Rewards programs that provide customers with a free drink for every 10 purchases or 20 percent off after a certain number of visits are unlikely to get noticed in today's hyper-competitive business market. For a rewards program to truly generate attention, small-business owners have to get creative. Belly is a loyalty platform that gives businesses the flexibility to offer unique rewards that their customers really want, such as free product samples, photo-ops with managers and the chance to have popular menu items named in their honor.
How It Works
Belly is a universal loyalty platform, which means customers can use the same card or mobile QR code to earn points at all participating Belly establishments. Once a customer has downloaded the mobile application or picked up a plastic card, he or she can start earning points by scanning that card or QR code using an iPad that merchants have set up near their point of sale systems. When customers scan their own cards or phones, the points they earn are automatically deposited into their Belly accounts. Customers who forget their mobile phones or Belly cards can check-in and earn points by entering their e-mail addresses, as well.
As customers earn points, they unlock special rewards at the specific businesses they visit most frequently. Customers can eventually redeem these rewards themselves by tapping the iPad at the merchant's point of sale and then alerting the cashier that a reward has been unlocked.
Belly In Action
When businesses sign up with Belly, they're sent a special rewards program kit that includes an iPad and marketing materials. These free iPads are meant to be displayed, giving customers a way to easily check-in and earn points without slowing down the process at the point of sale. Belly also provides business owners with creative ideas that they can use when coming up with their own loyalty rewards.
Small-business owners who want to reward customers without increasing their out-of-pocket expenses can use Belly to create unique incentives that cost virtually nothing to produce. Rather than offering a discount to customers who visit their salon a certain number of times, the team at Wet Salon and Studio in Austin, Texas, opted to reward their frequent customers with something that money can't buy. Customers who earn 30 Belly points get a photo-op with the salon's owner, and customers who earn 80 points are serenaded by one of the salon's "rockstar stylists." For this program, Wet Salon and Studio pays $50 a month, which salon coordinator Anne Kelley says is, "really not that much in marketing terms."
Why It Works
Both customers and merchants benefit from Belly's universality. Customers benefit because they can use the same plastic card or mobile QR code at any Belly location, meaning they don't have to pack their wallets full of a dozen or more cards just to earn loyalty points. At the same time, individual merchants benefit from being a part of a larger collective. Customers who shop at one Belly establishment are likely to visit another, and the mobile application makes it easy for shoppers and diners to find out which businesses in their areas are connected through the platform. In that sense, Belly provides small businesses with a smart way to advertise their services to tech-savvy customers in their local communities.
Maximizing the Benefits
Businesses that offer creative rewards are likely to garner more attention from their loyalty programs than businesses that give customer straightforward discounts and freebies. As an added bonus, it turns out the most inventive rewards are oftentimes the cheapest. Unique rewards, like the chance to punch a store owner in the gut, are likely to go viral on popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter. As a result, businesses can experience organic growth as more consumers learn about their loyalty programs and ultimately visit their establishments for a chance to earn these one-of-a-kind prizes.
Read more "How It Works."
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. She is based in Portland, Ore.
Photo credit: Screenshot courtesy of Belly