FiveStars and Canadian media giant Rogers Communications have launched a new local customer loyalty service called Vicinity, which represents the California-based company’s first foray into international markets.
“We are excited to be working with Rogers on this initiative,” said Victor Ho, co-founder and CEO of FiveStars said in a statement. “As we assessed our strategy for international expansion, we determined that Canada would be a good first market. Working side-by-side with the Rogers team on their evaluation, we learned that our two companies were well aligned on values and vision. It’s a great match. We’re looking forward to working closely with Rogers as they roll the program out.”
About a year ago, Rogers first approached FiveStars, which provides the only loyalty automation platform that can integrate with merchant Point-of-Sale systems. The two companies continued talks and eventually decided to create Vicinity, which is the first “Powered by FiveStars” alliance.
“Canadian small businesses are thriving and across the country, they are ready to embrace digital technology that will help to grow their business and deepen customer relationships,” Fiona Lake Waslander, general manager of Vicinity, said in a statement. “We chose FiveStars’ platform for our customers because of its technology IP and its easy and seamless implementation for a small or medium business.”
On Tuesday afternoon, we spoke with Chris Luo, vice president of Marketing for Five Stars about the decision to start international expansion in Canada. (Ho was supposed to join the call, but he was stuck on a delayed flight.)
“It is a natural fit in that it has a strong economy with a robust small- and medium-sized business sector,” the former Facebook’s global head of small and medium business marketing said. “It integrates really easily into our technology. They have a 10-digit phone number system, too.”
Asked about the advantages of partnering versus going at it alone, Luo said: “There are a number of ways to expand internationally, but the small- and medium-business market is hard work. You need to build out a strong sales team and really know the market. We want to focus on building out our technology. We also pride ourselves in our domestic sales team, but it’s a ton of work to have a great sales team. We feel that there are some people in the international markets that have the reach to small businesses and the brand that is recognizable. With good revenue sharing terms, it’s a way for us to grow really quickly. Simultaneously pursuing our own domestic growth with our sales team as well as our international strategy of working with partners made a lot of sense.”
So can we expect more international expansion in the future?
“We’re are actively talking to a number of different partners,” Luo said. “There’s nothing that is definitive right now, but we’re looking at other opportunities.”
Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.