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How Chipotle Increased Their Digital Business by 525 Percent in 2021


With more than 2,700 locations nationwide, Chipotle has a big task at hand in localized marketing. SOCi’s own Strategic Advisor – Enterprise Brands, Rob Reed, had a conversation with Chipotle’s VP of Brand Marketing, Stephanie Perdue, to better understand what tactics Chipotle has used to become a leader in today’s digital marketplace. Within this blog, we’ll break down the discussion, look into how Chipotle found digital success, what the brand is doing to retain this added revenue stream, and include helpful tips for other multi-location marketers looking to achieve the same notoriety. 


Introducing Chipotle and Digital Marketing 


Before starting at Chipotle, Perdue worked at Taco Bell for 13 years, working her way up to Chief Product Marketing Officer. While in that position, Perdue was responsible for new products and integrated marketing before joining the Chipotle team in 2018. As a fast-casual restaurant, marketing touches everything from developing the product and the menu to selling everything in between.


When Perdue joined in 2018, it was an exciting inflection point for Chipotle. The brand began experiencing a lot of new competition and had to think of ways to stand out and differentiate itself from competitors. To do so, Chipotle launched a brand campaign called behind the foil. Perdue explained that all of the employees who worked at Chipotle saw the fantastic work done behind the scenes and wanted to be able to share those processes with their target audience. 


For instance, Chipotle would use whole avocados or jalapenos to make their guacamole and salsa. Chipotle also doesn’t use a freezer to store any ingredients. Many consumers didn’t realize how fresh some of the ingredients were until this campaign launched. As a part of the campaign, Chipotle got more than 50 employees from all different positions to talk about what they do day-to-day while working at Chipotle. The purpose was to drive brand trust, really differentiating Chipotle from the other brands out there – especially in the fast-casual space. 


While your multi-location business doesn’t need to follow the exact marketing plan Chipotle used, it’s a good model for success. Chipotle found what was unique about their multi-location business and found a way to share this information with their target audience to build brand trust and increase authenticity. As a multi-location marketer, using innovative ideas and proactive marketing tactics is a great way to help grow your business and win more sales. 


Chipotle’s Next Steps Toward Digital Success 


Once Chipotle was able to build trust through their behind the foil campaign, Perdue thought it was essential to tackle accessibility next. There was a consumer barrier with Chipotle. Consumers crave convenience, and without a drive-through option, Chipotle wasn’t able to provide that level of convenience. To help overcome this barrier, Perdue decided to double down on digital. 


When she first got to Chipotle in 2018, only eight percent of their sales were digital. There was a massive opportunity for improvement, with over half of Chipotle’s audience being 35 and under. This age group is connected to their phone almost 24/7, which is why Chipotle decided to develop an app and invest in third-party delivery systems. By improving Chipotle’s digital experience and creating a user-friendly app with a rewards system, Chipotle saw its digital sales increase to 18 percent pre-pandemic. Now, as the pandemic begins to become a thing of the past, Chipotle’s digital sales make up an incredible 50 percent of their business. 


To help further increase this number and gain more sales overall, Chipotle is still thinking of new ways to innovate. Local Chipotle teams and corporate work together to figure out where consumer needs are still unmet and how they can continually improve both their menu and digital experience to make things easier and more enjoyable for their customers. 


Chipotle’s story is proof that digital works. If your multi-location business is lacking a digital strategy, it’s time to re-think. While it might be a lot of work getting started, the pay-off will be well worth it. Whether it’s creating an app, updating your local listings to align with a digital-first experience expected by consumers, connecting with audiences through local social, or something else, your multi-location business must have a robust digital presence. 


How Chipotle Gives Back and Finds Success 


While Chipotle is already on the right track with a focus on digital and localized marketing, they continue to raise the bar higher. One of Chipotle’s lasting values is to cultivate a better world. Chipotle realized that during the pandemic, there was no better time to really focus on their values and find ways to make the world a better place. One of the ways Chipotle did so was through its Super Bowl campaign. In addition to their digital sales, Chipotle had a huge increase in their delivery services over the past year, so they decided to donate one dollar for every delivery on Superbowl Sunday to young farmers. Chipotle knows that young farmers are the future of the nation’s supply chain and wanted to support them through this campaign – another campaign to help build brand authenticity. 


The pandemic also caused Chipotle to think about the community in a new light. More than ever, Chipotle wants to make sure their communities are healthy and cared for. To do so, Chipotle also emphasized local social. Chipotle found that their local content performed ten times better than content that wasn’t considered localized, stressing the need for a sense of community at this time. Local store managers were posting about fundraisers that Chipotle was doing at the local level, and that content resonated with their target audience. 


This is a huge takeaway you can garner from Chipotle – brand authenticity matters, and it deserves your brand’s attention. Whether it’s through developing something as large-scale as a give-back campaign or being authentic to your local communities through sharing localized content – 90 percent of consumers said they’re looking for authenticity when deciding what brands they’ll support.  So, focusing on local social is a critical component of a solid localized marketing strategy. Chipotle has set the bar high for success, but there’s room for your multi-location business to find the same success. Chipotle’s story should inspire your multi-location business to take a good look at its digital and localized marketing efforts and determine where it’s currently succeeding and where there’s room for improvement. 


While it can seem like a daunting task for businesses with 100s or even 1000s of business locations, SOCi is here to help! SOCi is the central command for multi-location marketers and the all-in-one platform for your localized marketing needs. From local listings to reputation management to local social and beyond, SOCi has you covered. For more information on what it takes for your multi-location business to boost its localized marketing efforts and start seeing real results, request a demo today! 


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