itself ceases to deliver value.

Don't forget your app with your coffee!

Subtle aspects of transaction process flow or lack of technology compatibility open the door to such risks. Even Tim Horton, the famous Canadian based coffee brand, has room for improvement.

Tims Rewards is mobile app based and delivers value in the form of points earning and offers within its app. The routine for loyalty members is to open their app and allow a cashier to scan a barcode from within the app to receive credit for purchase. All of that is pretty standard procedure, but did you know that if you forget to scan your code before paying for a purchase, there is no way to enter in transaction information after the fact to earn credit?

If you have ever navigated the drive thru line on a busy Monday at Timmies, you can understand there may be times when you don’t get around to scanning your app at the window. That shouldn’t be a worry for the customer, but it is in this case. Again, this is an issue with a reasonably simple solution, and we hope to see Timmies close this gap soon.

Taking a holistic approach to creating the loyalty experience for program members yields the best long-term results for the sponsoring QSR brand. We have many more examples to share and will go deeper into related aspects of program operations and customer experience for QSR retailers in future articles.