Innovative tools for SMEs: can you make reward programs a win-win?

Reward programs are ubiquitous these days; every retailer seems to have one. Increasingly we find ourselves with more than one card in our wallets, or we simply abandon the idea because we don't want to lug around and keep track of cards from every place we might buy a coffee - or skin cream, or a shirt, or whatever the case may be.

 

As smartphone usage becomes something we incorporate into our daily habits, and apps have continuously improving functionality the market for an app to integrate our habits into a win-win business seems kind of like a no-brainer. A few apps exists to make life easier on both consumers and retailers, giving consumers better rewards and easier access but also providing retailers with benefits like purchase behaviours.

 

Smartphones and the marketplace

Australian consumers depend more and more on their phones to assist them; a phone is expected to be usable both for business and pleasure and the apps and software we seek out are tailored to fit certain purposes. Deloitte's consumer survey of 2014 also identified some highly relevant trends in smartphone usage amongst consumers: the desire to share information, and the access money on the go.

 

Rewardle is an app that aims to help consumers by giving them access to all their reward programs, as well as options to pre-order coffees, and to give retailers access to information on their market they could make good use of. Started by serial entrepreneur Ruwan Weerasooriya, Rewardle made an initial public offering recently and were flooded with investors, despite the company's low profits. Clearly there are a lot of people willing to bet their money that this kind of technology has tapped into something that is one the rise - and that continues to evolve.

 

Digital vs. analog

As a digital version of the "traditional" reward card it offers convenience, but there are also potential issues embedded. A poorly functioning app can drive you to distraction, and if this also interferes with your day-to-day living, albeit in minute way, it could become incredibly frustrating. The crucial issue is that the app works well, both for merchants and consumers. If there are issues then it can easily be overtaken by other apps offering similar systems, and as app technology tends to move incredibly fast, it could all happen quickly.

 

SMEs and rewards

A study published by DJ Carmichael points out that there is huge potential for small to medium businesses specifically in reward schemes, as they have the potential to be better suited to their specific markets, tailored to suit the customers that the SME depends on. Additionally it can give a small business on limited means a way to combine digital marketing into their rewards scheme to access metrics they might otherwise have to seek out in other ways.

 

Considering it's normally cheaper to work to keep the customers you already have rather than trying to acquire new ones it makes sense to engage them, and given the opportunity it's an added bonus to be able to engage in the most relevant possible way. Receiving data on a regular basis makes engaging decidedly less difficult as offerings can adapt to changes in behaviours overs seasons or daily cycles.

 

Using your phone to handle money

Consumers are willing to use their phone to make purchases, although trust still has be established to increase the number of people who feel comfortable using their phones in this fashion. Deloitte notes a considerable number of people would already consider using their phones to make purchases, although some would only make smaller purchases.


(Source: Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2014)

 

Related to this is a growing concern amongst consumers about how their data is collected and used. It could be hindrance for apps like these if customers feel their information is not handled with sufficient care, if that happened it would certainly outweigh any rewards.

 

Making mobile marketing work for consumers

The possibility to gain access to marketing metrics is obviously a great thing for merchants, but it shouldn't be forgotten that it could also work for consumers.

 

As the DJ Carmichael study pointed out there is a better opportunity for smaller businesses to offer rewards that have real, identified benefits to their customers compared to the larger companies for whom that kind of personalised service is out of reach. Rewardle helps business owners by analysing the data received and thus there isn't just a collection of data but there is also some assistance in improving your business.

 

For SMEs apps that deliver a customisable way to offer rewards and access info on their customers could change everything - provided they handle it properly.

 


Lina Barfoot

Editor at SavvySME

All things marketing and advertising interest me greatly.


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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

Well written article. I think creating a unique rewards program is key. Don't blindly copy your competition. Create a program tailored specifically to the needs of your business and customers. Be willing to experiment and try multiple combinations. You could try using physical punch cards, digital apps, email addresses, mobile numbers or perhaps even facial recognition (but don't be creepy). The point is you can recognize a repeat customer from many different but unique data points. Perhaps your customers favor flash sales (specific limited time periods) or a specific day of the week for a specific deal. Whatever your approach remember that it needs to be easy for the customer to participate, easy for your business to track and ideally fun for both of you.

Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot , Editor at SavvySME

Thanks Jef! I agree, the idea of flexibility is key, especially for smaller businesses.