A mobile app to boost customer loyalty

By: John McGarvey

Date: 9 January 2012

Mobile app Loyalli in action{{}}

Mobile loyalty card app Loyalli

I have six different loyalty cards in my wallet at the moment. Cafes, restaurants, bars, shops ... they all delight in letting you collect stamps towards a free gift. But the cards are a pain to carry and it can be a struggle to find the right one when you need it.

As problems go you’re not going to lose any sleep over it. But for independent retailers looking to build repeat business, loyalty cards can be hit and miss. I’ve often wondered how many of the cards they give out ever get redeemed.

Does the internet reduce or increase loyalty?

One of the strange things about technology is that while it gives businesses new channels through which to reach customers (email, social media, smart phone apps, etc), it simultaneously places a whole world of options in front of those customers. For instance, comparing prices from different retailers on the internet is a piece of cake.

So technology doesn’t always make it easy to build customer loyalty. I’d argue that in many cases it has the opposite effect, by encouraging people to shop around for everything.

All your loyalty cards in one place

Back in the physical world, independent outlets of all kinds are struggling to weather the ongoing economic storm. In this environment it’s interesting to see the launch of a new service designed to boost customer loyalty.

In true internet company fashion, it’s called Loyalli (I guess the domain name loyally.com was unavailable) and it’s a smart phone app which lets customers collect loyalty stamps without having to carry around physical cards. Loyalli is free for customers and retailers.

The idea is that when customers buy something from your restaurant, cafe or whatever, you give them a QR code to scan using their smart phone. (QR codes are like barcodes: you photograph them with your phone, then an app decodes them. Learn more about QR codes here.)

The QR code is unique to your business, so the app knows the customer has bought something from you. When a customer scans the code, the app uses the phone’s location features to check they’re actually in your shop (apparently this is just one of several anti-fraud measures) and then puts a virtual stamp on their virtual loyalty card.

When the customer has collected enough stamps, they just scan the QR code again to claim their free coffee, drink, meal or other reward. That also resets their virtual stamp card so they can carry on collecting.

Can it replace tatty cardboard?

With around 120 UK businesses signed up to Loyalli so far, it’s still early days for the service. And a quick search online reveals a number of competitors, like OneGratis (which doesn’t appear to have as many UK businesses signed up).

However, the limited number of companies using Loyalli may not matter. After all, if you simply want to use it to give your customers another way to collect loyalty stamps, perhaps it’s irrelevant how many other companies are using the service.

Having said that, Loyalli isn’t going to replace traditional loyalty cards any time soon. For one thing, not everyone has a smart phone. And even if all your customers do, you can bet they don’t all know how QR codes work – in a recent blog post on Marketing Donut, one expert revealed only 34% of people know what QR codes are used for.

That’s not to say that Loyalli won’t be a useful tool for your business. You just have to see it as another weapon in the fight for repeat business, rather than a miracle cure that’ll keep your customers coming back over and over again.

You can learn more about Loyalli at Loyalli.com.

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