Get to Know Leaders in Loyalty | Del Taco, Erin Levzow | Q&A
Surround Yourself With Tacos & Loyalty Leaders
Erin Levzow, VP of Marketing Technology at Del Taco, would describe her journey to her current position as "a very long one."
She graduated with a degree in theatre, and you guessed it, started working in theater before transitioning to training leadership development for executives. However, her career took a turn. "Recession hit, and I lost my job as everybody did in Vegas. Caesars Entertainment asked what I knew about marketing or internet marketing. I said, I have The Facebook (that’s what they used to call it back in the day) - that's it. And they hired me. I had no qualifications. I worked my way up."
Levzow's career could be described as nothing short of exciting, moving from MGM Resorts, The Palms Resort, and Wingstop Restaurants.
"Then I got a call from Freebirds and met with Bobby Shaw, who's still a mentor. I decided to make the leap at eight months pregnant, buy a house, sell a house, start a job, leave a job, have my third baby, and start at Freebirds."
But it didn't stop there. After a turnover at Freebirds, she would continue to take over the loyalty industry leading as the VP of Loyalty and CRM at Hathway on the agency side, Erin worked on various brands from CPG, Restaurant and Retail. After Hathway she took over as the CMO at Marcus Hotels and Resorts before finally ending up at Del Taco. "After the pandemic hit, Tim (Hackbardt) called from Del Taco. He wanted to create a role, VP of Marketing Technology.
Let’s Taco Bout’ It…
Q. We hear about personalization being a holy grail. Where do you think you and your peers are on that journey of achieving personalization?
A."I think that it's an overused word, and nobody's actually truly doing real personalization. I think that people throw that term around like, "oh, we're personalized." But are you though? The most they're getting to is the micro segmentation approach. And that's really where Starbucks is even at. So if Starbucks hasn't figured it out, there's no chance, the rest of us are doing it to that degree. That's my overall feeling - I think we have a long way to go but we are going to keep working to get there.
For example, Bath & Body Works did a test a long long time ago, where they would blast emails to everyone and then they tried to switch to do segmented emails and micro segmentation. They found that blasting was worked better, think about it when you want it the email is there. What they found is that when a customer was ready for something, they needed to be in that index. It wasn't worth the cost of switching that segmentation approach for them at the time. But this was a long time ago; who knows where they are now.
So, I think we have a long way to go. But we'll get there."
Q. One of the other things that comes up a lot when we talk to people around what loyalty leaders like yourself are facing, is either a data problem, a data science problem, or scale when it comes to getting personalization right. Which one do you think it is?
A."I believe it's time and resources. All three of those things come down to time and resources. Can we physically do it? Can we pay for it?
As for scale, yes, I think that's part of the problem. But I also don't believe you have a lot of data engineers. On big brands, you can afford to have those champagne problems. To say, data, scale, and all those things. When you work on a smaller brand, you can do a little more and be a little scrappy, but you're not going to have the scale. But you will be able to do a little more micro segmentation than if you have that bigger scale, bigger brand. You're scrappy at the lower level, and you're figuring it out yourself."
Q.What's the approach you would take to influencing tech decisions for your MarTech stack?
A."I call it emotional technology. You have to use both sides of your brain to be a good technology leader.
I think the reason for that is because we could put the coolest technology in place, but if a regular human isn't motivated to use it, it’s not effective. It becomes “I rolled in an app, why isn't everybody using it?” So you need your traditional marketing hat to build on craving something or inciting something for the consumer.”
You have to ask, what emotion makes them connect with it? What's that gut instinct to say, "Oh, I do want to do that, and I won't delete it off my phone." It's intrinsic versus extrinsic values.
I can give you all the rewards in the world, and it doesn't necessarily mean you won't delete it off your phone. But if you feel something for it, if you're connected to it somehow, that's a different thing.
That's where I think technology leaders have to look at it because too many times we're only looking at one side of it."
Q. How do you define loyalty at Del Taco?
A."We rolled out loyalty in September of last year for the first time. There are four tiers to our loyalty program, and its points based. It's very similar to what you would see in an airline or Vegas loyalty program. It's built off the fact that you're rewarded based on how you grow with us. Surprise and delight, points, tiers, and multiple reward options are all part of it.
When you ask how we define it, it's about growing the consumer with us and being able to bring the consumer along. The people that have our app are our most loyal customers, which is a very small percentage. And that's for any brand. All your customers are not going to be your app loyalty users."
Q.What's your opinion on offers as a vehicle to connect with consumers?
A."I don't know that offers drive an emotional connection. Offers help incentivise a customer to come into the restaurant. I think what it does is it drives the visit, and the visit can then turn into an emotional connection. The emotional connection comes from eating our food - the crave. The vehicle was the offer I gave them to drive them in to fulfill that crave.
We don't do a ton of offers. But we try and make sure that when we do them, they get to the right audience. The goal is always to either try to drive transactions for that time period, try to get the right offer in the right customer's hands, or we want a trial of something because we know that if someone knows about it and tries it, they're going to want to eat it again. That's the great thing about our restaurant. Once you eat it, chances are you'll eat it again because it's pretty phenomenal."
Q.What's one thing everybody should start doing in loyalty?
A."Looking at the numbers. So many people have rolled things out, and then they forget to analyze them. And it sounds crazy, but there are a lot of restaurants, probably other industries too, that don't look at their numbers every month. They looked at them when they rolled something out, and then they forgot to come back and look again.
It's the same feeling when people build websites. This is not Field of Dreams. If you build it, they don't come. If you build it and tell someone about it, then they might come. The same goes for apps and loyalty programs. People think they rolled it out, so everybody obviously knows. But the only way they’ll know about it is if you’re continuously communicating to people that it exists."
Q. What's one commonly held belief around loyalty that you absolutely disagree with?
A."I disagree that everybody needs it. I don't know that everybody needs it. Sometimes you have a mom-and-pop restaurant that can't do it. They ask themselves, "what do we do?" And they think they have to have something, so they're going to do a punch card. That's probably not helping them.
For example, I don't go to my nail salon more because they punch my card every time. It's nice to have, but it's not driving my behavior. So I think this idea that even if you have one store, you have to have a loyalty program isn't necessarily true. If it makes sense for you financially and you see it actually creating user behavior and motivating people, then it makes sense."
Q.What kind of data would you most like to have access to as a loyalty leader?
A."I always like access to SMS, because everybody reads it. Ninety-five percent of people read SMS, even when they're in the shower. They read it within four minutes. It's the fastest way to get to someone.
Then, if I could get one piece of data, I would say active users for our app. I want to know how many are actively using it. Not how many downloads, but how many actively used it this month."
Q. What are your current loyalty priorities for 2022?
A."Our current priorities are to continue to grow what we just launched and continue building the bells and whistles around it. It needs to be sticky. Having loyalty by itself is not good enough anymore. There has to be a reason, a motivator. So we’re continuing to adapt and build for the future."
Hopefully That Was Del-icious
Del Taco's loyalty program may be relatively new, but they aren't taking it slow when it comes to building customer loyalty.
As Levzow said, "I can give you all the rewards in the world, and it doesn't necessarily mean you won't delete it (the brand's app) off your phone." Her goal is to create an emotional connection with their customers and find the secret sauce to making their program stick by having technology their customers understand, know about, and want to use.