Getting customers to switch to online ordering has been a key part of Chipotle’s brand transformation. Digital sales soared 100% YoY for the first half of 2019. That metric, along with an increase in same-store sales, doubled its stock price.
Chipotle’s app enables in-store pick-ups or, through a DoorDash partnership, delivery requests. And in six months, Chipotle hit 6 million members for its just-launched rewards program.
Getting the word out about online ordering has been the mission of Tressie Lieberman, VP of digital marketing. And social media – Twitter, Instagram, core Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, YouTube and Snapchat – are among her most important tools.
“We live in a real-time focus group,” Lieberman told AdExchanger.
Here are the three lessons Chipotle has learned about how to use social media.
Lesson 1: Researching with direct messaging
On Instagram, Chipotle runs a private group chat with its die-hard fans to see how they’re thinking about the brand. And it uses the close friends feature to share information exclusively. It also uses a fake Instagram account – a “finsta” – to test ideas and see how they resonate before pushing them out more broadly.
Reddit is also helpful as a research tool. For example, Chipotle launched lifestyle bowls this year – available exclusively through its app – that make it easy for people who follow paleo, keto or Whole30 diets. Chipotle monitored subgroups on Reddit to see what people on those diets cared about and adjusted its menu items accordingly.
Lesson 2: Try influencer ordering
Having an exclusive item in the app works, so Chipotle has expanded on that idea. A popular YouTube influencer, David Dobrik, eats at Chipotle five times a week. So for National Burrito Day, it made the “Dobrik burrito” available through the app with free delivery – a huge success, Lieberman said.
Then it did the same thing a few months later when the US women’s soccer team won the World Cup, offering three of the stars’ orders and free delivery through its app.
Its approach has been “understanding our customer, what they are excited about, and attaching ourselves to culture,” Lieberman said.
Lesson 3: Bring viral hits to a second channel
Chipotle used one of its viral hits on Instagram to inspire a TikTok hashtag challenge.
In January, Chipotle’s Instagram account landed on a hit when it posted a meme of an employee doing a lid-flip on the line, which received more than 1 million views. Based on that success, Chipotle decided to work with TikTok in May to do a lid-flip challenge, which again included fan favorite Dobrik. Influencers started the challenge, which caught on and was featured on the app’s homepage.
Chipotle took another viral hit and brought it to a second platform this year. In July, when Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat and Reddit went crazy over the idea of storming Area 51, Chipotle responded with the tweet: “Yes, we deliver to Area 51,” which was its best-performing tweet ever. After plans for the raid were called off, Chipotle went to Snapchat and created an AR burrito-toting alien, timed for when the raid was originally scheduled.
“The old way was to do a postmortem six weeks after a project,” Lieberman said. “Now it’s the next morning or that day – that’s how fast we are moving.”