Today Chicago, IL-based Belly, a customer loyalty and rewards program, announced the launch of Belly Bites, a free sample program that gives existing Belly members the ability to try out new products and services while letting participating merchants gain new customers. In addition, the company also released an Android mobile app that leverages Google Maps’ most recent 3D navigation. Since launching with its first store in 2011, the company has added more than 4,000 merchant partners, adding 130 new merchants per week. On the consumer end, it now has 850,000 users with 5.7 million check-ins and more than 170,000 rewards redeemed.
“We work with retail businesses on understanding their culture, personality and business objectives and try to create a loyalty program that helps really reflect who that business is,” said co-founder Logan LaHive in an interview with BetaKit. “We wanted to take the traditional offline experience of buying a cupcake, or getting a haircut and bring that in-store experience more online to help these businesses create a digital connection with their customers.”
Looking to reinvent the traditional punchcard loyalty programs SMBs have long turned to, Belly’s approach is to create a universal loyalty card platform, where consumers can redeem rewards either through their Belly card or mobile app, and by equipping SMBs with iPads to facilitate the process. The company works individually with each business across several verticals including restaurants, retail, health, and beauty to create a custom loyalty program that best suits its goals.
According to LaHive, businesses leverage loyalty programs for three main purposes: to attract new customers, to increase the amount each individual spends, and lastly to increase the frequency of visits. He said Belly Bites is the first attempt to tap into the need for businesses to attract new customers. Through the platform, businesses can provide existing Belly members who are most likely to turn into customers with hyper-local offerings, such as a gift certificate, free one-week gym pass and more. The Bites are loaded onto members’ Belly accounts and appear as soon as they enter a store to make for convenient redemption.
The company charges each SMB based on a pay for performance model, and with Belly Bites, it will set a variable rate for each new customer acquired based on the average spend of an individual customer, and the number of customers the business is looking to acquire.
Other companies looking to give SMBs a means to engage their existing customers and bring in new ones include Swipely, a mobile payment solution that ties customer purchases with a CRM database, Glyder and its mobile-first approach, and more recently Boomerang, a social gifting company that now offers B2B solutions. Then there are also point-of-sale (POS) systems that tie loyalty and rewards into the purchase experience, from Square Register to LevelUp to Google Wallet.
Belly’s focus for 2013 will remain on continuing to add partner merchants, and although LaHive didn’t reveal the exact details of what other products the company will be rolling out next, he did say it would focus on increasing the average spend per customer. While Belly has gained traction to date, in future it’s likely that the most successful mobile loyalty programs will be the ones tied into a user’s digital wallet, into a merchant’s POS system, or onto a user’s device like Apple Passbook, so Belly will likely need to work on integrating with those services to remain relevant.