Chipotle's digital sales hit a record $2 billion so far this year — here's how its loyalty program led the company to success

Chipotle's digital sales have surpassed $2 billion by 2021.
The success of Chipotle's digital marketing team is attributed to the company's loyalty program and mobile app.

Up from 19.6% in 2019, digital sales now account for 48.5%.

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Chipotle has recorded a record $2B in digital sales this year. This is due to a fan loyalty program that has grown in popularity and now has 24 million members.

The fast-casual chain has more than 2,900 restaurants and is hoping to continue its success. Chipotle introduced new ways for rewards members to unlock additional points so they can get "free Chipotle quicker," Tressie Lieberman (Chipotle's vice-president of digital marketing and offsite), told Insider last week in a telephone interview.

This is a move by McDonald's, Taco Bell and Taco Bell to increase their rewards programs to build better relationships with customers who are now using delivery services such as Grubhub or DoorDash to get food.

After testing the new free-food-for points program for several months, McDonald's launched My McDonald's Rewards earlier this summer. After extensive testing, Burger King launched its Royal Perks loyalty program last week.

Chipotle's new app has more gamification features, such as customers being given challenges to earn more points. Customers can earn bonus points by adding guacamole or salsa to their orders. Customers can also earn badges from Chipotle to show that they are special. You can earn a badge to explore the menu, order Chipotle, or place an order. This includes mobile pickup, delivery, and ordering online.

Lieberman explained to Insider that it was a way to show you are a big fan of the brand.

It is important that customers become Chipotle members to increase their profitability.

Third-party delivery apps were a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic. However, many of them charge heavy delivery fees up to 30%. Some delivery apps don't share customer data with restaurants.

DoorDash, a third-party food delivery app, has taken over the digital restaurant marketplace. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The app has been an important tool for Chipotle to reclaim and increase their profits.

This loyalty program was launched in 2019 and offers customers a variety of ways to get free food, from free chips and guacamole to free entrees. Customers can also donate to a charity by ordering food via the app.

Chipotle's app also allows them to offer digital-only specials on food. The brand's Lifestyle Bowls are available only through its app or website. They cater to certain diets like Whole30 and keto. Chipotle's new quesadilla entree has been sold only online and on the app since recent years.

These online-only food deals are not available through third-party delivery apps such as DoorDash.

Lieberman stated, "It's an opportunity we can establish a relationship that keeps digital sales flowing." "When people are able to get into digital channels, they not only spend more but also come back more often."

Before the pandemic, digital sales made up 19.6% of Chipotle’s total sales. According to the chain's most recent quarterly report, this number has risen to 48.5%.