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HT Talks Tech: Zaxby's Chief Digital and Technology Officer Mike Nettles

"With all this rich data regarding guest behaviors and preferences, we can further tune our innovation cycles to take advantage of emerging trends in near real-time."
Zaxbys CMO Mike Nettles
Zaxby's Chief Digital and Technology Officer Mike Nettles

HT caught up with Mike Nettles, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Zaxby's, to talk about its recently revamped mobile app and updated loyalty program, Zax Rewardz. Registrations have more than doubled since last year, and new active users nearly doubled in November alone. 

On the backend, Zaxby's added a new POS, Loyalty Solutions. These solutions, Brink POS and Punchh, "better unify our tech stack and provide a seamless experience for operators and guests alike,” said Nettles.

HT: Congratulations on the new mobile app.  Is the loyalty program integrated into the mobile app?  

Mike Nettles, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Zaxby's: Yes, the mobile app is built around our loyalty program Zax Rewardz.

HT: Can guests also order online and redeem their loyalty program rewards?

Nettles: Zax Rewardz is a digital wallet that's accessible online and in store as well as via mobile device. Our guests can earn points for every $1 they spend. In fact, a lot of our loyalty transactions are happening at the restaurant, because guests can scan paper receipts to receive credit and redeem rewards immediately. We want them to engage whenever and however they’d like, so it’s great to see them using a digital platform in the physical world as well. From there, we are seeing them convert from an analog to a digital experience because they see the value of the app and benefits of earning rewards.  

HT: Data-wise, is this new program providing Zaxby's with actionable insights? Can you give us an example?

Nettles: The world of first-party data is changing rapidly due to all the emerging privacy compliance regulations. It’s now more important than ever that we leverage what data we collect to better inform us about our guests' buying preferences and leverage that data to drive both marketing messaging that matters to them, gets their attention and engages them in developing a deeper relationship with the brand. Likewise, especially for new-product innovation, we can see which one of our many sauces is most attractive to which customers, when and how -- whether tossed in the sauce, for dipping or both!  Ultimately, we are leveraging this digital behavior fingerprint that’s unique to each guest to offer a rewarding and curated experience. We are practicing “digital hospitality,” the same way you’d engage a valued customer if you could recognize them by name each time they come into your store.  

HT: How is this different from the previous program?

Nettles: We worked with guests to ensure that once they’re inside the app, it’s intuitive to navigate and start earning rewards. We learned that they want choice when it comes to rewards, but not an overwhelming or unnecessarily complex redemption process. With our new app, once you’ve ordered, it’s saved so you can re-order in just a few taps. We’ve also worked hard to offer guests choices, where in the past all guests pretty much received the same rewards regardless of their preferences. Now, we offer virtually the entire menu as potential rewards, across a variety of redemption levels, allowing guests to reward themselves in a more personalized way.

HT: How is Zaxby's promoting this program?

Nettles: The Big Zax Snak is our best-selling meal and an attractive incentive to download or update the new app. We're promoting Zax Rewardz at all customer touchpoints, from POP to the website. It's woven into our messaging across paid, earned, shared and owned channels.

HT: What's next  on Zaxby's tech-innovation list?

Nettles: We developed this solution in record-time using our own designs and custom-built technologies and, as a result, had to save a great many innovative ideas for later releases. One of the biggest deliverables wasn’t just the app itself, but a highly versatile technology platform and a high-performing team that is capable of rapidly coding and introducing new features for years to come. And with all this rich data regarding guest behaviors and preferences, we can further tune our innovation cycles to take advantage of emerging trends in near real-time. We like to think that our food is the center of our experience, and our digital offerings are just a nice wrapper to deliver accessibility and showcase our variety of delicious offerings.

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