A few days ago I downloaded the Happy Star Rewards Program app launched earlier this year by Carl’s Jr/ Hardee’s. As mobile apps for the fast food industry go, this one is pretty cool. Like Foursquare, it is a location based concept that has a ‘check-in’ feature. Unlike Foursquare, you have to actually be in the restaurant (or pretty close) for the check in feature to work. The graphics are great, with the downside that the app takes a while to load.
The way it works is you get to spin the wheel on your first check in, then every fourth check in thereafter (so visits 5, 9, 13, etc.). After my check in I was taken to the ‘Wheel of Awesome.’ Modeled after the Wheel of Fortune (including the beeping audio), the user gets to spin the virtual wheel on the screen of their Iphone or Android app.
I have to admit, it’s pretty fun. I won a free coffee, which was a good thing because I had just eaten lunch and don’t know what I would have done with a burger. As it turns out, you aren’t likely to win many burgers anyhow. Looking at the sample wheel, the offers are primarily discounts and a few free promotional items. After this first check in, I had 30 minutes to redeem the free coffee. This is one of the slick features that prevent a person from ‘gaming’ the system. Additionally, you can only ‘check in’ once per meal window. Rewards given after the 5th , 9th , visits etc. have a one week expiration date. All of these are conveniently stored in the app.
To redeem, I had to show the clerk my phone, which provided her with the correct discount code when ringing up the order. So, there is no real ‘integration’ between the application and the POS. While I was there, I asked the store manager what percentage of the clients are using the application and she guessed about 2%.
To get more traction, I recommend that they allow the customer to spin the wheel on EVERY visit. This will create more consumer engagement. Every fourth visit is confusing, and probably not frequent enough given the value of the average reward. To mitigate the risk of giving away margin with any single visit, the items in the wheel can be calibrated to protect the house. Kinda like those two green squares on the roulette wheel. In my opinion, asking the consumer fumble with their phone to launch the app and check in on four consecutive visits, all so they can spin the wheel and maybe get a free fries with their burger is asking too much.
The other weakness from my perspective is the lack of integration with the POS. As a result, they won’t learn much about a consumers sku preferences. Still, they can monitor the frequency of check ins to extrapolate a customers average visit frequency. If the average customer takes more than a month to manifest the reward, then it might be time to tweak the formula. What might also be cool is to have an ‘aspirational’ model that has a premium version of the app (read: better prizes on the wheel) that is offered to the best customers.
All in all, I like this entry into the loyalty space. It’s fun, and self contained. You don’t need to carry an extra card. Other features include a store locator, and a menu directory complete with pictures and calorie counts for each item. It will be interesting to see how engagement in the program grows as smart phones gain wider acceptance, and how Carl’s Jr. will change the application in response.