What do we know about Chipotle’s loyalty program? Let’s dive in.
Chipotle used to have a loyalty program called Chiptopia, and it was launched in July 2016. The promotion lasted for three months. Commentators did acknowledge that it had them returning to Chipotle more. But after the promotion ended, Chipotle has yet to reinstate another one.
According to Chipotle, more than 3.1 million customers registered and participated in the program, with roughly 85,000 participants on the way to earning Chiptopia’s grandest award: catering for 20. [source] (That’s 2.74%)
Loyalty programs can be expensive when you’re operating at such a large scale like Chipotle does. In 2016 they gave away over $70m worth of free burritos – which was 16% of their annual sales that year.
According to Rick Munarriz from The Motley Fool, one reason was that it slowed down the register – and even encouraged couples, families or friends to break up their orders into multiple orders. These are all considerations that should go into the design of any loyalty program.
Matt Goppee from SessionM said that it was ineffective because it was run for such a short period of time. He also pointed out that it was too complicated, with too many tiers and complications – almost seeming like it’s trying to confuse consumers.
26% of 1,500 people still cite health concerns as a reason for avoiding Chipotle
Could timing also be an issue? Chipotle endured one of the worst things that could happen to any food vendor – food safety issues. 55 people from 3 different states fell sick after eating at Chipotle in 2015 – something that would be enough to throw off many people from eating at Chipotle altogether, perhaps forever.
After all, 26% of 1,500 people surveyed are still citing health concerns as a reason for avoiding Chipotle in 2018. So it’s understandable if Chiptopia never got to realize its full potential as a loyalty program.
Loyalty does work – but it has to be done properly
Loyalty programs for massive companies with hundreds of stores, like Chipotle, are difficult to make sense of – there are so many variables involved, so many costs, so many people to teach it to and explain, so many ways that things can go wrong.
For small businesses, though, loyalty programs are still a powerful engine of building loyal customers. We’ve heard from many founders and entrepreneurs that they’ve build personal relationships with customers who give them personalized feedback via their loyalty app.
If you’re interested in putting together a simple, lightweight loyalty program that requires no cards and no installs, definitely check out what we’re doing with CandyBar!