Loyalty Program Key to Memorable Customer Experience at Papa John’s

Digital innovation, evolving its loyalty program and providing a memorable customer experience comprise the key ingredients to Papa John’s mission to ensure and sustain brand loyalty.

Loyalty360 caught up with Robert Thompson, senior vice president, global marketing, Papa John’s, to learn more about the company’s ongoing and relentless pursuit of digital excellence and brand advocacy.

Can you talk about how the Papa Rewards loyalty program has evolved and what behavioral changes company officials have seen during that time?
Thompson: Papa John’s was the first national pizza brand to launch a nationwide digital rewards program—Papa Rewards. Since inception in 2010, Papa John’s loyal customers could enroll in the loyalty program to earn points with each purchase. At launch, customers could earn one point for every $5 spent online and when customers reached 25 points, they could receive a free 3-topping pizza. The program offerings have evolved over the years to include more than just pizza. Members can receive birthday rewards, and for a limited time in February and March, rewards members could receive bonus points and double points with special promo codes. Now, with the most recent updates, Papa Rewards members have even more product options.
Papa John’s is no stranger to industry firsts in the digital realm:

  • 2001 - First to have digital ordering at all U.S. delivery restaurants
  • 2007 – First with system-wide mobile ordering via SMS
  • 2010 – First to launch nationwide digital rewards program;
  • 2014 – First to offer gift cards that can be used on mobile devices
  • 2016 – First to surpass more than 55% of total U.S. sales via digital channels
We recognized that with rapid digital innovation, customer ordering habits would continue to change. With the numerous payment and digital ordering options, it is important to provide consumers with choices for an easy and enjoyable customer experience. Our loyalty program is a key part of our push to bring our repeat customers an enjoyable experience. 
What prompted the recent changes to the program and did customer feedback play a role?
Thompson: The Papa John’s pizza family is committed to providing its loyal customers with what they want—superior pizza, enhanced digital deals and increased variety. We are always looking for ways to evolve the program—whether it is February’s deal for double points days and bonus points, special codes, or additional product offers.
Quality and customer experience continues to be a differentiator for Papa John’s. Everything we do is about how can we make the customer experience ‘Better.’ The changes to the program were grounded in extensive customer research.  We used a quantitative discrete choice model to identify the ideal program and reward structure.
How does Papa John’s listen to its customers (i.e. surveys, focus groups, etc.) and how important a process is that?
Thompson: Papa John’s is always looking at ways to improve both product and the customer experience. Listening to the customer is the most important part of that process. We have done a variety of different types of customer research including ethnographies, surveys, and quantitative research studies. Additionally, we are always monitoring feedback from our Customer Service call center and social media channels. All of these efforts inform our decision-making.
When it comes to our products, they first go through a rigorous in-house quality test. For example, our customers are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from and are calling for more organic options. So last week, Papa John’s launched the availability of organic vegetable toppings. After working on the program for more than a year, the pilot program will be initially tested in the Lexington, KY market. After gaining customer reaction, Papa John’s will evaluate next steps.
What do you think is the key to a successful loyalty program?
Thompson: The key to a successful loyalty program is striking a balance between consumers’ desire for ease, relevancy, and aspirational rewards with the company’s need to attain valuable data, retain its best customers, and drive performance KPIs. Making the customer experience enjoyable—from start to finish−is critical. That means it starts with easy-to-use ordering and payment options (including how rewards can be redeemed), comprises fun add-ons such as visually appealing order tracking with Papa Track, and finishes with a superior quality product.   

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