In 2014, Bain Capital acquired food franchise organisation, Retail Zoo and since then, using data to reach customers in the most effective way possible has been a big focus. Retail Zoo’s brands include Boost Juice Bars, Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, Cibo Espresso, and Hatch Chicken Shop.
Up until fairly recently, communication to the organisation’s customer base was limited even though it had created a database of 1.6 million buyers with Boost’s VIBE loyalty card – one of the largest in the ‘quick service restaurant’ (QSR) sector.
Retail Zoo introduced a digital department and its head of digital is Christian Mc Gilloway. After completing a digital transformation framework for a single customer in 2015 through the integration of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and the Boost App into the organisation, Mc Gilloway has spent the past year focusing on digital marketing and loyalty.
Originally focused on bridging the gap between marketing and IT with a focus on customer experience, digital now effects and interacts with all departments from operations to learning and development, through to franchising.
In 2015, Mc Gilloway gave a presentation on gamification and its effectiveness in changing behaviour to Boost’s founders and senior management team. With a background in game development, Mc Gilloway led the creation of a game that could achieve brand noise and loyalty.
It would also address one particular business issue: Boost needed to address a reduction in the frequency of customer transactions.
“We wanted to create a solution to increasing a customer’s frequency into store, as opposed to them visiting on their own time,” says Mc Gilloway. “We know that 32 per cent of people’s time is spent on smart devices playing games – on tablets, that rises to 67 per cent.”
Mc Gilloway and his team knew that if they created the right casual game, the ‘stickiness’ of continued customer engagement would be invaluable.
“The game had to be user-friendly and fun. Using a match three formula for the game, we knew it was something gamers were familiar with and an engaging method for gameplay at any age,” he says.
The team created time-sensitive coupons, which could be removed from the app after seven days. Vouchers could also be redeemed at specific times of the day, increasing trade during quieter periods.
In March this year, Boost Juice released ‘Free the Fruit’, its first mobile game in the app stores. This marked a big milestone in Boost’s history as it went against everything that the company knew about conventional marketing. The company was releasing a game with minimal branding that dispensed freed drinks for customers, and did not require players to sign up to the loyalty database.
The work Mc Gilloway’s team has carried out has significantly improved customer engagement, which has had a direct result on transactions and sales growth.
Free the Fruit was a runaway success, driving 11 per cent of transactions and over $1 million in revenue for the organisation over an eight-week period.
A new Boost app, released in January this year under Mc Gilloway’s leadership, is also providing Boost with a big competitive advantage in the food and beverage and QSR sector.
More than 41 per cent of all drinks ordered are being ‘customised’ by consumers using a feature in the app. The app has seen an uplift of 1800 per cent on orders on Tuesdays when particular drinks cost $5.
This has been strategically orchestrated by sending specific advertisements through push notifications and social media through Salesforce based on purchasing data through our loyalty system,” says Mc Gilloway.
“With 750,000 downloads and more than 300,000 active users, the app has the potential to be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.”
An introduction to Agile
Mc Gilloway introduced the organisation to using Agile methodologies to produce these apps. The move to a new way of working was initially quite challenging for some senior executives to grasp – those who had come from a traditional sequential development lifecycle.
The projects appeared to no longer have a completion date but instead have multiple checkpoints where the business could receive working versions of both applications where changes could be made and priorities defined.
Most importantly, these new processes required a ‘leap of faith’ from Boost’s partner network. For ‘Free the Fruit, the company created more than one million coupons comprising of free and discounted products.
In the first few weeks, many partners found it challenging to see the benefit of engaged players and prizing people with discounted product they feared would cannibalise their sales.
“All of the obstacles and challenges were overcome simply through faith and trust in the brand and team. We had seen so many foreign and domestic companies not adapt to the disruption which digital was having in their industry and suffer because of it,” he says.
Having digital expertise has saved Retail Zoo hundreds of thousands of dollars, allowing the organisation to not only do more work than they were able to previously but in a more agile and reactive manner.
Experimentation with machine learning
Mc Gilloway and his team are currently experimenting with machine learning, bots and wearables inside the Boost app. They are using customer purchasing data collected through the app to predict customer ordering patterns.
“We are able to identify patterns through the customisation of drinks to reorganise and display preferred drinks choices to individuals as well as communicate offers around these drinks at those customers at specific retention and purchase times,” says Mc Gilloway.
“As a collective whole, we are able to qualify and share this data with our product team to aid in the development of new drinks.”
The team has also started to create a ‘chat bot’ that will live inside the app, communicating the benefits of the products and assist in ordering drinks. Running this inside Facebook Messenger will allow the organisation to reach new audiences and take advantage of new payment processes.
Retail Zoo is also taking a close look at the wearables market in Australia, says Mc Gilloway. The Boost app already interfaces with the Apple Watch and Android wearables but when the team looked at porting the ordering platform to wearables, ‘it felt too forced,’ he says.
“The key attributes we were looking at utilising such as activity tracking for rewards for loyalty and location for geo-fencing were accessible through ‘in phone SDKs’ so we have turned our attention to using these instead,” he says.