Inside Le Pain Quotidien’s digital strategy

Le Pain Quotidien is embarking on a digital makeover with a refurbished loyalty program featuring personalized rewards based on customer data, pre-ordering a la Starbucks and in-app payments.

The upgrades will go live at the company’s 96 U.S. stores by the end of the year, scaling to its global branches in 2019.

“We did an assessment of what we have today — while we have these [digital] components, what you have is a very disjointed experience for our guests,” said Massimo Mallozzi, global IT lead at Le Pain Quotidien. “We want to have a unified premium experience, regardless of channel.”

Le Pain Quotidien began to rethink its digital strategy last year; it had digital tools like a mobile app, online ordering and pre-ordering capabilities for years, but they lacked a unified front-end interface and they didn’t offer the company a 360-degree view of the customer from a data perspective. For example, though the loyalty platform had the capability to track purchases and spending activity, it couldn’t track the types of purchases customers were making. To rectify this, the company hired Austin-based digital agency T3 to improve the app experience and loyalty program, which allows it to include an in-app loyalty platform that will zero in on the types of purchases the customer is making. Based on that data, it will suggest products to customers and offer rewards that are relevant to the customer’s purchase behavior.

“For example, we may have offered you a beverage or pastry as a standard reward, but in the new program, we’ll know if you purchase coffee or pastries; if you don’t due to allergies or dietary restrictions, we’ll offer you something you have a tendency to purchase, and we’ll also be able to evolve our loyalty program to referring friends and gifting,” Mallozzi said.

A quick payment experience is also a core part of the digital upgrade. While customers can currently pay for purchases with the mobile app in stores, they need a staff member to finalize the transaction; the upgraded app will let customers bypass the checkout function by being able to see their checks in the app and settle up on the spot.

According to a recent report from consulting firm Technomic, Le Pain Quotidien’s global sales were valued at $367 million in 2017. Le Pain Quotidien is responding to a wave of competitors that have invested heavily in digital efforts. Major players like Starbucks, Panera and Dunkin Donuts have focused on mobile pre-ordering, loyalty programs other digital efforts; Mallozzi acknowledges Le Pain Quotidien is playing catch up. The challenge, for Le Pain Quotidien, is maintaining its distinctiveness  — “owning the experience” — yet adding digital features that are now seen as industry must-haves.

The company emphasizes that a loyalty program itself isn’t what makes customers loyal, it’s the personalization, ease of experience and choice that will ultimately keep customers coming back.

“Loyalty programs can change behavior but they don’t drive loyalty,” said T3 president Ben Gaddis. “It’s [about] a great experience in the restaurant. Let’s make it easy for people to order and tie that to a great experience in-store; if we create a loyalty program that’s flexible and uses the data to offer them relevant rewards, those will be the incentives to come back.”

Digital enhancements are expected offerings, but aren’t ultimately what will distinguish the brand when other fast-casual restaurants are adopting similar tools. Mallozzi said Le Pain Quotidien is considering how to maintain that differentation; for example, Le Pain Quotidien currently has tie-ups with third-party delivery companies, including GrubHub, but over the long-term, he said, outsourcing the experience to third parties may not necessarily be the best way to maintain control of it.

“The tech is a survival piece, but they’re going to have to stay true to their brand of what makes them successful — I look at them differently from Panera or Starbucks,” said digital marketing consultant Judge Graham. “They need to continue to stay true to their vision and their niche of loyal customers and do things that are unique.”

Subscribe to the Digiday Retail BriefingA weekly email with news, analysis and research covering the modernization of retail and e-commerce.

More in Marketing

Inside Linda Yaccarino’s first 12-months as X’s CEO

Her bustling week at Cannes Lions on the Côte d’Azur perfectly summed up her tenure so far at X: busy, flashy, but ultimately predictable and elaborate.

As Oracle’s ad business collapses, layoffs and uncertainty ripple through the industry

Whether it’s the privacy issues or its ad division’s poor state, Oracle’s chances of recouping much — if anything — on what it invested are slim. That’s the kind of mark in history CEOs try to avoid at all costs.