Building Loyalty One Pretzel at a Time

It all started for Auntie Anne’s in 1988, when Anne Beiler opened her first store at a farmer’s market in Pennsylvania. After some experimentation, “Auntie” Anne created a hand-rolled soft pretzel recipe that was dubbed by customers as “better than the best you’ve ever tasted.” 

For 28 years we’ve been building customer loyalty with a few key ingredients. We’re focused on delivering exceptional products matched by unparalleled service for every single guest. Customer loyalty is paramount for Auntie Anne’s in all that we do. We’ve always prioritized ways to connect with our guests and nurture their loyalty to our brand. Today, technology drives how we reach customers outside of our stores, providing touchpoints for us to build and strengthen relationships. Here are two examples.

My Pretzel Perks mobile app

In 2014 we launched our My Pretzel Perks loyalty/rewards program nationally. This program has been a significant priority for our company and has proven to be a great success. In fact, My Pretzel Perks membership has increased by 76% since the beginning of last year.

One of the goals of the mobile app is to make our guests’ lives easier. It’s a one-stop shop to find the nearest location, menu items, nutritional information, and more. We use a simple points-based strategy: For every dollar users spend, they’re awarded 10 points. Every time customers complete their journey to 300 points, they’re rewarded with a free pretzel to try something new or enjoy their favorite pretzel variety. 

The loyalty program has proven to be the most effective tool that we have to stay relevant in consumers’ lives. We mine our loyalty program data to analyze buying behavior, allowing us to segment offers and discounts more effectively. 

One way we segment our customers is by previous purchases. This allows us to send focused offers for products guests would actually consider purchasing instead of just blanket our entire database with the exact same offer. For instance, we can create a target group that has previously purchased the Original Pretzel, or Original Nuggets, and cheese dip. We can then send an offer to this group to encourage them to try our new Cheddar Stuffed Pretzel Nuggets, a new product that combines two of the ingredients we already know they love.

Consumers want what they want, when they want it, and the loyalty program’s mobile app helps us meet the ever-demanding needs of our target audience.

Social media 

Social media isn’t just being used differently today than it was a year ago; it’s being used differently today than it was yesterday. Three key driving factors dictate the strategy that Auntie Anne’s follows in this arena:

  • Where are guests going?
    – Are they on Facebook or have they moved on to Snapchat?
  • Why are they going there?
    – Is it a quicker alternative than the previous platform or does it serve up fewer ads?
  • What are they going there for?
    – Do they want to simply share text updates or do they want to create visually compelling content? 

Our goal is to be proactive, anticipate where our guests will be next, and then use storytelling throughout content, channels, and campaigns to elevate the brand and deepen our relationship with those guests. For example, we saw the younger audience moving away from Facebook to Instagram. To stay relevant with this target, we created an Instagram presence that shows a different side of Auntie Anne’s: more lifestyle-driven photography, Instavids, and user-generated content. We’re sharing the story of Auntie Anne’s in a way that connects this audience in particular with our brand.

Over the next year we expect new challenges to revolve around remaining visible among consumers despite their desire for fewer ads and around cultivating online-to-offline community management.

We don’t believe there is a surefire way to simply overcome these challenges, but we’re implementing a few strategies in an attempt to close the gap. Remaining visible among consumers really comes down to ensuring that we’re targeting the correct audience on the right platform. If we do this, we are then able to concentrate our content and modify it to specific audiences where we believe it to be most relevant. In addition, we look to our existing consumers to dictate the direction we take in reaching future consumers. By using current feedback and insights, we can develop practices that may be more applicable in the future to remain relevant with our consumers.

As for cultivating that offline and online relationship, it’s important to remember that our consumers have multiple touchpoints with the brand across numerous outlets. Overcoming that challenge comes down to our efforts to ensure a consistent brand experience throughout these spaces. Recently, we’ve tried to do that with simple tactics such as incorporating our social channels and relevant hashtags onto in-store marketing materials and monitoring opinion and sentiment about a product or campaign through robust social media insights. But there’s so much untapped potential here that we’ve only barely scratched the surface.

Customer loyalty isn’t just bestowed upon any brand at any time. It’s earned, and something that needs to be nurtured with time, trust, and understanding. It’s important to build deep connections and relationships with our guests because that’s what truly what makes a difference. We believe strong relationships have fueled Auntie Anne’s growth and success over the past 28 years, and those relationships will continue to define our brand moving forward. 

About the author:

Meredith Wenz is director of marketing for Auntie Anne’s. She’s responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of integrated marketing plans to drive sales and build brand awareness. Prior to joining Auntie Anne’s, Wenz served as director of communications for Associated Builders and Contractors, as well as an ad agency account manager. 

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