Loyalty cards

Customer loyalty apps become a reality for small businesses

“Growth hacking” and other terms for driving new sales may be all the rage, but to succeed companies really need to convert new customers into repeat business. One way to generate repeat business is with a loyalty programme, and companies like flok are making customer loyalty apps mainstream for businesses of all sizes.

Advertising, heavy discounts, and some clever social media tricks can all deliver new customers to your shop, but acquiring new customers is expensive. So, while finding new customers is important, for most companies their bottom line is more reliant on repeat customers, that will return week after week.

To keep their customers loyal, businesses have been implementing various customer loyalty programmes for over a century, with Sperry & Hutchinson pioneering the idea with their Green Stamps programme back in 1896. Over the years, companies have refined these loyalty programmes and now you’ll find most retailers and coffee shops will operate some kind of programme to keep their customers coming back. These range from the basic punch cards used by your favourite independent coffee shop or yoga studio, to the nationwide card programmes used by the likes of Tesco or Sainsburys.

In the connected world we now live in, where the smartphones in our pockets are quickly replacing both cash and travel tickets, paper and plastic loyalty cards have started to feel pretty antiquated. And if you’re like me and regularly don’t even carry a wallet anymore – where would you even put them?

Membership and loyalty programmes make a lot of sense for many businesses from health and beauty services to restaurants and coffee shops, but until recently making a loyalty app was not an option for most firms. In previous years, small businesses have been put off creating their own customer loyalty app because it can be an expensive process, often costing four figures upfront with steep maintenance fees. Luckily, now companies like flok are making such ideas possible, by creating an app that includes all the loyalty features businesses need, but bringing the price down through economies of scale.

Rather than each small business needing its own app, flok offers a single universal loyalty app for over 100,000 businesses, where every business can include their own loyalty programme, complete with their own styles and branding for under $20 (£16) per month.

Some business owners will only need a simple punch card app, where users collect digital stamps at checkout to receive a free coffee or other benefit once they complete the digital card. This is pretty straightforward with the user-friendly flok business app, and the digital nature of the stamps gives owners the added benefit of being able to track the success of the programme and figure out how to improve its performance in the future.

However, flok really comes into its own with the other features it offers, such as email marketing and push campaigns, which can give customers a little nudge to return to the store. This could be an update with the latest menu changes or a reminder about current deals, but it could also be something more personal such as offering a customer a special personal discount (or free slice of cake) on their birthday. These marketing features are what makes digital membership platforms stand apart from the “dumb” paper or plastic card alternatives that we have all used for years, as they offer businesses a way to communicate with their customers when they are elsewhere and tempt them back.

Additionally, while customer loyalty is the focus of the flok app, it also offers businesses a way to find new customers by sending rewards to targeted segments of their entire userbase. Just by being part of the flok network, businesses are more likely to be found by customers searching for a nearby shop or service location.

Companies can sign up to flok for free, and then the amount they are charged each month depends on the features that they want to use, and the number of members in their club. The digital punch card is a feature of all plans, but the larger plans also include improved analytics, automatic customer detection with Beacon technology, and the ability to offer in-app purchases – with enterprise options available for larger companies as well.

The Tel Aviv and New York-based flok originally launched as LoyalBlocks back in 2011, but soon changed its named to the catchier “flok”. The firm was acquired by website building platform Wix earlier this year as the company positions itself to take on the likes of Shopify in creating ecommerce websites for small and medium-sized businesses. Wix already manages online stores for over 300,000 SMEs, and the addition of a tool like flok, that can improve repeat business for a low cost and very little admin, that number will likely continue to rise.

Photograph by Nick Webb

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