Not so long ago, Chipotle was known more as poster child for fast-casual foodborne illness than for its burritos. A few years and a regime change later, and the chain is talked about not for E. Coli but for its digital transformation efforts that are much praised across the industry.
Those efforts have in no small part been aided by Sparkfly, whose patented tech platform integrates with POS systems to improve restaurants’ marketing efforts around mobile apps, social media, online loyalty programs, and other digital channels. And while the two companies have been working together for some time, they formally unveiled their partnership to the public this week and gave us an idea of just how much behind-the-scenes work Sparkfly is actually doing at Chipotle.
The partnership is heavily focused on leveraging tech to gain and retain more customers; provide those customers with better digital rewards and more ways to use said rewards; and in general improve the relationship between online and offline ordering. All offers can be sent to a user’s Chipotle Mobile Wallet, which can then be used in the store or when ordering online. While that might sound like a bunch of fluffy tech talk, in reality, being able to see a coupon and immediately redeem it without ever having to leave the Chipotle app removes a number of steps from the order process — and with it, a number of chances for the user to abandon ship and go elsewhere to order lunch.
Because Sparkfly is integrated directly into Chipotle’s POS system, it can also track these promotions in real time and, through data, provide restaurants with a deeper look into what is and isn’t working in terms of marketing to customers.
As more and more restaurant ordering goes online, capturing that data will be key to making sure restaurants are launching the right kinds of marketing campaigns at the right time, and quickly abandoning plans for ones that don’t work and could wind up costing them valuable time and money.
For Chipotle’s part, its efforts with Sparkfly and with digital in general are clearly paying off. In April CEO Brian Niccol (formerly of Taco Bell), said digital sales grew 101 percent year-over year in the first quarter of 2019, totaling $206 million during that time and representing 15.7 percent of all sales. Chipotle is also averaging about 1 million digital transactions per week.
Along with delivery, making sense of digital marketing and all the data that goes with it is one of the major concerns for restaurants nowadays — and there are other platforms on the market looking to help. Punchh, who raised $20 million in 2018, touts AI and machine learning as the key tools behind its marketing optimization platform. And while it’s not strictly a marketing-focused affair, McDonald’s recent acquisition of AI company Dynamic Yield has upped the bar in terms of what customers expect of restaurants when it comes to personalized offers and promotions — and just how much data restaurants can collect in the process.
Sparkfly serves more than just the food industry at present, though its recent successes with Chipotle could mean the Atlanta GA-based company will soon have a lot more restaurants knocking on its door for help.