Cold Treats, Hot Business: How Ice Cream Concepts are Winning at Localization using their Loyalty Programs

By: Brittany Maroney


It’s National Ice Cream Day, and there’s no better way to cool off than to take a look at the frozen novelty industry, and how as a segment, it exemplifies the use of loyalty to drive localized engagement. 

Whether you hail from a metropolis or a tiny midwest town, memories of your local ice cream shop most likely bring a sense of nostalgia. You remember the anticipation of picking your flavor, the friends and family surrounding you as you carry it outside, and the cool, creamy taste on a hot summer day. Most likely, you tie these memories to a place and, more specifically, a brick-and-mortar brand. One that existed in your neighborhood, just a short walk away from home. 

Traditionally, ice cream parlors were about a neighborhood or family-owned single-store location. They did little in terms of branding, but their consistency, familiarity, and tradition were enough to garner your loyalty. In today’s more competitive landscape, this is much harder to find, let alone maintain. Still, many brands seek to continue some of that tradition, localizing via their loyalty and engagement platforms while cultivating a sense of community in the neighborhoods they support. Let’s take a look at how a few brands are genuinely winning when it comes to localization, personalization, and using technology to continue the tradition of your favorite ice cream parlor—and gaining your loyalty in the process.

Graeter’s Takes Tradition into the 21st Century

Graeter’s, the family-owned craft ice cream maker since 1870, announced plans back in February 2019 to launch a robust new loyalty platform with Punchh. Looking to continue its undying commitment to quality, incredible service, and delicious ice cream, the brand rolled out its digital rewards program, allowing their guests the ability to enjoy seamless customer engagement via mobile, web, POS, email, and SMS platforms. The app is designed to reward loyal customers with 1 point earned for every $1 spent. They also have set loyalty benchmarks where loyalists who earn 100 points automatically receive a $5 reward on the app. 

Knowing their loyal core fans were mostly local patrons, Graeter’s coined the program, their ‘Neighborhood Store,’ and branded it with iconic imagery that harkened back to their roots. Since the launch, Graeters continues to see strong growth, even enjoying a revenue lift due to a retail sales uptick during the pandemic. Whether in-home or at one of their neighborhood stores, Graeter’s remains committed to supporting their community, and their hardcore fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Pioneers Personalization

With over 60 locations, Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream (as well as Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen) is a cult favorite in the communities it serves. The leading midwest pizza franchise is famous for its unique offerings, quality products, innovative R&D, family atmosphere, and philanthropic initiatives. In 2021, they launched their first mobile loyalty app with Punchh and immediately saw sales results. 

 “We are now able to recognize and cater to the nuanced ordering patterns of our guests and utilize those behaviors to deliver hyper-personalized offers, enhancing the customer experience, and ultimately maximizing each sales opportunity,” said Tom Sacco, Chief Happiness Officer, CEO, and President at Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlors and Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen. Ultimately, the new platform allowed them to foster new meaningful guest interactions while supporting their franchisees’ desires to stay very localized to their communities. 

Mooyah Caters to the Community

Mooyah Burgers, Fries, Shakes has never shied away from exceeding guest expectations or using technology to continue growing. The fast-casual, “better burger” concept stuck to nostalgic roots with their made-to-order burgers, hand-cut French fries, and real ice cream shakes but also remained committed to satisfying modern customer desires by catering to various dietary preferences, takeout & delivery channels, and providing a robust digital experience. Happy with their long-time partnership with Punchh, it was only when the pandemic hit did they recognize the need to innovate again.

As MOOYAH always made it a point to become involved within the communities they served, it was important to them to continue this tradition of helping others. However, the pandemic had created unique challenges for their fundraising program, which was typically driven by in-restaurant sales only. MOOYAH and Punchh implemented a way to offer online digital fundraisers using Punchh promo codes. The promo codes are set up for each of their locations at the individual store level and give app users one bonus point when they use the codes. MOOYAH is able to track net sales to calculate donation amounts and provide a boost to their local stores and their local communities.

And with loyalty programs, these concepts continue to thrive, improving brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and sales revenues. Loyalty programs are a proven, viable entity in the frozen treat industry, one that can improve customer retention and establishes a cult-like following for your brand. 

Embracing technology for these brands was more than just a boardroom strategy; it was about a commitment to serve their guests and their communities. It enabled them to build on tradition and the nostalgia we all hold for the iconic institutions of our childhood. And thanks to innovative concepts like these, one that can now carry on for the next generation. 

Happy Ice Cream Day, everyone! If you want more of a taste of how Punchh collects data at every consumer touchpoint to help you segment, target, and engage your customers in a more personalized and localized way, contact one of our loyalty experts today.

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