Case Study: New Loyalty Program Connects ’Wichcraft With Customers

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After years of using paper punch cards to promote loyalty at its 16 locations, Wichcraft is going digital with a mobile loyalty program. Marketing director Ellen Kim says the new program, which is powered by Venga, is currently in the testing phase, with plans to launch at selected Wichcraft locations within the next few weeks. By tying customer phone numbers to Wichcraft’s POS system, Kim hopes to send targeted promotions based on individual purchase histories and build more intimate relationships with the most frequent customers.

What’s more important for ’Wichcraft right now, customer acquisition or loyalty?
We’re focused on building our loyal customer base. What we really want to do is convert the customer who comes in once a week to coming a twice a week, the customer who comes twice a week to coming four times a week, and those who are coming pretty regularly for lunch, [to] come for a coffee, happy hour, or breakfast. I would say the majority of our time and energy is spent on how we are messaging to those folks. New customer acquisition is important and we want to do that, but it’s obviously more costly and you never know if those are the folks who are going to come in one time or become repeat customers. In terms of how we’re getting the message out, right now we do email campaigns and we’re on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. We are trying to figure out what are some things we can do [to] really convert those “likes” and interactions into higher sales.

Besides social media and email campaigns, what are you doing to promote loyalty right now? Wichcraft has a paper punch card program, right?
We have the paper punch card now, although we just signed up to work with a loyalty program to help capture more data. It’s not just about moving into the 21st century — although this is a first step — but I would love in an ideal world to have even more data. To know that Sarah comes in every day and she always gets a turkey sandwich, but when Joan comes in she is typically getting our tomato soup. And if we miss Sarah because she hasn’t been in for three months, I can tell her, “We’re happy to give you 50%-off a turkey sandwich.” And for Joan, we’d send her an email reminder. Maybe it’s not even a promotion, but just saying, “Did you know we added a new seasonal soup to our rotation?” I want to take loyalty past the punch card or digital card, [and get] more detailed information about our customers. Not just so that we have the data, but frankly, so that we can give you more added value when you’re coming in the store.

What was it that made you decide to work with Venga, versus any of the other platforms out there?
The frosting was the integration with our POS. Our POS is called InfoGenesis, and they were able to integrate with InfoGenesis. And being able to have a greater level of data, as a result, was a big reason.

Why hasn’t Wichcraft adopted a digital loyalty program in the past?
I’ve only been with the company for six months, so I don’t know what it was. My guess is that, as with any other small business, [loyalty programs] just sometimes move down the priority list. On a fundamental level, we have got to keep our doors open, we’ve got to get our customers through the doors quickly, and we’ve got to serve them quickly. I would guess it’s just one of those things we knew we wanted to do; it just wasn’t a priority.

What are the challenges in getting a program like this rolled out?
This program is going to be tied with your phone number, and I’m curious to know if we’ll really have the uptake that we’re hoping for, with respect to people being willing to say, “Here’s my phone number.” We’ll have to do a good job about telling them what the benefits are. We’re not just taking your phone number because we want more information, but it’s really so we can give you more of what you want. We can target offers specifically for your level of interest for what you’re purchasing. If you would never buy a [meat] sandwich because you’re a vegetarian, we’re never going to offer you that promotion.

I’ve heard that you’re not a fan of daily deal promotions for Wichcraft. Why is that?
I think there’s a nuanced answer there. We’re not interested in big daily dealswith respect to highly discounted products because we know that our food and our service and our experience is worth the value. When you come in for a $9 sandwich, you are getting a chef-created dish that someone has actually put a lot of thought into. I’m not very interested in offering a 50%-off deal, but we’re happy to work with websites and platforms where you’re giving people a special experience. For example, with Google Offers or Gilt Groupe or one of these dating websites, we can give a special experience at a special price. When Bryant Park did a movie night, we [offered] a package that was an experience: a Wichcraft-planned and curated picnic basket for [people] enjoying the movie. We’re happy to give people a special value, but we think value is defined in a different way than just 50% off.

How do you measure the value in any marketing program?
First and foremost, it’s driven by what our customers are asking for. Currently, I think a lot of customers would like us to have a mobile app, so they can do more mobile ordering during lunchtime. You’re walking down the street and you’re thinking about Wichcraft as you’re heading back from a meeting, and you can order right from your smartphone. I think we’d like to deliver something like that.

In terms of how we evaluate platforms, cost is a factor and easy implementation is a factor. Easy implementation is not only on the technology side, but frankly in training our cashiers and our front line [employees], and how the technology impacts them. A lot of our stores that have high-volume deliveries have an iPad where they can track when the delivery orders are completed in the store, when they leave the store, and when they have checked back in. That requires a specific level of training. So I think how our employees respond to [the technology] becomes a secondary factor, after we hear from our customers what they want.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.