If there’s an industry that thrives in the customer loyalty arena, it’s the boba tea industry. Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, is a Taiwanese drink known for its chewy tapioca balls and wide variety of tea flavors. The drink is especially popular amongst millennials, and even inspires Buzzfeed quizzes like “Are you addicted to Bubble Tea?,” due to its loyal fan following.
What’s their secret to gaining such avid fans? To discover just that, we interviewed a slew of our most successful Fivestars customers and boba businesses. Here, they share their knowledge for creating loyal fans and turning transactions into relationships.
1. Boba businesses embrace technology and tailor their loyalty program to their primary consumer base.
“Before, we used punch cards to collect points, but we really wanted to leverage new technology because our customers are so young. We currently target those in the 15-30 age range, all of whom actively use social media and are interested in what’s trendy.” – Sophia K., marketing manager at Super Cue Cafe.
“We’re constantly trying to find the right balance between acquisition and retention, especially because as a small business, we don’t have a lot of marketing funds. We use a digital loyalty program because we can obtain and utilize this technology data at a fairly low cost. ” – Tina P., partner at The Boba Truck.
“Originally we had stamp cards, but people would lose the cards, or get them stamped at the wrong stores. We switched to a digital loyalty program because it eliminated these problems, and because our customers thought it was new and cool.” – Paul L., manager at Lollicup Irvine.
“We decided to use a digital loyalty program to track our customers’ activities and make it easy for them to gain points. It’s important because it helps us keep our old customers, and understand how to encourage more people to sign up.” – Angel, manager at What8ver Express.
2. Boba Businesses think outside the box when it comes to rewards or program structure, and always keep their members informed.
“Instead of simply providing discounts, we created a VIP program for our customers and they love it. We’ve had people jump up and down, or even sing, when they reach VIP status. I think the experience of getting that reward itself adds value. In this sense, other businesses should think outside of the box when it comes to rewards. In the end, you should be creative with your program so that there’s a real value and benefit to your customer.” – Tina P., partner at The Boba Truck
“Our rewards are structured so that when you spend $40 total, you get a free drink (rather than offering rewards purely based on number visits). Sometimes they’ll spend a little more just to get the free drink on the spot. We also always tell people when they’re really close to their reward, and they get excited. ” – Paul L., manager at Lollicup Irvine.
3. Boba businesses monitor social media and Yelp to gain customer feedback.
“I personally reply to all of the comments on Yelp, whether positive or negative, because we want our current customers to know that we listen to their opinions.” – Sophia K., marketing manager at Super Cue Cafe.
4. Boba businesses know that a loyalty program only works to supplement a great product.
“We strive to provide a unique quality and service that differentiates The Boba Truck from a typical boba shop. At The Boba Truck, we offer over 100 boba tea flavors. Our drinks are customized and personal, not just advertised products.” – Tina P., partner at The Boba Truck.
“At the end of the day, we want every customer to leave happy, so they’ll spread the word about our business. We make this happen by prioritizing our quality of food and customer service. A lot of our competitors will pre-make the tea, but here at Super Cue, we only make the drink when the customer comes in. For us, this is the most important thing – to try to have the highest quality within the industry.” – Sophia K., marketing manager at Super Cue Cafe.
5. Boba businesses segment their audience base and send targeted messages.
“We don’t do traditional advertising anymore. Other businesses will post a lot of flyers around plazas or in newspapers, but we want a more targeted marketing approach by segmenting our existing customers. We want to proactively reach out to current and potential consumers classified into different groups.” – Sophia K., marketing manager at Super Cue Cafe.
6. Boba businesses take note of their customers’ preferences.
“What’s nice about this loyalty program is the ability to add notations to a customer profile so that when a customer has certain drink preferences, all employees will know about it.” – Tina P., partner at The Boba Truck.
7. Boba businesses prioritize loyalty program training and value employee-customer relationships.
“One of the biggest things we do as a store is train our staff. Any one of our employees could answer questions about our loyalty program because they all go through training and understand how the program works.” – Paul L., manager at Lollicup Irvine.
“Our employees are trained to be ambassadors, people who communicate well with our customers. During training, we teach our employees about the loyalty program so they naturally share even more knowledge with customers. Then, we engage with our employees to understand feedback from our customers.” – Sophia K., marketing manager at Super Cue Cafe.
“Our customers’ rapport with our Tearistas (staff) is the same someone might have with their local bartender or barista. Customers tell them about their day and endeavors, and when you reach this level of relationship, you realize, ‘wow,’ you’ve hit a milestone because that relationships holds a lot of value. That’s why we train our staff to understand and advertise the loyalty program rather than rely on flyers and collateral. Our staff members are expected to engage with every customer to create a more personalized experience.” -Tina P., partner at The Boba Truck.
As you can see, boba businesses who were once widely known for their “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” punch cards, have evolved and adapted their loyalty programs to keep customers coming back. By understanding more about their customers, efficiently training staff, sending targeted messages, working hard to building relationships, and providing a top-notch product, boba businesses put the “tea” into customer loyalty.
Have any tips of your own? Feel free the share! And check out how customer loyalty successfully works in the comic book community.