How Panera Bread Embraced Digital Transformation
In today's highly competitive customer engagement landscape, finding ways to stay ahead of the curve in your digital efforts can have a major positive impact on your user relationships and your bottom line. But successfully leveraging new technologies and embracing emerging approaches to marketing doesn't just happen—and many companies struggle to keep pace as consumer behaviors evolve. Some, however, are up to the challenge: At Panera Bread, the growing need to maintain a personal connection with customers in an increasingly digital world presented not just obstacles to overcome, but also an exciting opportunity for innovation and growth.
Meenakshi Nagarajan, Senior VP and Chief Digital Officer at Panera sat down with Myles Kleeger, President and Chief Commercial Officer at Braze, at Forge 2023 to share the brand's strategic journey in embracing ongoing digital shifts and how their partnership with Braze is helping to enhance customer engagement for their users.
Transforming Challenges into Digital Opportunities
It’s no secret that many brands are struggling to keep up with changing customer expectations and behaviors. For Panera, they’ve been able to meet the challenge by infusing their digital presence across mobile and the web with the same warmth and personal touch that their cafés are known for. Making that happen required Meenakshi and her team to take on the hefty task of weaving together vast amounts of data to create engaging, real-time interactions across all the channels their customers were using.
“Every experience, ultimately, is coming from the cafe,” Meenakshi explains. “ We work very closely with our IT and technology team to enable us to bring the Panera warmth to our customers digitally.”
Meenakshi noted that this approach isn’t just about maintaining connections, it’s about deepening them—using technology to make sure that every touchpoint with Panera, whether in person or online, adds to a cohesive customer experience. "It's all about enabling our general managers and cafe to have provide the best guest experience,” Meenakshi adds.
Redefining Panera’s Customer Communication Strategy
To achieve the goal of providing a comfortable, engaging digital experience, Meenakshi's organization had to take steps to reimagine how they were leveraging the information at their disposal. While Panera had plenty of relevant data on the preferences and behaviors of its users, it was difficult to action upon the data in meaningful ways. As a result, most of their customer engagement campaigns up to that point tended to focus on one-size-fits-all messaging, limiting the potential impact.
To make the most of their customer engagement efforts, Panera needed a way to effectively leverage the data they had to re-engage users and inform online interactions in real time. That's where Braze came in. According to Meenakshi, “We need to get to our guests in real time. We have the luxury of knowing so much more about them. If they’ve told us they are a vegetarian, we can’t send them coupons for something they can’t eat.”
With this new level of granularity, the team at Panera was able to get a better picture of customer needs while offering up digital experiences that resonated with each individual, based on their documented actions and preferences. Braze also opened up new channels in which to speak to guests, making it easy to reach customers wherever they are, all from one platform.
In addition to customer relationship building, Meenakshi also highlighted how Braze helped to foster trust and collaboration among colleagues and stakeholders within Panera. “We work to really empower teams,” states Meenakshi. “We’ve structured the teams to collaborate, which is an unlock.”
By sharing the impact that Braze had had in connection with achieving better customer interactions, stakeholders' perspectives of what owned marketing efforts could accomplish were transformed, supporting the elevation of these efforts into a central part of Panera's strategy and success.
“Having tools like Braze can actually drive a difference in overall business performance,” Meenakshi says.
Innovating for the Future: A Continuous Journey
Panera’s digital transformation is an ongoing adventure, not a destination. They plan to delve deeper into the Braze platform’s analytics and insights capabilities to continually learn, adapt, and innovate, ensuring that their digital strategies evolve with their customers’ needs. Additionally, the team intends to pull Braze Content Cards into more workflows as they continue to add personalization throughout the customer experience. This forward-thinking approach signifies Panera's commitment to not just keeping pace with digital trends but leading them, constantly seeking new ways to enhance the customer experience.
Want to see the full conversation with Meenakshi at Panera and learn how other leading brands and digital professionals succeed with Braze? Access highlights from Forge 2023.