Chick-fil-A: Caring For Customers Personally Through Email

The Challenges 

1. The brand’s databases were separate, making it hard to audit messaging frequency or to capitalize on any personalization opportunity. It had “Email Insiders” of about 6 million people; its A-List, a local loyalty program that was inconsistent and had emails associated with it; and its Cow Calendar (customers could purchase at the beginning of year to get free monthly items) with emails to remind them. Also recently launched was Chick-fil-A One, a national loyalty program. There was overlap with all those different groups. 

2. Visual design was inconsistent. Three different teams were handling design.   

3. Its Email Service Provider was cloud-based and had challenges balancing PII with personalization capabilities. 

The Execution

1. To the problem of having separate databases, Randall says the company said, “Let’s roll this up under Chick-fil-A One.” It had transaction data that it knew was going to grow over time. So it started to fold some of these under that. The solution was the consolidation of email databases and programs into one unified effort. That was a hard decision. There were 6 million people there and Chick-fil-A knew it wasn’t going to convert all of them. Some would be let go. A-list and Cow Calendar were folded under Chick-fil-A One. 

2. As for visual design, it worked with partner Brightwave to do an entire overhaul. “We also internally folded up everything under one team working on email. It’s all in Chick-fil-A One now; you can link to your profile, you can see how many treats you have in your account. The rest of template is dynamic. We think a lot about using real estate to extend existing content. We have The Chicken Wire, which is our blog with long-form content and then we thought about how to chop it up into email, social, bite-size pieces. We try to distribute that across all our channels. We’ll also highlight national campaigns and products.

3. “We needed something on premise so we decided to partner with MessageGears, that was a huge partnership with our IT folks. We went through a whole set of capabilities and requirements that we needed. Allowed us to personalize some of our emails.

“We think a lot about balancing the scale and personalization. We want to take one of our differentiators — Local ownership — and highlight those stories in email at scale and then we also want to be able to take stories that are at scale like our National campaigns and personalize those. It’s a tough balance that we’re still trying to figure out. 

“We’re also balancing Local email. We do let our operators email their customers. On the brand side, we give them templates, tools to send emails, share best practices, and then each template is one single message. It’s not the content blogs that we have on the brand side. And then they can load in their pictures, signatures, tweak the copy. Sometimes it’s about a limited-time offer or it could be information about closing for renovation. They can send really personal emails to just one person as well. Local & National sends two emails a month, all different messages. We can see people Local has emailed. Our biggest opportunity brand-side is thinking about an entire audience that doesn’t fall into one of their Local CRM systems. 

“An example of what a wire frame looks like for an email. We’re pulling in multiple different data sources, customer data, transaction data, and we tweak the message based on where somebody is on their customer journey. 

The Results

Three times the email database now over 18 months ago, mostly due to Chick-fil-A One.

A five-time increase in overall memberships.

Over 20% hike in conversion from people who get the email vs. the control group.

A huge spike in email engagement.

Key takeaways

  • Local knows their customers better than we do. We want to continue that again. Secret sauce of Chick-fil-A. It’s a tough balance. 
  • Start plugging in from personalization standpoint in emails. Then pull in geo, local messaging. Tie it to app activity.
  • People want to see deals in QSR. Balance basic rewards.
  • It’s not just new tech for new tech’s sake. Don’t get caught up in the shiny new thing.
  • Email is the biggest driver in keeping someone engaged.
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