How Dutch Bros Coffee embedded culture into its mobile app
A digital presence is no longer optional for retail companies; it is an expected form of customer service. As a result, companies are now facing critical decisions around their digital strategy, including how to differentiate themselves, choose technology partners who can translate big ideas into reality and make their digital experience not just efficient, but exceptional for the brand and its customers.
It was a challenge Dutch Bros Coffee, an Oregon-based drive-thru coffee company, faced in the last year. Previously, Dutch Bros had been reluctant to adopt too much technology in fear of it getting in the way of the personal interaction it’s known for. However, changes in customer behaviors, as well as COVID-19, helped the company realize it needed to invest in technology to maintain those expectations.
For Dutch Bros, the question was how to amplify its shop experience and offer a rewards program customers were excited about.
“We set ourselves apart by striving to be a force for good through outstanding customer service, a fun-loving culture and giving back to the communities we serve,” said Kristen Flemington, Dutch Bros senior director of digital marketing. “A typical visit to a Dutch Bros shop includes upbeat music, energetic broistas and stellar speed, quality and service. Ensuring that experience translated well to something digital for our customers was key.”
With countless companies in the market, Dutch Bros sought out established digital platforms that could help maintain the company culture with custom feature capabilities and vibrant design.
“Building the Dutch Bros app was a massively collaborative process and it required an agency that took the time to understand the needs of our business and customers,” said Flemington. “Our customers were always top of mind. We utilized surveys and pilots during development and continue to improve the customer experience as the app evolves with the help of our customers, broistas, field leaders and HQ employees.”
Dutch Rewards launched in February 2021 after more than a year of conceptualizing, building, field testing and employee training. It was built by leading digital growth company, Hathway, on the Paytronix platform (the company’s existing gift card provider) where customers earn points for each dollar spent.
“The biggest challenge of building the Dutch Bros app and Dutch Rewards program was making sure it embodied our culture while simultaneously being simple and efficient to improve the overall customer experience,” said Flemington. “We really had to focus on how our customers and crews experience it so it didn’t complicate the personal interaction at the window.”
Everything about Dutch Rewards has translated the much-loved aspects of the Dutch Bros brand into the new rewards program experience. The program saw immediate success with 1.4 million members joining within the first month. The Dutch Bros app also hit #1 in the Food and Drink category of the App Store for ten consecutive days and earned a 4.9 star rating from its customers on both the App Store and Google Play.
A unique focus on both the customer and the employee may be one of the reasons behind the app’s success. It was built with both in mind, including features like auto-tipping which makes every transaction faster for the customer and allows the broista to focus on connection over process. In addition, the features that are meant to personalize the experience for the customer also help the broista. Highlighting the customer’s name on the main screen and providing different digital stickers to serve as a profile icon make the app an interactive experience and give broistas an instant starting point for personal, meaningful conversation.
The final hurdle Dutch Bros faced was creating new systems that worked in conjunction with existing systems. The coffee chain partners with Xenial to provide cloud-based ordering and reporting to streamline the drive thru experience.
“With the help of our technology partners, the integration was fairly seamless,” said Brendon Gilbert, Dutch Bros IT Systems Architect. “Our key learning was the more testing, the better. We had more than 50 locations participate in our pilot and it was a crucial part of the process.”
Following the initial success of Dutch Rewards, the company plans to build on the success with new features to create fun moments with customers and improve the experience at the window. As of today, Dutch Bros has more than 470 shops in 11 states.
“As Dutch Bros grows and enters new markets, the culture, mission and heart stays the same,” said Flemington. “It’s important for our digital presence and technology partners to do the same as we continue to learn and grow alongside our customers.”