Chipotle crafts a targeted-marketing strategy

With 8.5 million rewards members, the fast-casual burrito chain will soon roll out personalized marketing efforts to boost frequency and engagement, while reducing operational friction.
guac mode
Photograph courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Despite reporting a same-store sales increase of 13.4% earlier this month, Chipotle Mexican Grill executives say there’s still plenty of room for growth at the fast-casual burrito chain.

One prime source of runway?

A targeted marketing strategy that leverages the power of the Newport, Calif.-based brand’s year-old rewards club program with personalized marketing efforts, slated to begin rolling out in the next few months, Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt told Restaurant Business.

There are currently about 8.5 million Chipotle Rewards members, and Chipotle launched a new marketing effort called Guac Mode on Monday to encourage loyalty program sign-ups and to convert digital-ordering customers into the loyalty program.

“We’re trying to be a brand that has this great one-two punch,” Brandt said. “I think that combination of reach and frequency could be really powerful for Chipotle going forward. … The ultimate goal is to drive a little more frequency. And to drive a lot more engagement.”

Chipotle has recently entered into new partnerships, Brandt said, giving the chain greater ability to use its rewards club data for personalized marketing efforts. Offers can be targeted in terms of content as well as mode of transmission, Brandt said.

“If you respond to text, but not email, we’ll stop sending you email,” he said.

Also, the personalized marketing efforts will allow for offers to be staggered at different times, avoiding potential operational overload.

“This is the beauty in the personalization,” Brandt said. “This enables the restaurant to handle it. We’ve had some huge days, like National Guacamole Day. Here, we can pace and sequence some of these things a little better.”

Half of Chipotle’s customers are Gen Z or millennial, he said, groups that are interested in where Chipotle’s food comes from and want to know more about the chain’s “backstory.” Personalized marketing might include incentives to learn more about Chipotle’s supply chain or employee benefits, as well as surprise-and-delight offers such as the latest Guac Mode.

“The way we communicate, we want it to be we’re leaning more on the engagement side of things than on the offer side of things,” he said.

But Chipotle wants to boost its number of rewards members to make those personalized offers all the more effective, which is where Guac Mode comes in. The promo gives consumers until Feb. 20 to sign up to receive one free topping or side of guacamole with the purchase of a regular-priced entree. Rewards members receive a Guac Mode badge in their app for a limited time.

To sweeten the incentive, rewards members will also be eligible for free delivery for the final two Sundays of the month. Rewards members earn 10 points for every $1 spent, with 1,250 points resulting in a free entree.

“Once we know these consumers, we can give them incentives to try different things,” Brandt said. “That’s why we’re so excited about this personalization. People don’t hate advertising. They just hate advertising that isn’t relevant to them.”

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