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Wow Bao launches a loyalty program for its virtual brand

The steamed bun concept says it’s the first virtual brand with its own rewards offering, called Bao Bucks.
Wow Bao food
Photograph courtesy of Wow Bao

Wow Bao is adding a loyalty program to its virtual brand, becoming what it says is the first such brand to offer rewards on a national scale.

The Chicago-based steamed bun concept began as a brick-and-mortar chain and has since expanded primarily as a virtual brand that other restaurants can license and serve out of their kitchens for delivery only. Its virtual version now extends to more than 600 locations.

By offering customers rewards, Wow Bao will incentivize them to order directly from its website rather than a third-party marketplace, allowing it to get better data on its guests.

The program is based around points and Bao Bucks. Customers will earn 1 point for every $1 they spend on food and drinks on wowbao.com. Once they collect 100 points, they’ll get $7 worth of Bao Bucks to put toward future orders.

The program is powered by Paytronix and DoorDash’s Storefront software.

Loyalty programs have been catching on among restaurants as a way to collect customer data in exchange for free food and other perks. The strategy could be particularly useful for virtual brands: Because they depend heavily on intermediaries like DoorDash and Uber Eats to get orders, they’re not privy to customer data on many of their transactions.

But when guests sign up for Bao Bucks and order directly from Wow Bao, the company will be able to see things like their contact information and ordering habits that can help with marketing.

“The idea of ‘virtual brand’ is really taking hold in the industry, but a key challenge remains working out a balance with third-party delivery services,” said Paytronix CEO Andrew Robbins in a statement. “Smart brands, like Wow Bao, are using loyalty programs to convert customers over to their own platform. Not only is this cheaper for the guest, but it also enables Wow Bao to learn more about their customers.”

The Bao Bucks program is now available at all 600-plus Wow Bao locations in the U.S. and Canada, and will be available soon in Mexico and the U.K., the company said.

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