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Chick-fil-A: Email is Our Biggest Driver of Keeping Somebody Engaged

“Email is certainly not the only driver of that but we have seen email being the biggest driver of keeping somebody engaged or re-engaging them,” says Emily Randall who runs interactive digital me...
Chick-fil-A: Email is Our Biggest Driver of Keeping Somebody Engaged
Written by Rich Ord
  • About a year and a half ago Chick-fil-A decided to go back to their roots of being a people first business in their use of email marketing. They scrapped multiple email databases and multiple email templates and most importantly focused on answering real customer needs through personalization generated from many customer touch points.

    This has led to a five times increase in membership to Chick-fil-A One and a 20 percent increase in conversions.  “Email is certainly not the only driver of that but we have seen email being the biggest driver of keeping somebody engaged or re-engaging them,” says Emily Randall who runs interactive digital media at Chick-fil-A.

    Emily Randall, Interactive Digital Media, Chick-fil-A, recently gave a talk at MediaPost’s Email Insider Summit on how they successfully transformed their use of email marketing to not only match their founders people first philosophy, but to also more effectively engage with their customers:

    We’re Not in the Chicken Business, We’re in the People Business

    The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy,  often said we’re not in the chicken business, we’re in the people business. So we think a lot about hospitality. We think about going the second mile for our customers and hopefully, you’ve experienced that if you’ve been to a Chick-fil-A.

    Today we have about 2,300 locations across the country so it gets a little bit harder to know all of our customers by name like Truett did when he opened the first restaurant but what we have rallied around stems from what Truitt said.

    Changed From Batch and Blast Emails to Personalization

    When you know someone’s story you can care for them personally. The team really thinks about what are all of our marketing touch points and how are we caring for people personally through the each of those touch points? We think about each of those touch points and ask is is this a deposit on the customer relationship or is this a withdrawal?

    We took a look at our email program about a year and a half ago and we said, hey, this is actually a little bit more of a withdrawal. We’re doing this batch and blast approach with our email program, it was pretty messy, and so we decided that we needed to fix it in order to start adding value to that relationship with our customers. This is really about becoming modern marketers.

    We decided to partner with MessageGears which has allowed us to personalize some of our emails. So today, it’s about a year and a half later and we looked at how do we actually do this and what does this look like? One, we have about three times the email database that we had about a year and a half ago so we have definitely seen growth. A big part of that is because of Chick-fil-A One our membership program.

    Balancing Scale and Personalization

    Then we think a lot about balancing scale and personalization. One of our differentiators is the local ownership and so we want to be able to take stories that are happening personally and then highlight those in email at scale. We also want to be able to take stories that are at scale, like our national campaigns, and then personalize those. That’s a tough balance that we’re still trying to figure out.

    We also are balancing local email where we let our operators email directly, they email their customers. These are people who transact with their restaurants, so they don’t have access to everybody in our membership program, but anybody who transacts with their restaurant they can email.

    We on the brand side give them templates and we give them the tools to be able to send out those emails. We share best practices and then each template is just one single message. They can load in their picture, you can actually see their face, they can add their signature, and they can tweak the copy. Sometimes it’s about a limited time offer like our peppermint chocolate chip milkshake or it could be information about closing for a renovation. They can also send really personal emails to even just one person if they want to.

    Pulling From Multiple Data Source to Personalize Emails

    We also balance that from an air cover standpoint from the brand with two emails a month. We have all kinds of different messages flowing into into this one. What’s nice is that we can see the people that they have emailed. Where our biggest opportunity on the brand side is thinking about the entire audience that doesn’t fall into one of their local CRM systems. What does win-back look like? What does re-engagement look like? That’s where we can uniquely help on the brand side that the operators don’t have access to.

    With our email wireframe we’re pulling in multiple different data sources including customer profile data, transaction data, and then location. We have a lot of other sources as well so we’ll tweak the message or the creative based on where somebody is in their journey with Chick-fil-A.  For example, for a particular spot in our email we had different options that we could plug in based on if somebody had never mobile ordered, if they’ve scanned and not mobile ordered, or if they mobile order all the time. We would tweak that depending on where they were while taking a mobile order action.

    Email is Our Biggest Driver of Keeping Somebody Engaged

    We start out with at least 32 base segments per email. We also have at least 500 different versions. We have seen about a five times increase in overall memberships since we started this personalization. Email is certainly not the only driver of that but we have seen email being the biggest driver of keeping somebody engaged or re-engaging them. We’ve also seen about over 20 percent increase from a conversion standpoint for people who receive the email versus a control group.

    From an attribution standpoint, we are able to measure that. It’s incredible how you can tie action in email to actual sales. I come from a background of social media marketing and we can’t tell those types of stories in social. It’s really incredible that we are able to start to share these stories of success and actually measure attribution in this email marketing channel.

    Focus on What’s Important to the Customer

    What’s next for us is going back to the basics and just seeing people as people. You can’t think of them as an email address which is way easier said than done. We want to continue thinking about what’s important to our customers and continue with research to understand what is it that they really want from us?

    This means not jumping on technology just to jump on new technology. It’s really easy to get caught up in the new bright shiny thing and for us, it feels like we’re still learning. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us out there but I think going back to the basics of just who are these people and how do we organize our program in the right way has been a huge step in the right direction for us.

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