Cultivating customer loyalty at Auntie Anne’s starts with effective customer engagement.

Meredith Wenz, director of marketing at Auntie Anne’s, talked to Loyalty360 about this crucial piece of the customer loyalty puzzle.

How does Auntie Anne’s view customer engagement and what are some of the things you do in this regard?

Wenz: Customer engagement is critically important for our brand. We are an impulse purchase, so the crew members in our stores are a vital touch point for us. We put significant emphasis on crew training to make sure they are engaging and represent the best of the brand. Beyond the store, we’re able to reach our fans anywhere, anytime via our social media channels. We have more than one million brand fans via our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat channels.

With the prominence of mobile today, how has AA leveraged this and what has been the impact on customer engagement?

Wenz: Mobile is huge for us. Three years ago, we launched our My Pretzel Perks loyalty program. The driving force behind the program is our mobile app, which now has more than one million users. It’s a great way for us to foster customer loyalty and encourage repeat visits, as the more a guest spends, the faster they can earn rewards. When that reward is a free Auntie Anne’s pretzel, it’s pretty enticing! We’re also able to use the program to send offers for special occasions, such as a free pretzel to celebrate your birthday and the biggest holiday of the year, National Pretzel Day. This allows us to maintain a steady cadence of communication throughout the year, ensuring we remain top-of-mind for guests.

What have you done in recent years to enhance the overall customer experience?
Wenz: We’re always looking for ways to improve the guest experience. In fact, internally we’ve deemed 2017 the “Year of the Guest.” It all starts with the in-store experience. We’re working hard to ensure our crew members receive the training necessary to be best-in-class representatives of our brand. Courteous, friendly service is such a simple gesture, but it resonates with guests and combined with our incredible pretzels, will make them want to return again and again.
Do you think you have to provide the right atmosphere from a company standpoint to generate customer loyalty?
Wenz: Customer loyalty needs to be earned. If your brand representatives–the crewmembers in the stores, the franchisees, the corporate associates–aren’t passionate ambassadors, it’s hard to generate excitement from your customer. By helping foster passion for the brand with everyone at every level of our system, we’ve been able to create an atmosphere that goes beyond our walls and touches our guests.
Do you think it’s easier to retain your best customers or acquire new ones? Which one do you focus on more?

Wenz: Without question, it’s easier to retain customers. Of course, we always want to attract new ones, but making sure our guests become loyal brand fans is critical to our success.

Do you leverage social media for customer engagement and, if so, in what ways?

Wenz: Yes, absolutely. Even our most loyal guests might visit us only a couple of times per month. So how do we make sure we’re reaching them when they aren’t at our stores? Social media. We have robust Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat channels, leveraging each to reach our guests in different ways. Three key driving factors dictate our social strategy:

Where guests are going? Why are they going there?

Is it a quicker alternative than the previous platform or does it serve up less ads?

What are they going there for?

Our goal is to be proactive and anticipate where our guests will be next, and then utilize story-telling throughout content, channels, and campaigns to elevate the brand and deepen our relationships. By doing this, we’re able to stay engaged with guests no matter where they are.

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