Gamification and Rewards: Engage with Your Customers to Better Retain Them


Starbucks®, Chick-fil-A®, McDonald’s®…these are some of the most popular restaurant industry apps used and downloaded today. To put it into perspective, the Starbucks® app has 17 million users, and almost one in every five of their sales dollars comes directly from the app. These restaurants don’t have elevated app statuses for no reason—it’s because they know how to engage their customers through gamification and rewards programs that keep them coming back for business.

With the thousands of restaurant apps out there today, how can others build strategies to stand out and captivate their consumers through gamification?

On today’s episode of The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia speaks with Aaron Lobliner, Chief Client Officer at CataBoom, about how CataBoom uses incentives to drive behavior change for restaurant businesses.

One example of an app that CataBoom has helped refine their engagement strategies is TJI Fridays®, which drives its customers back to the app through rewards such as a free appetizer upon download, earning one point per dollar spent with rewards starting at just 30 points, a free birthday dessert, 10-point rewards for friend referrals, and exclusive Fridays Rewards® member-only offers.

“The way that I love to think about it is: How are we trading value to get value, right? What are we giving the consumer—fun, a game, an intrinsic benefit…maybe some kind of an extrinsic benefit, like you have the chance to win a prize or you’re unlocking a certain feature or you’re earning more points, right? And you get this sweet spot of trading value to get value where the consumer is happy to now spend a minute-and-a-half, two minutes, two-and-a-half minutes with a brand that they maybe would not have spent…it does part way into higher sales.”

Castiglia and Lobliner also discussed…

  1. How CataBoom determines what strategies will work for one brand that may not work for another
  2. What CataBoom does to determine what their restaurant data means for shaping the vision and decision-making of their clients
  3. The sources of CataBoom’s gamification inspirations

Lobliner talked about how a customer’s journey used to be seen as a linear path, but that is no longer the case today.

“Somebody’s behavior and somebody’s customer journey, shopper journey, lunch journey, dinner journey—it’s not linear anymore. And I think that’s the important part that we talk about. As you’re on the move and there are multiple touch points, how do you reach him or her, where they work, shop and play? It is all about this thing, this computer in our pockets, right?”

He added, “Everybody has an app now. Is everybody using that app? Like I said, I have 15 or 20 of them. So, how do I make that app more interesting?”

Aaron Lobliner is a consumer and customer engagement expert currently in the role of Chief Client Officer at CataBoom. Prior to working at CataBoom, Lobliner was Chief Client Officer at RAZR, and started his career at Kmart in merchandise, advertising, and buying. Lobliner’s B.S. in Marketing is from the University of Michigan.

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