7 Customer Loyalty Options for Merchants and Brands

Share this:

Foursquare and LevelUp may be giants in the check-in business, but since they don’t make loyalty programs their only focus, other hyperlocal options have emerged that address key needs of merchants and retailers.

These hyperlocal solutions provide all the benefits of traditional loyalty programs, without requiring local merchants to handle the management and configuration of complicated systems. Rather than relying on punch cards and key-fobs, these programs almost universally rely on a device that 44% of Americans have already — the smartphone.

Here are seven examples of platforms that can help businesses improve customer retention and promote loyalty:

1. Perka
Perka brings the face-to-face into the process. Customers announce their arrival at a business by checking-in on the Perka mobile app, and personally introduce themselves to the merchant when it comes time to make a purchase. Merchants can then use the Perka Validator app — which works on the iPhone and iPod Touch — to dole out “stamps” based on how much money the customer spent. These stamps can eventually be redeemed for anything from free coffee to 25%-off coupons. Whereas competing check-in programs reward customers for simply showing up, Perka provides an incentive for customers to actually spend money. The platform works on a subscription model, with merchants paying anywhere from $35 to $85 a month.

2. Belly
Customers download the Belly mobile app or pick up a physical card with a QR code from the retailer, and then scan it on an in-store iPad — which Belly provides to merchants — to earn points each time they arrive. Merchants get data about each customer who checks-in using the service, including email addresses that can be used for subsequent marketing efforts. Belly operates on a subscription-pricing model, however the platform does offer merchants a free trial to decide whether the service is right for them.

3. Foursquare
More than just a check-in service or a location-based recommendation tool, Foursquare can actually work as a loyalty program for tech-savvy business owners. Merchants and retailers who have claimed their venues on Foursquare can create loyalty specials that only unlock once a customer has checked-in a certain number of times. Loyalty specials encourage repeat check-ins, and they can be used to offer anything from free drinks and food specials to half-off coupons. The merchant dashboard also gives business owners information about their most frequent visitors, including their Facebook information and Twitter handles, in many cases. Foursquare’s tools are completely free for local merchants to use.

4. Swipely
Swipely is a credit-card based loyalty platform aimed at “mid-range” merchants with at least $1 million in annual sales. Customers who use Swipely don’t have to manually check-in to start earning points. Instead, Swipely encourages its users to link up their debit or credit cards. Each time these cards are used to pay at participating local retailers, customers earn points that can be redeemed for cash back rewards. Customers can also earn points by promoting Swipely businesses on Facebook and Twitter. Although Swipely does not disclose its pricing specifics, the company does say it charges merchants based on the number of Swipely customers that make purchases at their establishments.

5. Chatterfly
Chatterfly tracks customer activity and rewards positive behavior. Customers using the Chatterfly mobile app can earn points from local merchants by making purchases, completing special activities—like taking photos or videos inside the establishment—and sharing their experiences with friends on Facebook and Twitter. These points can be redeemed for in-store rewards and discount offers. Merchants get the benefit of seeing how many Chatterfly users visited their stores each day and how certain in-store activities affected a customer’s experience. For these services, Chatterfly charges merchants a monthly fee of $29.

The Social Network Appreciation Platform adds a social element to existing loyalty programs by providing incentives for customers to share information about the businesses they frequent on Facebook and Twitter. When customers make purchases and swipe their loyalty cards, SNAP automatically posts updates on their linked social networking accounts. In exchange for allowing SNAP to make these posts, customers earn extra points on their loyalty cards. SNAP is a more complex system than some of its competitors, and it works best for larger businesses with existing loyalty programs. SNAP’s pricing structure varies based on the type of business, the number of locations, and the level of integration, with a recurring monthly fee for its core program and additional fees for add-on services like automated check-ins and social media postings.

7. PunchTab
Although PunchTab is aimed at online businesses, the company’s cloud-based loyalty program could easily be used by any small business with a strong online presence. Retailers, publishers, event planners, and other business owners trying to promote their brands online can give customers points for completing basic actions like becoming fans on Facebook, visiting their websites, tweeting about their companies, and sending links to their friends. These points can then be redeemed for gift cards that can be used online or in-store. PunchTab is currently free to use for small businesses, although the company plans on charging for more loyalty customization tools in the future.

Know of other loyalty platforms that businesses should use to incentivize repeat visits and reward regulars? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.