Flagship Program Update: Chipotle Charges Ahead

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


Just eighteen months after first launching its innovative restaurant Rewards program in March 2019, Chipotle is boasting impressive membership of over fifteen million members, with a million people joining the program in its first week alone! And neither its membership growth nor its business growth are showing any signs of slowing down even amidst the Covid pandemic, with the brand boasting year on year revenue increases of 14%, as well as digital sales growth of over two hundred percent. So what’s driving their success? This article will explain exactly that. 

Chipotle’s Digital Channels Driving Half of Total Sales 

Channels and Choice

In our previous article on Chipotle’s loyalty and growth strategy in March 2019, we highlighted the brand’s intention “to have a presence in all of the places [their] customers spend time digitally”. Before the year closed, it had made good on that promise, with the addition of its first significant new re-ordering channel for its customers in the form of an Alexa Skill.

Clearly recognising the power of human voice, they explained that now, when customers crave Chipotle, “all they need to do is ask.” And Chipotle is in good company, following brands like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Starbucks, who all encourage their customers to enjoy the simplicity of speaking when they want to re-order. It’s also impressive to note that automated voice assistants have also been installed throughout Chipotle’s network of 2,650 stores, providing busy customers the option to simply pay ahead and skip the line. Clearly this contactless solution will win even more fans as cautious customers slowly return to their restaurants. 

Chipotle launched Alexa as a simple re-ordering solution in Nov 2019

A second major channel was launched in June 2020 with the release of an ordering facility within Facebook messenger – a chatbot affectionately named “Pepper”. Simplicity is again a clear priority, as well as a strategy to “meet customers where they are… online”.

It was also interesting to note that these orders are handled by dedicated “Digital Kitchens” which operate in “nearly all Chipotle locations” – helping to ensure accurate orders – an essential ingredient to build trust in this channel which is still in its infancy. 

“Pepper” is the chatbot on Facebook that accepts Chipotle orders   

Creative Concepts Continue   

Much of the admiration for Chipotle in our previous article was due to its innovative partnership with the digital payment platform Venmo – a powerful partnership, and a perfect way to attract digitally-savvy customers. Fast forward to 2020, and Chipotle has again developed a innovative campaign, this time focused on the “early-adopters” of the viral video platform Tiktok which is now actively used by over 90 million people in the United States each month. 

This loyalty campaign was launched in September 2020 to celebrate the clever group-ordering feature, developed by Chipotle within their app in response to changing consumer behaviour. They realised the need to support consumers who are spending more and more time at home with their loved ones, and the opportunity to simplify the ordering process for groups of family or friends. Using the “group ordering feature”, members of Chipotle Rewards simply:

  • Sign into their account
  • Create a shareable link and send it to friends and family, so each group member can create their favourite meal from their phone or computer.
  • The group leader then simply submits the digital order for pick-up or delivery.

The “family Tiktok challenge” was the creative campaign that invited users to post a creative TikTok video with their family or group showing why Chipotle should sponsor them, using official tags such as #ChipotleSponsorUs. Consumers then compete for the chance to enjoy free burritos for five lucky families for a year, with the winners chosen independently by a digital marketing agency. A truly ingenious campaign tailored to these unprecedented times.  

Chipotle is Simplifying Group Orders in its Rewards app

In closing, we have written extensively about the principles for success in a digital loyalty program in both convenience retail and quick service restaurants. The three key principles we showcase for “being brilliant” include easy, empowering and engaging, and Chipotle continues to deliver their loyalty strategy in exactly these extraordinary ways.

I, for one, won’t be surprised when the brand achieves the $2.4 billion of digital sales they are predicting in 2020 and wish them continued success as they continue to launch truly innovative solutions for digital consumers. 

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialising in the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2 Priority, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer Group (UAE), as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a former judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards and host of the “Let’s Talk Loyalty” podcast.



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