In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Kevin Santos, Australia

Ice cream chains double down on digital experiences, variety to regain momentum

Baskin-Robbins, Wendy’s Milk Bar and Gelatissimo talk to QSR Media about their latest thoughts about the frozen dessert space.

Ice cream chains are doubling down on product development, delivery and social media campaigns this year to continually engage consumers to regain momentum lost due to pandemic-induced challenges.

Baskin-Robbins, for example, is rolling out its Flavour Slam summer campaign that challenges fans to invent a new flavour combination in a bid to win free ice cream for life.

“The campaign centres around an interactive digital experience in which fans mix and match any of Baskin-Robbins’ 31 ice cream flavours to create their own,” Julian Casa, the hard scoop chain’s national marketing manager, explained to QSR Media.

The concept also takes inspiration from its new global brand repositioning strategy, which “encourages people to discover the joy of life lived flavourfully.”

Gelatissimo, currently promoting their Valentine’s campaign that allows customers the opportunity to win a diamond ring valued at $4,000, stressed choice as a key consumer trend.

“Consumers are continually looking for more choices, whether it be low sugar, vegan, made without dairy or even just a unique flavour profile. We’re excited to continue developing our flavour range to reflect this,” chief executive officer Filipe Barbosa said.

Wendy’s Milk Bar QLD regional manager Karen Bourke said its brand currently has 28 flavours and refreshes the range regularly. “We have recently developed Vegan Fruit Sorbets and Coconut Milk Ice Cream that we utilise in a range of Smoothies,” she added.

Elevating both in-store and off-premise experiences
As restrictions vary across the country, brands are seeking ways to find a balance in elevating both their in-store and off-premise experience - mainly delivery.

In 2020, Baskin-Robbins introduced its Studio 31 online learning platform for staff, serving as a means to raise operational standards and training capabilities for franchise partners.

“The brand’s focus has been to increase connection and community within our store network and frontline teams to ensure our people deliver the best possible experience in-store,” Casa said.

Delivery, Casa said, witnessed incredible growth both pre- and post-COVID and now represents over 25% of its network sales.

Barbosa said delivery is also a “big focus” for them, adding Gelatissimo has remained agile to consumer needs as the COVID situation evolves.

“This has involved communicating our COVID plan to our database and in-store,” he said.

Similar to other chains, Bourke said Wendy’s Milk Bar’s home delivery partnerships and milk truck - both of which are as recent as 2019, proved to be “popular” with their customer base.

Social media remains a key tool for the brands, which they are leveraging alongside their respective loyalty programmes or apps.

“When it comes to engaging with ice cream fanatics, the brand has continued to invest heavily in campaigns that deliver immersive digital experiences and leverage the power of social media to reach and engage consumers fascinated with new flavour creations and leading dessert trends,” Casa said.

“Our Wendy’s Milk Bar Insider Club membership continues to grow with great rewards on offer and we have an increased focus on Social Media platforms to engage with our customers,” Bourke said.

Expansion, meanwhile, is on Barbosa’s mind, confirming plans to open Gelatissimo stores domestically and in the United States. The chain also teased “Gelato with Benefits”, with details to be announced soon.

“We see that opportunity exists in what has been a volatile retail market,” he said.

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