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Church’s Chicken pecks away at mobile loyalty with rewards app

The app also allows customers to earn free chicken after seven store visits and provide feedback to management. It is the latest sign that acceptance of the newer mobile options, like payment and loyalty programs, is growing rapidly in restaurants.

“We know that quick-service restaurant customers want deals,” said Jeff Hasen, founder and CEO of Gotta Mobilize, a Seattle marketing consulting firm. “They have proven to go so far as to leave their houses and offices during the Polar Vortex to redeem an offer.

“This app effort, however, is far from inclusive,” he said. “It is limited to those who have smartphones and have downloaded the app.”

Redeeming points
The app, available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, lets chicken lovers access Church’s most sought-after information whenever and wherever.

With just a couple of clicks, users can earn and redeem points at any Church’s location. Users can find nearby outlets by using the app’s United States store locator. A menu tab spotlights dishes, including Church’s signature battered chicken. A feedback tool lets diners inform management how they enjoyed their meal.

More than one-third of consumers are more likely to access technology-related functions in restaurants than they were two years ago, according to recent research from the National Restaurant Association.

Rewarding loyal customers.

With the rise of functionalities such as mobile ordering, mobile payments and redeeming rewards on smartphones, restaurants are able to market more efficiently to consumers, especially millennials that use mobile devices most frequently.

Enticing young customers on mobile is paramount, as the study from the association’s Restaurant Innovation Summit revealed that 90 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds own and use a mobile device.

A third of customers over 18 would pay for meals via smartphone apps if restaurants offered that option, according to research.

That percentage is significant, as people can be hesitant to embrace new approaches when it comes to accessing money.

The rising usage of technology in restaurants can be attributed to increased options, especially with large brands incorporating Apple Pay and other mobile wallets. The restaurant association’s research found that 32 percent of individuals claimed they would use a mobile app to pay the restaurant bill instead of using credit cards or cash if the option existed.

However, some consumers still prefer to interact directly with restaurant employees, proving that the restaurant industry must carefully intertwine technology with hospitality, a sector where human communication is imperative.

Although Church’s has used mobile rewards before, the app takes its loyalty initiatives to a new level.

Two years ago, it partnered with Hasbro on a campaign to reward users who scanned on-pack mobile bar codes with holiday-themed prizes.

The initiative was part of the Church’s Family Fun Giveaway sweepstakes that gave families the chance to vie for prizes including games or a vacation for four.

Store traffic
Church’s app raises questions in terms of its ability to fully reach across its customer base and drive store traffic.

“The proven way for QSRs to reach consumers and to drive traffic is via an SMS-based mobile loyalty club,” Mr. Hasen said. “Church’s certainly has feature-phone carrying customers who want a deal. What’s the play for them?

Feedback tool is a feature of app.

“I also wonder whether consumers who have the app will feel a sense of urgency if offers are always available,” he said. “During the next cold snap, they likely will stay by the heater.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.