Tim Hortons Needs to Amp-Up Its Mobile App to Know Its Customers

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 9, 2019

There’s a certain coffee chain that dominates the Canadian market and is a pretty big thing in Western New York too. Whether you’re getting ready for that first meeting during the week or a day of weekend chores, it’s normal to hear someone say, “let’s get our Timmies” before getting started.

I’m not immune to the allure of good coffee and enjoy making regular stops at Timmies when I’m in the area. Since Starbucks and Dunkin’ have well established loyalty programs, I was happy to find a flyer announcing Tims Rewards in my bag as I was collecting my order at the drive-thru. 

Without hesitation, I asked the associate at the window how the program worked. I found that no formal enrollment was necessary to earn rewards. All I had to do was present my plastic membership card each visit and, after scanning seven times, I would receive my choice of free coffee, tea or baked good. 

I assumed that I could associate a phone number with the rewards account and use that to earn goodies in case I didn’t have my card with me. After all, who actually carries around all their loyalty and reward program cards these days?

I was surprised that using my phone number was not an option. What else could I do? I asked the associate at the window. She told me that I could download the Tim Hortons app and scan the bar code to receive credit for my purchase. Using the app, I could also attach a payment card and order ahead. 

When I went to the Google Play store to download the app, I checked the reviews and quickly tapped the brakes. The overall rating was 2.7 (12,505 total reviews on this day) and there were numerous reviews posted in the previous two weeks criticizing the app for freezing, crashing, and worst of all, losing reward credits and monetary value loaded into the account when the app had to be updated and reloaded. 

Because I wanted to learn more, I downloaded the app anyway. I noticed that I earned a free visit when I registered my plastic card, then clicked through the Tims Rewards link to read the FAQ’s and browse the Terms and Conditions. Admittedly, I’m a rewards geek.

When I clicked on “How does the program work?” I saw the program was only available in Canada. I knew that wasn’t the case, as I just earned a visit credit at a location in Western New York. I’m assuming the company had not updated its FAQ’s since launching in the US.

There are a few take-aways from this experience that are worth pondering:

  1. Operational execution is key to delivering the customer experience that most people expect these days. While I haven’t used the app enough to personally experience anything terrible, it’s clear from the number and recency of reviews that there are key issues to fix. 
  2. It’s a small thing, but T&C’s are important and need to be kept updated, especially concerning the basics like where the program is available.
  3. The most important issue is that I could have just as easily stayed anonymous in the program while still earning rewards. Considering that “knowing your customer” is the most important reason for QSR brands to engage in customer loyalty, Tim Hortons must close this gap. 

People in the US have an average of 80 apps on their mobile phones these days but use less than half of these apps. It’s a big challenge for retailers to create enough incentive for customers to download, open, and use any app on a consistent basis. My first impression with the enrollment experience of Tims Rewards was that the app didn’t offer enough added value to merit space on my mobile phone. Since I could earn rewards without the app, I’d just as soon keep the plastic card handy and keep my personal data, well, personal. 

This is Real. Life. Loyalty. This story is mine and you have yours.

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