Case Study: KBP Foods Uses Loyalty App to Reach Millennials

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KBPMerchant: KBP Foods
Markets: Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina
Size: 194 locations
Platforms: Front Flip
Bottom Line: The millennial generation is more likely to be influenced by a smartphone app than a national TV campaign.

In the fast food industry, it’s all about the millennial generation. Customers between the ages of 18 and 34 are eating out less than they were five years ago, which is a major problem for executives like Anthony Gianino. The senior director of marketing at KBP Foods, a franchisee with more than 194 Yum! Brands restaurants, is trying everything in the book — including text message marketing, local print ads, and mobile loyalty apps — to reach his target demographic. “We’ve really had trouble reaching the millenials at the national level.”

Focusing on local
As a franchisee, KBP Foods is limited in the types of marketing and advertising promotions it can run. “Anything you want to do that is marketing, you have to run through brand and legal,” said Gianino. “Then they approve it or add some adjustments and suggestions.”

While his corporate partners handle the development and placement of national campaigns, Gianino focuses on driving customers to his local stores spread across nine states: “[TV gets] buzz generated, and that’s what the national [company] does for us. Then what we try to do is improve on loyalty and get people to come in more often.”

Over the years, Gianino has tried a handful of marketing platforms in an effort to boost loyalty and increase customer engagement. “We’ve used frequency cards, [but] it’s hard to track any type of results. For the most part, you print up a bunch of cards and you give away some food, but you can’t tell if it did anything for you on the sales or transaction side.”

Gianino has also dipped his toes into text message marketing, with similarly lackluster results. “We just never got enough people to really get anything out of it. You need about 500 to 1,000 people per restaurant, and [we] never got more than 50 per restaurant.”

Although text message marketing didn’t work out for KBP Foods, Gianino still had the sense that mobile was the direction he should go. He ultimately decided to try Front Flip, a mobile engagement and loyalty platform, in part because the hyperlocal company is located near KBP Foods’ headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas.

How it works
Customers who download Front Flip’s mobile app can use their smartphones to scan a special QR code at KBP Foods establishments. Scanning this code unlocks prizes, like discounts on meals or free drinks. “What I like about this program versus the text program is there’s an incentive to scan every time you go in,” said Gianino. “And because they are scanning every time, we have some idea of who our frequent customers are. [For] someone who’s coming in a lot, we can reward them with a gift. If somebody hasn’t come in for a while, we might need to send them a little reminder gift to inspire them to come back.”

Front Flip works well in an industry with high employee turnover rates, since it requires zero training for cashiers. Customers handle the scanning process on their own, and they provide restaurant employees with a coupon code when it’s time to redeem their prizes. “Operationally it’s a breeze,” said Gianino.

The real prize for Gianino is the data he’s able to collect. “I like to see what our frequencies are, because with the brands we have, frequency is an issue. We’re trying to get people to come in more often. [With Front Flip] we can see if it’s working, and [whether we’re] getting people to come in sooner than they have been in the past.”

The Takeaway
While national restaurant chains spend millions on TV spots and print campaigns meant to solidify their brand identities, it’s up to franchisees to find solutions for driving actual traffic at their individual locations. Gianino has found a way to do just that at KBP Foods, rewarding customers and incentivizing repeat visits with the Front Flip app. Utilizing a mobile loyalty app has given Gianino a way to reach the right types of consumers — tech-savvy millenials — through the platforms they’re most comfortable using.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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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.