Utilizing Mobile Apps for Customer Loyalty

Can mobile apps save customer loyalty programs? An article in Customer Relationship Management magazine posed this question back in their May issue. Consolidation is key, as most consumers don't have the wallet space for a stack of loyalty cards. That, and without constant use, they're usually out of sight and out of mind. Using mobile applications, consumers could use their smartphone as a one-stop device for accessing their loyalty programs.

Several retailers have already successfully implemented mobile loyalty apps. That comes as no surprise. With the rise of smartphone popularity, a push for simplicity and a decline in reward card usage, it's no wonder retailers are altering their loyalty programs.

Take a look at Starbucks. This year, they rolled out a mobile app that allows customers to link a credit card and pay with their phone. With the app, you can access your Starbucks Card balance directly from your phone. And, you can reload your Starbucks Card using any major credit card. The app provides you with a unique barcode that links directly to your gift card. To pay, the cashier simply scans the barcode on your phone and your amount is deducted from your balance. In addition, the app provides a built-in loyalty program. With each purchase, you earn stars. And - you guessed it - the more stars you earn, the bigger your perks. With five stars, you reach "Green Level" and will enjoy such perks as free select flavored syrups, free soymilk and a free tall beverage with each pound of coffee, among others. After you collect 30 stars, you earn "Gold Status" for one year and are treated with a free drink for every 15 stars you accumulate, a personalized gold card and personalized offers, among others.

There are several other examples out there of mobile applications enhancing customer loyalty. Foursquare is most used for checking in to venues and letting friends know your where-abouts. But, retailers are using it as a way to earn loyalty by rewarding check-ins with discounts, freebies and incentives to become the mayor.

What other companies or start-ups are utilizing mobile apps for customer loyalty? Do you think it's a good idea? Do you see it gaining popularity in the future? Sound off in the comments section.

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Facebook Likes = Instant Rewards?

We've discussed on this blog before whether or not rewards could improve Facebook engagement. It seems that one company believes this possibility to be true.

According to insidefacebook.com, Momentous Media has released a new app called Insto.re is allowing retail locations to rewards likes. It's almost like they read our post way back when (okay, maybe not but...). The whole idea is to improve the amount of Facebook likes a business can get by providing something to their "Likers" in return.

The app allows store owners to pick which page they want to drive Likes for and set up a promotion accordingly. For example, if you run a coffee shop, you could offer a free cup of coffee in exchange for a Facebook Like. Once the promo is set up, Insto.re sets up a mobile-friendly custom web page for the coupon and even provides a free tent card to display at your store explaining the promotion. The tent card is a crucial part of the process with no loyalty program being complete without a clear explanation of what actions require a reward.

Could we see more things like this? This is one method of using noncash rewards to drive behaviors, even if that behavior is something as simple as liking a Facebook page. The one thing that businesses will face won't be attracting fans as much as doing what they can to keep their fans.

Could a rewards system work to maintain fan relationships as well? What do you all think?

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Gamifying Groupon for Loyalty

Groupon, to the shock of onlookers, recently turned down a $6 billion buyout offer from Google. Yes, that's billion with a "B." They apparently have a lot of faith in the growth of their business model despite the threat from competitors like LivingSocial.

In an article from CustomerThink.com, Bryan Pearson talks about the future of Groupon from a loyalty standpoint. He makes the point that Groupon is doing great now but needs to plan how to retain that loyalty and enthusiasm down the road. One of these suggestions is offering free Groupons to loyal users or rewarding them loyalty points for frequently buying deals. Definitely a few solid point of suggestions from Pearson.

Why couldn't we take that idea a step further. With gaming elements becoming more prevalent in loyalty and rewards, what if you were to add a game layer to Groupon loyalty?.

Part of the appeal to Groupon for a business offering a deal is increased brand exposure. Sure they are giving steep discounts but I assume the goal is to have more people walking through the door that may not have otherwise. In return, that "preview" of their business may result in more return customers.

Groupon Meets Location-Based Services

If the goal is increased brand exposure for the business and in addition - more Groupon loyalty - why not tie both in together through a location-based marketing campaign? SCVNGR has already shown ways it can add a game layer to "check-ins." One could incorporate a check-in style like SCVNGR's that would both promote the business offering the deal while rewarding points to Groupon users. Let's explore that:

SCVNGR's game model is built mainly on a progression dynamic, meaning that one has to complete a series of tasks to achieve some ultimate goal. We talk more about that dynamic on this post. Let's say a Groupon buyer wants to earn a free Groupon. They could not only buy X number of deals to ultimately earn a free deal (like the Subway sticker card or punch card for a free hair cut) but could also ask for brand interaction in return. They could have a game set up on SCVNGR asking customers to "check-in" using SCNVGR to earn points, giving that particular business an online shout out. In addition, deal buyers could earn more points by taking a picture of their Groupon deal, mentioning what they're ordering (if the deal is at a restaurant), taking a pic of that venue etc.

The Object of the Game...

Ultimately, the "game" on SCVNGR would be to earn enough points to land a free Groupon deal. By participating in the above tasks (checking in, snapping photos etc) deal buyers could earn points. Using the progression bar provided by SCVNGR, these consumers would be able to see how many tasks or deals they would have to redeem and participate in to earn a free deal. This game function would not only improve brand awareness for businesses offering deals but increase engagement and loyalty for Groupon.

Obvoiously, this concept could be taken in many different directions and would require more marketing specificity and could involve other services. What do you all think? Could LBS help improve Groupon loyalty? How else could Groupon create loyalty?



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