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Wetzel’s Pretzels untwists sales via item-based mobile rewards, egift cards

Wetzel’s Pretzels is heating up mobile sales with a new rewards application that enables users to earn loyalty credit for each item they purchase and send friends virtual gift cards, underscoring another lucrative mobile sales opportunity for quick service restaurant chains.

The bakery chain rolled out its new Wetzel’s Pretzels Rewards mobile app – which is powered by Relevant Mobile – for iOS and Android users last week. In addition to allowing customers to take advantage of an item-based rewards program, which differs from restaurant brands’ usual visit-based or punch card loyalty experiences, Wetzel’s Pretzels is driving sales by letting users purchase mobile gift cards and send them to friends directly within the app.

“For QSR and casual dining alike, digital gift cards are increasingly important as restaurants look to offset the cost of plastic cards and decrease friction for gift card purchases,” said Gerrine Pan, founder of Relevant Mobile. “Plus, it’s a way to place that sales opportunity in someone’s pocket year-round rather than wait to catch their attention during the year-end gift card marketing push that is traditional in our industry.”

Dipping into mobile sales
Wetzel’s Pretzels, which currently operates more than 300 locations worldwide, rolled out its revamped app last week, enabling customers to pay with their smartphones, send virtual gift cards to fellow fans and earn free pretzels through its rewards platform.

Users will receive a complimentary pretzel on their birthday, as well as a free pretzel item upon purchasing six pretzel items through the app.

Wetzel’s Pretzels’ rewards platform differs from QSR chains’ typical programs in that it is item-based. Members will earn credit for each item they purchase, instead of for each visit. This means consumers who purchase multiple menu items in one visit will be able to accumulate more credit.

Each time an individual buys a pretzel item – such as a Wetzel Dog or pretzel bitz – he or she will be able to scan his or her smartphone at the register and collect a dot on the in-app rewards meter. Once the meter reaches six dots, the user will receive a free item.

“Wetzel’s Pretzels’ reward program is uniquely suited to its menu and the way that guests tend to purchase at Wetzel’s Pretzels,” Ms. Pan said. “Instead of earning points for dollars spent, or only earning reward credit on a specific item, guests using the Wetzel’s Pretzels app will earn reward credit for every pretzel item that they purchase.

“Also unique is how Wetzel’s Pretzels’ quirky, playful personality came through in the design. Just keep your eye on that pretzel in the oven as you earn more loyalty credit and you’ll see what I mean!”

Loyalty app must-haves
In addition to having a rewards system in place, quick service restaurant chains should also integrate virtual gift card purchasing options into their loyalty apps. This way, longstanding fans of the brand will be able to easily buy a mobile gift card for a friend and family member without having to physically visit a location.

Wetzel’s Pretzels enables users to choose a card design, input the recipient’s name and email address alongside the gift card amount and complete the transaction directly within its new app.

Individuals may also leverage the app to make payments in-store, find nearby Wetzel’s Pretzels locations, refer friends and monitor their rewards activity history.

The bakery brand’s revamped app joins a slew of other fast-casual chains’ loyalty iterations.

Rita’s Italian Ice recently rolled out an enhanced app that leverages beacon technology, social network sharing and rewards customized to users’ preferences, showcasing how food and beverage marketers must evolve their mobile offerings to keep loyalty at the forefront (see story).

Additionally, Firehouse Subs introduced a revamped app last year – also powered by Relevant Mobile – that includes mobile ordering capabilities as well as in-app gaming that enables consumers to receive additional loyalty points for extended engagement (see story).

“Every loyalty system has its pros and cons, but mobile loyalty programs are not constrained to any one type,” Ms. Pan said. “Which loyalty program structure is right for your brand depends on your food offering as well as the behavior you are trying to encourage.

“For example, if you are a hot dog vendor and your food offering is predominantly one item (a hot dog), a punch card-esque program such as ‘buy 10 hot dogs, get one free’ will make sense here,” she said. “However, if you are The Cheesecake Factory with a vast menu, then a single-item-based structure is going to annoy a good number of folks who cannot earn credit based on what they normally order.

“Different program structures drive different guest behavior as well, but note that the financial implications and the data you can derive from each also varies.”