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To engage more with its customers, Kirbys in Leeds has invested in an app and digital loyalty scheme. Owner Andy Crombleholme talks about the impact they have had 

What’s your background?

I’ve only ever been in fish and chips. I opened my first shop at 23, I’m now 37 so fish and chips is all I’ve known. I bought Kirbys in Meanwood in March 2020, three weeks before lockdown. We had to close for three or four weeks while we set up click and collect and all our social media because there was no online presence for the business when I bought it. I then bought a second shop, Kirbys in Horsforth, in March last year. 

Why did you decide to introduce an app and a digital loyalty scheme?

The click and collect system and our till system were two different systems so when I knew about the second shop, I wanted to make things simpler and more professional as well as more consistent across both sites. We upgraded our EPOS to one with its own click and collect system and also added the app and a digital loyalty scheme function.

How is it working?

It’s great, when customers go on to the app, they can order from either shop, they just select which site they’re ordering from, and the menus are exactly the same so it’s just really simple.

Why did you go for the digital loyalty scheme?

We introduced a loyalty scheme back during Covid, but it was a little booklet with our branding that we stamped and when the customer collected eight stamps they got a free portion of fish and chips. It had its drawbacks as customers could only get a stamp if they spent over a certain amount and as we were growing and getting busy, it was becoming more and more difficult to manage. I wanted to bring everything in-house and make it digital as that is the way the world is going. 

How was the transition?

We transitioned over gradually so if customers still had their stamp card, when they finished it we pushed them towards the new loyalty scheme. We trained our staff to encourage customers to join the loyalty scheme, and we had QR codes on the till that customers scan and sign up for the loyalty scheme that way. 

Have customers bought into it?

Yes, they have. I thought it would be difficult for some customers because it’s all through a smartphone, but a majority of customers have them nowadays. And the good thing about it is customers can collect points whether they are ordering on click and collect or in the shop – and from either shop as they are only 10 minutes apart so we do have customers that use both shops.

What level of reward do you offer?

We found that the best way and simplest way to do it for us was to do one point for every £1 spent, but we stipulate that customers have to gain 100 points before they can redeem their points. What I didn’t want to happen was for a customer to come in once, buy a bag of chips, gain points from it and redeem them straight away. I wanted people to be repeat customers. Some will earn 100 points and use all of them straight away, but others will keep them for another time. The other week, we had someone order fish and chips five times and they didn’t really pay anything for them because they had gained that many points over a period of time.

Do you feel it’s important to reward loyalty?

I do. It’s important to give something back and I think it encourages customers to come back to you rather than go elsewhere because they know they are gaining points for every £1 they spend. Also, I know there’s nobody else in my area that offers things like that. I think you’ve got to keep current in the way things are done and try to push new things to give yourself an advantage over your competitors.

Have you built up a database of customer information that you use now?

Yes, and we use that in a couple of different ways. We can e-mail customers with offers or information, so like at Christmas with our opening times, when we got the Fry Top 50, and our National Fish and Chip Day offers. And we market through the app too, so anybody that has signed up to receive marketing messages will receive a push notification whenever we send them out.

How useful is the ability to market directly to your customers?

It’s invaluable because, while social media has been a great way of way to advertise over the last 10 years, some sites have changed the way they operate and it’s not quite as easy to target customers as it used to be. Having direct contact with them, whether that be through the app or an e-mail, is a good way to keep them in the loop with regard to what we are doing. And also if we have quiet points in the year, this can help boost trade during those quiet times. 

Can you give me an example?

For the World Cup last year, we sent out a push notification via the app with a discount code when the England games were on. We knew it was going to be a quiet period so we wanted to encourage people to come out and it really did work. What surprised me was how quickly it worked. We saw orders coming in for click and collect almost straight away.

What do you do for customers that don’t have a smartphone?

I have got some loyalty cards that work in the same way but without the personalised offers, but for the number of people that have mentioned it, I haven’t gone live with them. I’ve continued with what we’ve got because the digital way is so much easier for everybody.

What’s your advice to anyone else thinking about going digital?

Speak to your EPOS provider to find the right system that works for you because every shop is different, every operator is different and customer needs are different. Do your homework on how you want to reward your customers, spend time training the staff with it and promote it well. Even now we do leaflet drops with the QR code on to download the app.

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