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Amidst the industry’s push for repeat transactions, Soul Origin wants to make a leap in customer loyalty to help drive future initiatives

Making a leap with loyalty will also help Soul Origin explore opportunities to get a bigger bite of “shoulder” dayparts, COO Adam Neill said.

Amidst the industry’s app-centered drive for repeat transactions, Soul Origin will make a “real push” around its loyalty program in the next six to twelve months, aiming to understand consumer data to help them make better decisions for the franchise business in the long-run.

“It's still very early days and we’re still learning. We already have a loyal customer community; we just don't know who they are or how loyal they are,” chief operating officer Adam Neill told QSR Media in a one-on-one interview. 

The first step for the brand, he says, is making sure those loyal customers get incentivized once identified. Secondly, is understanding purchasing trends, influencing buying habits and encouraging higher volume transactions.

“What we've looked at is the opportunity for us to drive our loyalty program to incentivize or entice our coffee customers into becoming coffee and food customers or even traditional coffee customers to come coffee and cold drink customers and also vice versa — our food customers to become cold drink customers or coffee customers,” he explained.

“We never really understood how many individual customers Soul Origin had…We never really had that data or that understanding without going to external research and really for us…those insights into our customer behaviors…will also help drive future initiatives in the business.”

The chain’s Soulmates loyalty program was launched in October 2019. “It wasn’t the absolute perfect timing,” Neill quipped. Whilst he doesn’t expect every paying customer to join the program, he’s counting on in-store engagement from its franchising network to encourage memberships.

“What we've seen is that the stores that either have the highest amount of percentage of loyalty transactions or the highest loyalty database are the ones that remind the customers about the loyalty program and what the value of the loyalty program is,” he said. “This is where we see the opportunity for our franchise partners and their teams.”

Over the last six months, a lot of Soul Origin’s stores are “working around the clock”, the executive said, resulting in asking customers about the programme inside stores being “forgotten” in some cases — a situation he hopes to change through the loyalty push.

Capturing “shoulder” dayparts 
Making a leap with loyalty will also Soul Origin explore opportunities to get a bigger bite of “shoulder” dayparts, such as morning and afternoon tea time.

Neill also wants to make sure they avoid overcommunicating with customers, such as sending EDMs to a customer who recently purchased coffee beans  with a similar offer.

The executive, who has been with the brand for nearly half a decade, confirmed plans to open up to 16 new stores by the end of the year, a majority of which will be their traditional format. The chain is also seeing an appetite from our existing franchise partners with their smaller “satellite” store model.

“What COVID has shown is that the strong brands and the strong businesses that survived throughout that period are going to [be] businesses that are about to flourish and have extremely positive results. I think it may have weeded out the poorer operators and the opportunities for the strong brands to continue to grow is certainly something that we're looking at, I think it's there for the taking.”

Retail range prices to go up, COVID-friendly catering eyed
Recommended retail price increases are something they will also push through with, he said, citing inflationary pressures around green coffee beans.

“As a retailer, we never want to lift prices. But obviously, you know, our matrix to ensure that we have profitable franchise partners and the only way to do that is to make sure there's an increase in price and ad costs that's going to be reflected in the increase of retail pricing. There is some value engineering going on with some of our products or opportunities that we're looking at as well. However, they're a little bit longer and we want to make sure that we test before we go to market,” he explained.

Its catering arm, meanwhile, is seeing comparative store sales rise by 200% since FY19.

“Now with corporates coming back to the offices, they want to be a little bit more COVID-friendly and be a little bit more cautious around how that food is served, which is one of the things that we're working on at the moment,” he said.

Neill also teased a cold drink range and adjustments to their breakfast range, the latter of which will happen towards the end of the year.

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