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Navigating the Loyalty Landscape: Food Industry’s New Strategies to Retain Cost-Conscious Shoppers

In the ever-evolving food retailer sector, loyalty is currency, and more than half of key food industry players are investing heavily in it. According to Deloitte’s 2024 Retail Industry Outlook, a staggering 54% of food and beverage retailers are set to bolster their loyalty programs. The goal? To keep cost-conscious consumers engaged and opening their wallets.

 At the forefront of this strategic shift are Starbucks and Sweetgreen, who are tweaking their loyalty programs to encourage sign-ups in hopes of driving up traffic and ticket sizes. For Starbucks, AI-driven personalized experiences are proving successful, with their engagement and spend per member reaching new heights. Sweetgreen, not to be outdone, has introduced an annual Sweetpass+ membership, priced at $100 – a cost-saving alternative to their monthly option – with perks that extend beyond the plate to customer service and insider access.


But what's driving this increased focus on loyalty? A survey by SAP Emarsys reveals that consumers now expect more tangible rewards for their brand allegiance. Approximately 46% of US respondents crave exclusive offers, while 43% are after better pricing. Yet, even with clear benefits, loyalty is not a given, as 59% of consumers would consider switching to a cheaper alternative, and 18% feel they can no longer afford to stay loyal.


The Food and Beverage industry is under pressure to convey value, but they have a few strategies up their sleeves. Offering a wider product range, discounts, and exceptional customer service are key to returning customers. In fact, 47% of respondents remain loyal to retailers with diverse product selections, while 45% are swayed by discounts and incentives.


Amidst these strategies, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are not sleeping on the job. Chains like Pizza Hut and Chipotle are extending their hours to cater to younger demographics' cravings for late-night dining. This move is backed by data, with Pizza Hut noting a significant trend among younger audiences for late-night dining options. With labor shortages easing and delivery partnerships becoming more commonplace, there's little stopping QSRs from maximizing their night owl appeal.


At ShopLiftr, we understand the critical role that digital ad tech plays in supporting these loyalty initiatives. The key is to leverage data effectively. For instance, Chipotle's rewards program promotions were personalized 60% of the time last year, thanks to their savvy use of first-party data.


Brands and retailers need to use their loyalty programs as a data collection tool, testing and learning what resonates with their customers to enhance personalization via dynamic execution. Experimentation with new formats, such as Sweetgreen's automated locations and drive-up services, can offer insights into consumer preferences, aiding in developing omnichannel strategies that meet customers where they are.


A strong foundation of trust and customer investment is essential, as seen with Starbucks Rewards, which boasts 75 million members worldwide. Even amid changes to its loyalty program, Starbucks saw a 15% growth in membership, underlining the importance of nurturing customer relationships over time.


As a digital ad tech company, ShopLiftr acknowledges that the landscape is challenging. Still, it's ripe with opportunities for retailers to leverage technology and data to deliver value and convenience to their customers. With a strategic approach to loyalty programs, food retailers and restaurants can not only retain their consumer base but also see a significant impact on their bottom line, even when economic conditions are less than ideal.


As we watch QSRs like Chipotle continue to thrive despite economic headwinds, it becomes clear that the right combination of personalized offers, strategic loyalty rewards, and omnichannel experiences can set any retailer apart. This is where ShopLiftr's expertise comes into play. We provide the tools and insights needed to not only understand consumer behaviors but also to act on them in real-time, delivering personalized and relevant digital ads that drive both loyalty and sales.


In conclusion, the current retail climate highlights the importance of loyalty programs and the need to continuously innovate to meet consumer expectations. As an ad tech partner, ShopLiftr is committed to empowering with the digital solutions needed to enhance customer loyalty and thrive in today's competitive market.


Stay ahead of consumer trends and keep your customers loyal. Let ShopLiftr help lift your digital advertising strategy to the next level.



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