I Never “Expected” This…

The last couple of times I've written about a specific company, lo and behold, within a couple of days something happens that allows me to expand on my original entry. Such is the case with my recent commentary on Panera Bread and the use of analysis-driven expectations to drive messaging and offer strategy. (Before I start on this related topic, let me say that with regards to Panera challenging me to visit ten times in a month: a) I don't really visit Panera all that frequently; b) this is not to say that Panera might know something from analysis of their loyalty data that I don't. I'm maybe there once a week or less, four times a month or so, and that is due to the convenience factor of the location near my house; I doubt I've ever been there approaching ten times a month, but maybe that's part of the challenge…)

In any event, coincidentally, a couple of days after my original commentary I stopped in at Panera and placed an order. While waiting for the food to be prepared, I received an email from – Panera Bread! Within seconds of my loyalty card number being entered, they had generated an email letting me know that they appreciated my business and that I was closer to the goal they had originally notified me about.

I'm not sure how I feel about receiving it so quickly – is it kind of creepy or indicative of attentiveness? More importantly, it seems to be an example of trigger-driven marketing that may benefit from some refinement of the rules driving the triggers. My original communication about the challenge was received on March 13th, in this case, the transaction occurred on March 16th, so they are now letting me know that I have 15 days to visit 7 times, and from my previous requirement of visiting every three days to hit my target, I would now have to visit every two days for the rest of the month.

Intrigued, I went back again a couple of days later to see what happened. And sure enough, I received the same triggered email within seconds of placing my order.

Not trying to pick on Panera, but they might want to consider altering the rules driving these triggered messages. I could see making my fifth visit on March 30th and getting the same friendly message telling me I only need five more visits before the end of the month to earn my reward!! Not doable, but not sure their rules base accounts for that. Even after you have established the requirement as a tactical component of the promotion, you still need to be nimble about how you communicate about it. Once its almost impossible to achieve the goal, should you still communicate that to the consumer or risk alienating them? (I often wonder that about hotel programs as well, which seem to delight in telling loyalty program members how far away they are - and will always be - from an elite tier.) The other interesting thing here is that the hurdle seems to be based off of visit count, unless 'qualifying visits' are different than 'dine with us.' If true, this means that I could visit 10 times and buy a $0.50 bagel each time, with a total spend of $5.00, and earn a reward with a retail value far exceeding that - in the range of $7-$8. I might have to try it because, as Panera keeps reminding me, I still have time left in the month to achieve the required visits…

Posted by jkeenan on 03/26