Analysis: Gong Cha SG sweetens the deal with app strategies and promos


Popular bubble tea brand Gong Cha Singapore is upping its marketing tactics and acquisition strategy as stores start lifting up their shutters in Phase 2. In a heartwarming move that garnered publicity, the brand decided to thank delivery riders by giving away 400 bubble teas to delivery riders from GrabFood, FoodPanda, and Deliveroo.

The move came days after the brand decided to hand out bonus credits when consumers top up their Gong Cha mobile app where every SG$50 top up, resulted in the brand giving away SG $50 of bonus credits. For those second guessing if the SG$50 is worth it, the brand is also allowing for a SG$20 top up that will get you SG$5 bonus credits.

While Gong Cha declined to share the number of app downloads the initiative led to, it said that promotion was more “towards community objectives” rather than marketing or sales.

“The development of Gong Cha’s mobile app sprouted out of necessity for us to invest in protecting our staff and customers during this pandemic period, by enabling customers to use contactless and cashless transactions. […] Thus, this top-up promotion is also our effort in line with the government’s encouragement for more customers to adopt such transaction models which reduce queues and physical contact with stores," it added.

The move is a bold one, Kabeer Chaudhary, APAC managing partner at M&C Saatchi Performance said, especially in a climate such as this as creating any app requires a significant investment in product and marketing to get an app up and running. Not to mention, the stickiness to keep acquired customers engaged on the app. However, he said that if a brand is able to crack it, it can really transform their business. Done right, the biggest advantage apps tend to have is the ownership of the customer and his data.

“The customer and his data in this case will belong to Gong Cha and not to a food delivery app. And the one who owns the customer, decides what they want to do with them - they can create customised menus, vary pricing, provide discounts, throw in a loyalty card, create referral programs or even give freebies to re-acquire dormant users,” he said.

Chaudhary added that while the average uninstall rate of apps globally across categories is around 28%, this shouldn’t be alarming for someone trying to create an app as it can vary by region and categories.

Meanwhile, as customers approach "app fatigue", Sanchit Mendiratta, data lead, DAN Singapore, explained that there will be more brands moving to lightweight apps such as the new app clips feature that Apple announced in WWDC 2020. "With this, we can instead load just a small part of an app on demand, when required. The concept behind App Clips is similar to Android's tiny app-on-demand downloads called 'Instant Apps'. This is a common challenge which no one brand can address," he added. 

According to Mendiratta, who is also the senior partner at Happy Marketer, while most marketers have figured out how to acquire and onboard new customers, retention and engagement is a constant challenge.

"Social media and super apps create a strong need for customers to engage again and again, but smaller brands need to rely on notifications around promotions and gamified campaigns to get customers to open their app. F&B brands and retailers have been dabbling with loyalty for a while now but I still see that to be an afterthought. We are yet to see loyalty mechanics that make customers walk in as a 'causation' and not simply 'correlation'," he added. 

At the same time, not all customers would also be willing to download another app onto their mobile phones. 

As a customer, I feel the pain to install yet another app on my phone, but as a marketer I agree that there’s nothing better than my brand’s app (and logo) on my customer's home screen. 

Mendiratta was quick to add that Gong Cha has to stay relevant with promotions, and churn out content that matters. "From make your GongCha at home, to finding the nearest store, the winning theme is to focus on what your customers care about and to give them just that, no more and no less," he said. ​

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