The first one's on us




The national lockdowns of 2020 disrupted the nation’s daily habits. Coffee was no longer the daily purchase of commuters, weekend shoppers and day trippers. As we transitioned out of lockdowns, Costa Coffee needed a campaign which adapted to the new landscape and reconnected to new and existing customers amidst the emerging situation. We turned to data to provide the answers and the basis of Costa Coffee’s most successful ever campaign by using CRM data to inform an acquisition campaign that saw over a million people download the Costa Coffee app to claim their coffee “on the house”.



Costa Coffee is the UK’s largest and fastest growing coffee house, establishing it as the nation’s favourite coffee shop for 11 consecutive years. The pandemic brought huge disruption to Costa Coffee’s traditional success with their loyal frequent customer base who visited their stores across the country. Even once lockdowns eased and shops reopened, large proportions of the country continued to work from home and no longer took to weekly excursions which would traditionally take them to Costa Coffee stores for food and drink.

This presented a significant challenge to Costa Coffee. We needed to find a way to reconnect with these loyal customers whilst engaging with new ones. We needed to revive and protect these relationships to bring these customers back to store; poach new customers whose routines had changed; and convert and grow loyalty card customers into app customers.


In order to achieve these goals we needed to look to data. Costa Coffee’s own data revealed significant insights into the habits and needs of their loyal customer base. From this insight we saw that the free coffee day promotions of the past had created successful campaigns. This felt like the right direction to follow, particularly as people needed a pick me up as we emerged from lockdown into uncertainty. Yet the reality of the pandemic was still evident and we needed to find a way to utilise the promotion which wouldn’t encourage queues and crowding in stores.

Click and collect retail had boomed over the pandemic and become a daily staple of consumer practice. Costa Coffee had recently rolled out click and collect functionality on their app, yet 70% of their loyal customer base preferred to use the loyalty card rather than the app so we needed to encourage more people to download it. To do this, we would link a free post lockdown coffee to app downloads in [insert date].

First party data showed us pre-lockdown behaviours, revealing how likely Costa Coffee customers were to make a purchase. When combined with live geo location data, which denoted proximity to a Costa Coffee touchpoint, we believed that we could use all this data to locate consumers with a relevant and compelling offer to revive the customer base.


News of the offer spread across Costa Coffee’s owned channels and national press to reach both existing and new customers looking for a positive sign of a return to normality. This buzz was furthered through large format site ads in city centres with high footfall for all to see. This messaging was then reaffirmed with small format paper and digital sites with high visibility close to Costa Coffee stores. The offer was effectively unmissable to anyone within proximity of a Costa Coffee store.

The message was to download the app, and so we also utilised a mobile led pragmatic display campaign to encourage app downloads. This was supported by radio advertising which centred the message of reconnecting in this new world, adding the human touch which sat at the heart of the campaign.


Together this multi-faceted approach created a timely buzz of excitement around Costa Coffee’s offer, which directly translated into
1.1 million app downloads
The increase in app rather than loyalty card users was huge, as both existing and new customers became a part of Costa Coffee’s digital ecosystem.

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