Chipotle today expanded its Chipotle Rewards loyalty program nationwide and teamed with digital wallet company Venmo to deposit surprise amounts of $1 to $500 in customer accounts until March 15. Customers can sign up for the program in the burrito chain’s mobile app or website at Chipotle.com/Rewards, per an announcement.
The restaurant chain is supporting the promotion with a custom Chipotle pepper emoji, a first for a restaurant brand on Venmo. To enter the $250,000 cash giveaway, customers need to visit ChipotleRewardMe.com and enter a phone number associated with a Venmo account. Venmo will alert cash winners in its app within 24 hours, per Chipotle.
Chipotle lets customers earn 10 points for every dollar spent at its restaurants. The rewards program offers a free entrée for 1,250 points, and the chain plans to run special events like bonus points days to help customers win free food faster. To urge customers to sign up, Chipotle is offering free chips and guacamole to new members who make a purchase of $5 or more.
Chipotle claims it is one of the first brands to use to engage with customers through Venmo’s payout feature and one of the most mentioned brands on the popular app, underscoring the potential of the new partnership to be a win-win for both brands and pointing to how other restaurant chains might expand their mobile loyalty programs.
Chipotle’s promotion with Venmo likely will get attention among young adults who favor the fast-casual chain and who are tech-savvy adopters of payments platforms like Venmo for splitting the bill when they share a meal with friends. The joint campaign could be positive for both brands as Chipotle customers sign up for loyalty rewards and install Venmo’s mobile wallet on their smartphones. Chipotle last year started testing the loyalty program in Phoenix, Kansas City (in Missouri and Kansas) and Columbus, Ohio, before this week’s nationwide expansion.
Chipotle joins the growing number of chains that are using mobile technology to boost customer loyalty and engagement by tracking dollars spent to earn points for free food or other perks. Starbucks, for example, has made its mobile app a central part of its successful loyalty program and transaction capabilities. At TGI Fridays in the UK, the restaurant saw an increase in customer visits after rolling out its new loyalty app that included a “Scratch, Match and Win” game. Pizza Hut also updated its Hut Rewards to let members for the first time earn points for in-store purchases as the pizza chain tries to drive foot traffic into restaurants.
Mobile optimization is a key part of engaging customers with a loyalty program, according to researcher Gartner L2. Integrating loyalty programs into branded apps lets companies link rewards to mobile wallets like Venmo. Brands are recognizing that they need to diversify their rewards programs, with 61% of brands offering experiential rewards and monetary benefits in 2018, compared with 47% the year before, Gartner L2 found. Experiential rewards can include birthday perks, invitations to exclusive events, free service and early access to products and sales.
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