#312: "KFC Rewards Arcade" - A Fun-Based Loyalty Strategy for Diners in the UK & Ireland

Today we discuss the launch of a brand-new high-profile loyalty program in the UK and Ireland, in the quick-service restaurant sector.

Kentucky Fried Chicken operates over 20,000 restaurants in 135 countries, so given their global brand, we were super excited to meet Ruby Huang, the CRM & Loyalty Lead at KFC UK & Ireland, to share their new program and its incredible early results.

As this new programme uses gamification as its core mechanic, it is called the “Rewards Arcade” – a name which plays on the history of arcade games in the UK and allows KFC a way to celebrate the fun factor and their vision for engaging with their diners with a fabulous range of games over time.

Show Notes:

1) Kentucky Fried Chicken

2) Rewards Arcade

3) Ruby Huang – CRM & Loyalty Lead at KFC UK & Ireland

4) KFC gamifies loyalty with Rewards Arcade scheme

5) Digital Driving Growth in KFC China – By Paula Thomas

6) Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition: Book

7) Feedback Link

Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This episode is sponsored by Epsilon. Today I’m delighted to announce a unique opportunity for one lucky listener of Let’s Talk Loyalty, to enjoy a complimentary workshop with the loyalty experts at Epsilon. One brand every month will have the chance for a unique, independent loyalty lab, a review of your loyalty program, where Epsilon would share their expert ideas, how to drive your program’s performance to a whole new level. This workshop is a powerful way for you to measure and then increase the return on your investment in your loyalty program. So, to apply, head over to Letstalkloyalty.com/epsilon and enter your details.

Hello and welcome to episode 312 of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Which shares and celebrates the launch of a brand new, high-profile loyalty program in the UK and Ireland. The program has been developed by KFC and no matter where you are today in the world with its 20,000 restaurants in 135 countries, I’m sure you know how famous Kentucky Fried Chicken is for its quick service restaurants.

The new program designed for the UK and Ireland market is gamification based. And to celebrate the fun factor and their vision for engaging with their diners over a fabulous range of games over time. It has been called the KFC Rewards Arcade. Joining me to share the story of the rewards arcade is Ruby Huang, who is the CRM and loyalty lead at KFC UK and Ireland.

I’m also particularly excited with today’s episode as we are officially launching a new community feature to allow you to comment, compliment, feedback, or even ask questions to me, to Ruby or to each other. Simply go to the show notes of this episode anywhere you are listening, and you will see a simple feedback link. By clicking that link, you can add a text comment or even a voice note on the episode, and you can be guaranteed I’ll be reading and listening to every single one. You won’t need to download an app or register, and you will have the option whether to add your name or stay anonymous. So, with all of that introduction, I really hope you love listening to this episode as much as I loved chatting with Ruby. And I really hope you’ll join the conversation and give us both your feedback in the Let’s Talk Loyalty show notes.

Paula: So Ruby Huang, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Ruby: Thank you very much, Paula, for having me. Very excited to be here. 

Paula: I know you’re a loyal listener, Ruby, so I’m super excited to have a loyal listener as a guest again on the. 

Ruby: Always nice to be here. I, yeah, always be on the other end of the, the podcast. So yeah, nice to be the one who in charge of talking as well.

Paula: For sure, and, and what an incredible topic. Ruby, you have an incredible background and career. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through it today, and particularly we’re here to talk about the KFC Rewards Arcade. So big news in your world and in the world of KFC, uh, KFC, pardon me, both in Ireland and the UK.

So, before we get into talking about your new program, as you know, I always love to ask my guests exactly what is their favourite loyalty program. So, I’m intrigued, I think you have an unusual answer for me on this question. So, let’s kick it off. What is your favourite loyalty program Ruby? 

Ruby: I, I think I’m gonna go totally biased and say it’s a KFC loyalty in UK and Ireland.

You know, after spending 18 months, uh, hard and sweat into the program, it’s, uh, yeah, without doubt it’s my favourite. But, uh, appreciate this is very biased answer. Um, but to be honest, I, I, I do, you know, following multiple different loyalty program, they are a couple of a programs I really enjoy. Okay. Uh, for example, um, uh, America Express is actually one program I really like. I love the, the breadth of the, uh, rewards they have for the users and also the exclusivity, like early access to tickets, et cetera. Um, I just found as a, you know, financial service brand, they can actually deliver so many different ways to engage customers, quite fascinating. 

Paula: And you’re definitely not the first guest, Ruby, to say American Express. Um, I feel like it’s a very mature program. Um, it’s not one I’m a member of personally, I’ll be honest. But, um, I think, you know, again, I, I, I guess it varies very much by market and, and that’s inevitable with loyalty programs. But the brand is so strong and, and what I feel like is that they have a genuine commitment to demonstrating loyalty to their customers. So, you know, that seems to be what, uh, what comes through in terms of what you’re experienced. 

Ruby: Yeah, totally agree. And I, I always wonder, you know, for the financial service brand, you have a such wide range of customer, uh, customer base as well, and different customer always have a different behaviour and preferences, et cetera. I think you know that the fact have the rewards from the knowledge for, for BA for flight tickets to football tickets to concerts, it’s kind of a very cleverly covered different needs. Uh, segmenting the customer base into too, uh, too many different, you know, complicated ways. So I do find they really find a sweet spot to kind of manage the complexity, but also show the generosity to customers.

Paula: Yeah, yeah. That, that, they’re lovely words actually. You’re right. So, showing generosity is something that people are very attuned to and obviously get very excited about. And I think you’re right, like leveraging passion points in, you know, in areas of people’s lives that they really feel excited about. I think it’s, it’s a good strategy. I think it’s probably an expensive strategy, having seen some programs being developed along that way. But again, if they’re going to be generous back to the customer, it’s obviously delivering the benefits they need, huh? 

Ruby: Yeah, totally agree. 

Paula: Amazing. 

Ruby: So it’s, uh, it working for me so far.

Paula: Okay. Well we got to get Amex on the, on the show at some point, so thank you for that. That’s great, and we’ll forgive you for mentioning your own program as well, because obviously it’s brand new, so very exciting. 

Ruby: Thank you. 

Paula: Great. So, listen, before we get into the KFC story, Ruby, um, I looked back at your LinkedIn profile and what I love is that you’ve come from a very different area of marketing in the FMCG space, which, you know, fast moving consumer goods, I think for me is probably the best training ground for any marketeer and it, it’s amazing. I think you went in on an internship program, but I’d love you to talk me through, um, your work in, in that kind of space in FMCG and then why you moved out of it, given that it is such a good marketing career and then ended up obviously moving into the loyalty side. So, tell us a bit about that background.

Ruby: Yeah, uh, great question. I, I was actually thinking about that. I, I think earlier this week, can’t remember for whatever reason. Um, I, yeah, so my, uh, I, I studied marketing and, uh, marketing research methodology as my, my major in university actually. So, uh, kind of a, since university, I’m just really hooked by the creativity in advertising, marketing, innovation. So I, I was pretty sure even back in the, you know, junior, so, uh, sophomore year in uni that I want to do marketing. Um, and obviously know when you graduate, you spread out your resume all over the places. Uh, I was very lucky to be part of the, uh, it’s called, uh, Future Leadership Program with Unilever. Um, I mean, I think as a marketer you just, you won’t say no to Unilever at all, I think.

Paula: Wow, yeah. Amazing. Congratulations. That’s incredible.  

Ruby: Thank you. Thank you. I, I really, I do deem myself very lucky in that case. Um, and, uh, Paula, just like you said, you know, it’s such a great training ground. The, you know, marketing in Unilever is very much good. Um, they have the, the clear process, you know, uh, clear template for, for loads of things. Uh, and you are surrounded by really, uh, clever data driven, uh, creative people around you. I, I just feel, I, I think I felt like sponge and literally learning for, for two, three years. Um, then, uh, from Unilever, I move on to Danone So I was working on the baby food, uh, baby food category.

Um, that’s actually the first time I, I was exposed to the CRM program cause um, for the early life nutrition as part of the Danone business, they also do the CRM program with, uh, you know, parents all the way to, you know, their kids, around one year old, two years old, et cetera. Um, I think that was a time I just realized, you know, loyalty, CRM is just a fascinating territory.

You can be really, really targeted towards the life stage of customer and tailor your communication to their behaviour, and you can actually measure the actual results. And on back of that. Um, I think one, uh, on the back of that, you know, one of a challenge I feel as a more traditional marketer, when you do a TV advertising, it’s really difficult to measure the actual results. I, I think, um, that has been the, the challenge for me to be in the kind of a marketer. So, uh, everything that I sort of move away to the retail, QSR, uh, industry, then moving into the loyalty CRM properly. 

Paula: Okay. Okay. And, and the key words that I’m hearing coming through there. Um, first of all, measurement. So, I would share that Ruby, um, in terms of a passion point, and I’ve often said on this show I do not know how, you know, the brand marketeers who are spending the money on TV and outdoor.

I don’t know how they sleep at night because I would be so worried about how to justify the spend, and I’m sure they’re all very happy and finding ways clearly to do that. But I love loyalty, the fact that we do have these measurements, the fact that we can drive profitable behaviour change, and I mean, clearly, clearly you landed in an incredible role as the global digital and loyalty manager for Costa Coffee.

So, I’m nearly surprised you didn’t say that’s your favourite loyalty program. And I know you left it now, uh, what was it, nearly two years ago. But any, any kind of uh, thoughts about Costa Coffee in terms of its journey with loyalty? 

Ruby: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, uh, Costa actually, uh, just provide again, so, so many training and, you know, skill sets for me. Uh, when I enter the CRM loyalty territory. Um, cause uh, um, for, for, uh, for a Costa Coffee, again, the program is much more mature. And we have the pretty, pretty decent size of the team managing the loyalty program, tracking the performance, running all the test learn, pro, uh, process and communication, the whole suite. Um, it was a bit of a mind-blowing process for me and sometimes, you know, we, we do, um, uh, promotion testing. Then two weeks after we can literally see the incrementality, incremental sales. I was like, this is bonkers, so this is where I feel I belong to. Um, you can probably tell I’m bit with data nerd myself. So yeah, just really seeing the activation, the, the idea you have really impact customer behaviour and bring positive impact to the business. Um, that’s a part I just feel is so rewarding. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And then what tempted you with KFC? Why did you choose that role as your next one? 

Ruby: Yeah, I think it was a really kind of a opportunity present it, uh, itself, to be honest. And, uh, I, I was actually approached by, uh, a recruiting agency team and they said, you know, KFC has this big ambition to modernize the brand image. And obviously, you know, one key element for the growth is around the, the app overall, and also app experience linking to loyalty and CRM communication. Um, so yeah, so I, I kick off the conversation with, uh, KFC team. I, I think I had like seven different interviews. It was, uh, it was intense. Yeah, so, uh, uh, yeah, KFC’s a truly amazing brand. You know, there are lots of, uh, smart people, um, but the culture fit is a really important for the brand as well. So, uh, I had loads of conversation with, uh, I remember I had conversation with a CTO back that time, with my CMO. Um, so everyone just really want to make sure, you know, since we’re going to work very closely for next couple of years, let’s make sure you are the right culture fit for us and, you know, you are clever enough to steer the, to the right direction as well. So, uh, um, so yeah, it’s a bit of a opportunity present itself and I, I just found this a great challenge for me. 

Paula: Amazing. Well, fair play to you. Seven interviews. That’s a pretty intense process, and again, in a very competitive market. So, to, to win that position with KFC and, and, and an extraordinary brand, because I think I said to you before we came on air Ruby, I, you know, I didn’t realize how impressive KFC was until I wrote an article myself about KFC in China about four years ago, and I still think it’s my favourite article and my favourite case study ever.

Um, and you mentioned a couple things, which all remind me of that article, and I’ll make sure to link to that in the show notes. But one was the fact that they needed to modernize the brand. So clearly the same kind of pain point that the UK market was, was suffering with, but they were very honest. I thought it was hilarious, they described themselves as feeling like a middle-aged man in a grey suit. That was the, the brand perception in the Chinese market. I thought that was hilarious. And, and then they, they built this extraordinary award winning, and I mean, Cannes Lions award winning program? It, it’s the Oscars of loyalty, pardon me. The Oscars of marketing. So, for KFC in China to achieve something so impressive, um, I can completely see why you would be taken with their ambition, um, with their honesty and the opportunity to reinvent something. 

Ruby: Yeah, I totally agree. I, I think, you know, the, the transparency is one thing I really enjoy as well. I, I, I remember during my interview, um, the, the CMO and CTO said, uh, you know, we, we’re the brand really want to fast forward when it comes to digital modernization, but we do realize, you know, we have a gap to fill as well. That’s why we are looking for people with experience in this territory. I was like, well, thank you so much for letting me know all the challenges in front of me before I sign a contract. But everyone’s very encouraging, you know, as a such a big brand, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit going on as well. People really just roll up sleeves and let’s get things done and let’s give a try. So, uh, um, I mean, sometimes it’s a very fast paced and they’re quite tiring as well, but, uh, uh, very energizing at the same time. 

Paula: Yeah. And you seem to have a lot of autonomy, Ruby, you know, to, you know, to take your central guidelines. But as I saw in China, develop something very much, you know, you know, appropriate for that market. And you’ve had that full creative control as well, haven’t you, in the UK and Ireland market.

Ruby: Uh, yeah. So pretty much, uh, so we, we, we do have a, you know, the, the global, global world. We have a central global team. They, they have the creative guideline, they have a guideline on how we develop different eCommerce channel loyalty program, et cetera, et cetera. But you know, in the end, the food business is such a local, uh, business as well. Um, the, the innovation program working in China probably won’t work in the Uk. That’s just a, that’s just a fact. 

Paula: Totally. 

Ruby: So, I think, yeah, as a brand we are very, very pragmatic, very, you know, focused on customers experience as well. Um, we want to do things, that customer will resonate, uh, relevant for customers, then in the end they will come back to you.

I think that’s a kind of a human truth. Um, so yeah, as a brand we really, you know, use the, the local insights. Um, as part of the, the loyalty, the KFC Rewards Arcade development. Uh, we did around five, six round of customer research just to make sure everything we do is resonating with customers in the UK and Ireland. Um, so yeah, definitely loads of kind of, uh, control of our own destiny in a sense. 

Paula: Amazing. And where was KFC in terms of loyalty? Because I know there was a pre-existing program, Ruby. So, you know, when they brought you in after the seven interviews, did they already have an idea that they needed something new or were they literally looking to evolve it? Or what was the opportunity or the, the pain points they were looking to address with, with recruiting your expertise. 

Ruby: Yeah, fair, fair. So, um, so in, uh, so before I joined, there was a, uh, there was a quite small team. I think it was like two people managing the entire loyalty and CRM. Uh, so, uh, yeah, I, I think business already saw, um, so previously KFC’s using the, the stamps collection programs, it’s quite standard, traditional way. Um, and the business already see there’s a performance challenge. Uh, we have data to back up to show you. The majority of app customers just simply forget to scan the app when they’re purchasing, which means that we’re not really kind of a record any of the transaction and they won’t be get rewarded either.

Um, so we, we see the, the challenging customers perception of loyalty as well. Customer, like why do we even bother to use it? We don’t come to KFC often enough to collect rewards at all. So, uh, all of this research, uh, existed before I joined. So, um, It was a, it was quite interesting personal journey for me actually, cause uh, moving from Costa Coffee, uh, I’m wholeheartedly believing in points collection and stamps collection. Um, so for me I was like, why this working other company not work for KFC? Um, but again, it’s really kind of looking into the customer behaviour. The, the nature of KFC is that customer visit KFC, you know, just not frequent enough to, to collecting enough points. That’s really the fundamental challenge we have. Um, yes. Sorry, I, I realize I’m rambling on. 

Paula: No, I, I love it. 

Ruby: KFC realize there’s a challenge that bring me on. I think the task for me is really looking for the new program that replaced the stamps collection. 

Paula: And, and that’s an important distinction actually, because when you said that there was a stamps, uh, based mechanic, I was assuming it was again, like the very old fashioned paper stamps, which again, I know Costa, you know, started with many years previously. But it sounds like KFC had already done the digital stamps so, so that was there. So, the, the potential for capturing the data had already been, you know, in theory fixed. But the problem was, you know, as you said, people weren’t remembering to use it. It obviously wasn’t compelling enough to them to be motivated to remember.

Ruby: Yeah, that’s absolutely spot on. Uh, I think KFC, I, uh, I think the KFC launched the, the plastic card, uh, back in 2000, oh God, I, I should have known the answer, I think 2015, 16. Then, um, the brand digitized the loyalty program and moved everything onto the app in 2017. Um, yeah, you are absolutely right. The, the tool is there. Um, customer, as long as they scan the QR code, they will be able to collecting stamps. But for customers, really, you know, there’s a perception barrier. Why should I use that if I don’t see the value as a result of my action. 

Paula: Okay. Okay. So, as you said, they weren’t coming often enough to, to enjoy the rewards, so there was no opportunity to close the loop, so, so why bother? Yeah. 

Ruby: Correct yeah.

Paula: Yeah. It’s exactly actually what a guest was saying to me yesterday, Ruby, where, you know, in the past the behaviour, and this probably is, you know, a long-time behaviour where, you know, a lot of people in, in a lot of countries would be comfortable signing up to a loyalty program knowing that they would get something in return. But it seems like certainly, you know, coming out of the pandemic, that people are more demanding of the visibility of the reason to join the campaign. So, or the program, you know, they’re not just, you know, happy to accept that there is, you know, some benefits further down the track. They wanna see the reward, they wanna know it’s coming, so expectations are just getting higher all the time.

Ruby: Yeah totally agree. I, I think, you know, the, I, I guess, um, lots of, uh, you know, aggregator, the delivery platform, uh, the tech, technology company, they, they deliver such a great customer experience. Uh, I think that definitely kind of drive-up customers expectation. And also, I think just the reality, you know, there are so many different brands fighting for customers attention as well. Um, I think even, you know, for me, there are so many choices for you to choose from to get a dinner? KFC may not be the top of my mind, so, uh, uh, I think just really standing from customer behaviour, asking them, coming back to brand like 12, 15 times a year, um, from the QSR perspective is quite demanding. So, I agree with you. 

Paula: Yeah. And you landed on a gamification campaign, uh, or mechanic is probably the best term. So, I’ll be excited to get into hearing all about the rewards arcade. But just before you explain that for the audience, Ruby, did you look at a variety of different mechanics? You mentioned research, for example, was that, you know, did you have a firm belief in gamification and then look at different types of games or did you look at, you know, points for example, you know, instead of stamps because there are lots of different mechanics available with a brand like yours.

Ruby: Yeah totally. It’s, uh, um, it’s such a great question, Paula, and I, you know, I, I I would never say, you know, gamification is right for every brand or, you know, uh, points are right for every brand. It’s really around finding, um, a mechanic that, that is suitable for the customer behaviour in that specific industry, and also aligned with the overall brand personality as well.

So, uh, when we, uh, when we started customer research, we, we didn’t set up, uh, set, actually set up any specific mechanic. We, um, we, we tested points collection. We tested tiered membership. Um, I think at one point we play around with the kind of a subscription, the paid model, which, yeah, it was just tanked by the way. 

Paula: It doesn’t feel right for KFC

Ruby: Yeah, no, it doesn’t feel right for KFC at all. Yeah, um, and also, we, we actually didn’t test gamification specifically, but we test instant win mechanic. So that’s a, that was a really interesting one came out, um, cause um, I guess also within QSR customer are pretty familiar with the instant win mechanic, um, although there’s no brand doing instant win as a permanent loyalty program, but there’s lots of activation campaign around spinning the wheel et cetera.

So, customer really familiar with that idea. Um, and also again, back to the, you know, customer behaviour point around if they only coming in, let’s say twice a year, they want to have a chance to win something after every single transaction instead of waiting for three years to collecting enough points. Um, so that’s why this kind of instant winning mechanic, you know, having some gratification right away, the concept resonates with a KFC customer really well. So, um, so that’s how we landed on the instant win mechanic as a kind of a core mechanic for KFC Rewards Arcade. 

Paula: Cool. And, uh, from a terminology perspective as well, I know you’ve positioned it as quite retro. It feels like, you know, um, a very familiar concept. I mean, I come from Ireland, I’m not sure if you know, but to me, you know, um, gaming arcades we’re, we’re, we’re in every kind of, you know, sizeable town throughout, um, you know, throughout the country. So, it sounds like that was part of the inspiration in terms of how you positioned the overall program.

Ruby: It is, uh, it absolutely is the inspiration. So, I, I think the, the reason why we landed on the arcade is, uh, uh, one, I think kind of linking back to this, uh, broader brand personality perspective, cause uh, KFC is such, you know, fun, vibrant, colourful brand. Um, that’s also another thing, you know, through the stamps points collection customer just feel like, you know, you are such a fun brand. Why do you do such a, you know, rigorous points, collection process? 

Paula: Totally. 

Ruby: So that’s kind of a push out thing to the more really engaging gamification territory. Um, and also, we, you know, we know that that customer nowadays get bored really easily. Um, so we want to, you know, instead of building one mechanic then kind of a job done.  We definitely need to involve the, the loyalty program on ongoing basis. So, for us, arcade give us the kind of a communication platform so we can introduce a new gamification into the, into the, into the loyalty program. We can bring some, you know, different features onto the app, customer can play with and engaging with other users.

So, I think that’s really kind of the longer aspiration we have for the, uh, for the arcade as well. Um, I think, I guess probably one thing came to my mind, I think you were really spot on around this famil-, familiarity around concept. Um, I, I guess because we are already doing, we’re bringing loads of, in, uh, innovation into the loyalty territory, so we don’t want to alienate customer too much either.

So, uh, it’s a new mechanic, but we want to use some familiar concept. So customer, you know, when they see the hammers, they know they need to choose one to hit the hit the drum, so. 

Paula: Got it. 

Ruby: I think kind of a really make it intuitive for customers is important for us as well.

Paula: Yeah, very good point, Ruby. I, I really like that because I think what a lot of us do when we’re developing our propositions is it can end up being very complex.

You know, by the time, you know, there’s a lot of ambition and you mentioned tier and you mentioned subscription, and you mentioned points, and sometimes there’s, there’s multiple different mechanics in a program and all of a sudden, the consumer ends up going, oh, my word, what do I do here? So, yeah, I really like that simple approach.

Ruby: Oh, thank you. We, yeah, we definitely learned the lesson. So we, um, actually when we landed on the instant win, uh, win mechanic, uh, we came up a different concept, different creative concept, uh, and we put it in front of customers. So, um, exactly like you said, you know, marketers tend to be smart, right? So we, we have the core instant win mechanic, and you can also collecting something else. You have the badges, you have this, and that. And the customer were literally, the faces were frozen. You know, core research, I was behind the screen. I would say, oh no, this is not going great, isn’t it? So, uh, yeah, we literally just strip away, uh, that creative and went back to the drawing room from the, from the beginning and redesigned Arcade, which resonated really well with customer. So yeah, we learned our lessons. 

Paula: Don’t be too smart. Well, absolutely, but also learn the lesson in a tested environment. You know, like, you know, make sure to take that extra, you know, time consuming step rather than going to market with something, which again, feels smart, feels clever, but you know, customers don’t wanna have to think too hard sometimes when they’re, they’re gonna engage with me.

Ruby: Yeah, totally agree. 

Paula: I, I’ve often mentioned my favourite book title as well, Ruby, on the show, nothing to do with Loyalty, but it’s called, Don’t Make Me Think. And I thought it was genius, you know, I’m like, that’s exactly what I want. I’m like cognitively overloaded for the rest of my life. You know, when I go to have a nice, you know, treat in KFC, I don’t wanna be really overthinking it. So I, it sounds like you got exactly the same, uh, insight.  

Ruby: Yeah, that, yeah, that’s, I’ll check out that book. That sounds like really fascinating and great idea as well. Just, um, you know, everyone is super busy nowadays as well. Yeah. Uh, if we can make things easier for customers, more intuitive, I think. Customer will appreciate that as well

Paula: Totally. And just so I understand as well, Ruby, um, and I’m guessing this now, but did you already have, uh, a KFC app, um, in the UK market with, you know, I suppose an existing user base, perhaps some payment functionality? Like was there, was there already some digital transformation work that had been done before the Rewards Arcade?

Ruby: Yeah, yeah, we do, we do. So, um, uh, so, so, um, I think KFC app was launched back in 2017. So, during that time it was pretty much a loyalty app, so a customer can, you know, collecting stamps and that’s it. And I think back in 2019, 20, uh, KFC actually launched the, the, the mobile ordering function. So, customer order on the app, then they can collect, uh, in restaurant, uh, which proofed so helpful during the COVID time when there’s no human contact whatsoever. Um, so yeah, so, and, and KFC recently, we are actually trial the own channel delivery as well, so customer can order on KFC app, and we deliver to their doorstep. So it’s um, uh, it’s a beautiful kind of all-purpose app with the e-commerce channel and the loyalty value offers on it as well.

Paula: Well, again, I actually think that’s the only time that I’m sufficiently motivated by a brand, if there is that kind of multiple functionality, because I don’t want to download another loyalty app or another Messenger app or another anything app. 

Ruby: Yeah, totally agree, yeah, yeah. 

Paula: Yeah. I had a good experience here in Dubai the other day actually, which was, um, I was in a, a retail store, fashion store. Um, Tommy Hilfiger, I’ll, I’ll actually mention it because it was so good. And when I bought something, they literally said, can we send you your receipt by, by SMS? Now, you know, SMS is fine, but actually most people in Dubai will use WhatsApp as the, the default. But they sent an SMS and obviously now they’ve got my data. I have a digital receipt, and I’m guessing I’ll be, you know, in the, in the life cycle then for, you know, getting enrolled and, and engaging in their loyalty program. So, but they didn’t ask me to download an app in order to get my receipt or my points or anything else. So, um, yeah, so, so I think you’re right.

Um, and, and a great, uh, I suppose asset for you to build, um, especially something quite new and exciting. But to have customers that at least, you know, are already digitally engaged with the brand, and just need, I guess, a bit of education and inspiration along the way. 

Ruby: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Um, I, I just want to back on the, the Tommy Hilfiger example you share. It is really clever, isn’t it? So sometimes, um, especially, you know, for those who are working in digital, uh, e-commerce, et cetera, we also always feel the customer journeys. They download the app, then we can engage with them. But in that case, this is such a clever way to bridge the gap between the physical restaurant and digital.

Customer don’t have to download the app all the time. Especially, you know, I probably go to the retail fashion like now once a year or pretty much. I just don’t need another app for that. But if still, uh, if the shop can somehow having some data for communication as extra, I think that’s, you know, good enough for the brand as well.

Paula: Exactly, and it takes the friction away from making it, you know, a problem for the customer. You know, instead making it a benefit for the customer going, let me send you your digital receipt. So, I think there’s a sustainability benefit. I think there’s a simplicity benefit. So yeah, I was just like going, that was cool. Even though I don’t really need an SMS in my life, I actually admire. And it’s funny because, you know, I think we’re all very judgemental as loyalty professionals, but I go to the same supermarket here, you know, pretty much three times a week just when I’m passing by and they always ask, have you got our loyalty app? And I go, no. And then they say, okay, how do, how would you like to pay? And it’s the end of the conversation. I’m just like, I’m like, someday somebody should be enthusiastic about saying, okay, you really need to get this application cause they know me now. You know? So, it’s super funny. Anyway, yeah, we’re getting off track.

Ruby: No, I enjoy the conversation and yes, I am judgemental as well when it comes to loyalty experience. 

Paula: Right. We have to, we have to. So, listen back to the Rewards Arcade. Um, I liked that you mentioned, I think at the very beginning as well, actually, the idea of creativity in marketing is one of the things that you love.

And it sounds like this rewards arcade is giving you. Enough room for creativity to keep it simple, but switch it up from time to time with different games, you know, throughout the, whether it’s the life cycle or how are you thinking about the frequency of the content changing Ruby? 

Ruby: Uh, oh, well, if I have the kind of a bottom list budget and also the tech support, uh, I want to, I probably want to change kind of every quarter. So, uh, that’s kind of a bit of a around average, uh, transaction frequency for KFC customers. So I, um, QSR customers, I, I probably imagine that would be the, my, my frequency, preferred frequency. Um, but obviously, you know, we, um, working in the brand, we also need to balance out the, the practicality as well. Um, but we are definitely working on the, the second game already. Uh, um, cause you know, again, just listen, we, we recently did another piece of customer research. Um, customer was saying yeah, yeah, it’s fascinating, really engaging et cetera. Um, but you know, this is arcade, we want to see more games. Which is really fair and that’s our aspiration as well. So yeah, it’s definitely on the way we have a new game.

Paula: Great, great. And your watch, you launched July 2022. We are now November, so what’s that, four months in market so far? 

Ruby: Pretty much, yeah. 

Paula: Yes. And how has it been received? 

Ruby: Uh, it’s been, uh, performing really well. Um, I, yeah, I, I genuinely, sorry for my, my kind of silly grin on my face, so I, I, I just cannot be happier about the results. Uh, we are pretty much, uh, smashing all the KPI we set for ourselves. Uh, we see the, the transaction has been increasing, um, and we see the, the number of downloads and when it comes to customer engagement, it’s, uh, much higher than the previous stamps, uh, program as well. Um, and I, I mean, it is a quite early stage, but we are looking into the customer transaction frequency, which is really key, key measurement for me. Um, we actually see the frequency is improving as well, so it’s really, see we are driving the extra visit. Into, into our restaurant as well. Um, I guess apart from that, it’s just really nice to see, you know, customer feedback. Do the quantum research around, you know, how engaging they found it is, uh, and how easy they found it is to, to play the game, to understand the game, um, you know, customer experience is so important when it comes to the digital products and also for the brand as well. Um, so yeah, it’s really nice to see the, the jump from the customer experience perspective. 

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. And I think, you know, with all of that success, you know, first of all, internal management of course will need to see that in order to validate the investment. I’ve seen that you are hiring actually a bigger team as well. Um, so, sounds like the business is taking it very seriously as a long-term play. And, and the one, I suppose piece that I know was, was, was obviously a challenge for you and I’d love just your thoughts on was the British media is never very kind to, to any brand.

So when I was researching for a conversation.. Tell me, I used to work for British Airways, Ruby, so I know exactly what it’s like. I could do nothing right, we could do nothing right. So, um, it is always extremely negative, but, you know, they, they were, I suppose, um, picking up on the downsides of gamification, which I know you must have thought through, because it is the, the reality of, of using the mechanic and it’s the difference between having something that is guaranteed. Like a points currency or a stamp or whatever, versus something that’s a game of chance. So, there’s no guarantee. And yes, you’ve got the fun factor, but you might come away with nothing. So how did you find, or how did you feel about that, first of all, when you got that criticism? 

Ruby: Yeah. Uh, it was, uh, glad you mentioned that piece. Uh, it was, it was definitely quite, quite disheartening to be honest, cause we, you know, we, we know change in loyalty is always challenging. Um, but when I was preparing this project, I was more thinking about the, from customer angle, you know, for those customers who have a whole bunch of stamps, we are moving them away to the new program. That’s why we give some, we give the existing customer extra. Rewards so they can actually use it for free. So, uh, just hopefully, you know, we don’t disturb their life too much. Um, so that end went really well. I was like, oh my God, I’m really nailing it. You know, we’re moving away from stamps and we, I think we got a few questions, uh, from customer service around, oh, what’s going on, et cetera. But no complaint whatsoever. Um, just when, when I was gloating, now we got the email obviously from the lovely PR colleague. Um, it’s just, uh, yeah, they are really, really harsh on the mechanic and the, and the titled kind of a one completely quite untrue as well. They said KFC fans are very furious and which we only have a one Twitter comment in the end. So, yeah, so it’s uh, it is definitely disheartening cause um, for me it was a positive change and you know, obviously from customers we see positive feedback, but there are some media covering on that one, so, yeah.

Paula: Wow, wow. Well, well done you, because you know, I think as loyalty professionals, we always have the, the customer’s interest at heart. You’ve done your research, you’ve tested it, you’ve simplified it like you’ve been and done absolutely everything. So obviously I, I, I guess internally there’s already a huge sense of trust in terms of what has been launched and why. But it’s never fun to have to defend it in the media. So, as I said, I felt for you when I saw, again, inflammatory remarks, which I knew because we had talked before that this was working super well and people’s behaviour is changing. So, if it wasn’t working internally, you know, you’d probably be the first to admit it and go, well look, you know, it’s not perfect or whatever. And I think we’re all comfortable with that position as well. But it sounds like it is working for you. 

Ruby: Yeah, it definitely is. So, uh, I, I guess, you know, uh, as disheartened as it is, you, you really need to respond to, to media as well. So we, we actually, you know, the thing is, uh, I, I guess back to our data point, when you work on loyalty, you have the actual stats on the hand. Um, so for example, when customer using stamps, their only very small fraction of customer have a chance to, you know, collecting enough rewards. Whereas with, uh, arcade even this is a, it’s a probability, it’s a chance to win still because we, we actually set our probability quite generous compared to other brands as well.

Uh, we actually see more customer can win something. Um, and also we have some higher value item in a rewards bank, uh, which is much higher than, you know, the, the, the old rewards with the stamps collection. So yeah, we just gather all this information, put them in a very calm, calm way, uh, to, to explain to the media. So yeah, I’m, I’m really glad that kind of went to way in the end.

Paula: Amazing, amazing. Well, hopefully this media will be in some way a positive version, uh, rather than, than, than that. So, uh, super exciting. And just on the piece about probability, Ruby, because I know it, it is possible, um, you know, to sometimes adjust the probability, um, probably in at an individual level. I don’t know what level of, of detail you’re getting to. Are you setting your probability for the winning at a segment level, at an individual level or at a program level? 

Ruby: Yeah, that’s great question. So, uh, at the moment we set the probability at, at a program level. Um, so we, when we, when we started the business case, we’re thinking about, oh, you know, can we segment, depends on customer’s, behaviour, uh, spend, et cetera, et cetera.

Um, um, but in the end, you know, we are launching such a new thing we can make loads of assumptions, but they can be all run as well. So we, we actually agree to take a pretty, uh, pragmatic and kind of always optimizing test and learn approach. We said, you know, let’s launch as simple as we can. Uh, and because we, we actually using, uh, a third party, uh, loyalty platform, which we can configure all the segments, the probability literally within five minutes. So we say, you know, let’s gather some data for three, six months. Then if we see anything not going right, then we do adapt instead for making things super complicated upfront. Then we go backwards. So yeah, that’s approach we, we take. 

Paula: Yeah. And actually what I like about that Ruby, is having identified that the consumers need a simple approach. It’s actually equally important internally to have a simple approach. You know? 

Ruby: Exactly. I know. So, you know, lot of it is always so complicated, isn’t it? I, I still remember, um, last summer, uh, we, we present the, the business case into the, the board member. We like, oh God, good luck for both of us, my finance counterpart and myself. It landed well, but it’s a, it’s a complicated story to tell, isn’t it? So, uh, yeah, definitely make it easier and digestible both of the stakeholders will help, will help with the project as well.

Paula: Totally. So, I am definitely going to say we will need to bring you back on the show, Ruby. Um, as in when more time has elapsed and you’ve got some more learnings and maybe some more games in market as well, because I’d be fascinated to hear, you know, how it performs over time. Because to me this is just the start of what KFC is doing in the UK and Ireland. In, in terms of the rewards arcade. So gamification is already a fascinating space for, for all of us. So for, for a wonderful brand like KFC to be investing in it and to have you leading it is certainly very inspiring. So.. 

Ruby: Thank you for saying that. Yeah, I would love to be back. This is really fun conversation. 

Paula: Amazing. I know, I know you said it’s your first podcast as well, isn’t it? 

Ruby: It is, yeah. I, I sort of, uh, Kind of a, I, I don’t, didn’t really know what to expect, but, uh, thank you for making me feel, you know, comfortable. And this is just feel, this is a natural conversation, isn’t it? This is just really fun. 

Paula: Wonderful. Wonderful. And I said to you before we came on air Ruby, that we have an extra special surprise and you’re the first guest that we’re launching it with. So let me just explain it a little bit and uh, and you can tell me your thoughts, but I suppose from my perspective, you know, I have always wanted to be able to be more, um, you know, responsive, I guess, and invite feedback, build our community and, you know, get, you know, everybody who’s as passionate about loyalty as we are, actually talking back, you talking, for example, about the Rewards Arcade, um, in the context of this conversation. So we have found a fabulous software solution in order to do that. So for everybody who is listening to this episode, um, whether it’s on Apple Podcasts, whether it’s on Spotify, anywhere you’re listening, the, the last link in our show notes is literally called the feedback link. And if you go to the feedback link, you can either enter a text comment or you can enter a voice comment and you can do it anonymously or you can put your name now. If you put in your name, it’ll keep it. So actually, it’s super efficient and you don’t have to download an app. You don’t have to go off to a different website. It will be part of the conversation. So, I had told you about this, uh, before we came on, so I know you said you’d be happy to maybe take some questions there within that feedback link, Ruby, if people have questions about your work. 

Ruby: Yeah, absolutely. I, I think this is such a brilliant idea. Um, I mean, I, I kind of share my personal experience with you. You know, sometimes even just share the, the compliments to your colleagues for their amazing job, uh, for the inspiration they share with you. I think that’s another way to, to use it as well. But yeah, for sure. Any questions. Please feel free to fire away. Um, sometimes I do feel, you know, uh, loyalty still feel like quite niche territory of marketing. Uh, I really admire your work, Paula and I, I love the fact, you know, you are building the community around the world for who are passionate about loyalty. So, yeah. Uh, would love to hear any feedback. 

Paula: Wonderful. And you’re absolutely right, Ruby. First and foremost, we’re gonna invite compliments for Ruby in the comments and then questions.

Ruby: I need to be complimented. 

Paula: Totally. So listen, that’ll be a super fun, and as I said, first time around with KFC in the UK and Ireland. So I’m, I’m very proud that it’s such a, a big brand, so iconic in terms of launching this new community feedback service within Let’s Talk Loyalty. So that is all of the questions I had from my side, Ruby.

Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners before we wrap? 

Ruby: Um, Paula, maybe I, I will throw through this, uh, tough question back to you. Which one is your favourite loyalty program? 

Paula: Ooh, controversial. Um, I have a lot of favourites, but I have a default answer. Um, and, and it’s probably because it’s one of the very first ones I ever heard of. It’s down in South Africa. It’s from a company called Discovery, and the program is called Vitality. So, it’s a health insurance program. It is subscription based, but the idea is that if you behave in ways that are physically healthy, that it is tracked, recognized, and rewarded in the form of cheaper health insurance, as well as load of perks along the way. So it’s been around for 25 years and it’s extremely famous. The business case is extraordinary. It exists in different ways. I know in the UK market, and I believe also in other markets now, I can’t do justice to it, but they haven’t yet been guests on our show, but we would love to have Vitality at some point. So that’s the, um, that’s the answer, but there is so many that do inspire me.

So, as I said, we’ll stay in touch and, um, yes, if anybody else has a favourite loyalty program, again, use the feedback link and tell us, because I’m always looking for guests. And Pooja, our guest manager is always super excited as well with new ideas. So, with all of that said, I think it’s been a wonderful conversation.

I’m very excited with what you’ve been doing. Looking forward to continuing, uh, hearing more so. Ruby Huang. CRM and loyalty lead at KFC, UK and Ireland. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Ruby: Thank you, Paula. Thanks for having me. 

This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketeer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketeer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 245 executives in 27 countries as certified loyalty marketing profess. For more information, check out thewisemarketeer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

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