Helping Communities, Charities and Businesses – myrewardcard.ie and the Glanmire Area Community Association

It has been a long time since we posted to this blog. It’s not that we had nothing to say but that we have been hard at work on something exciting. Today I’m happy to announce that we are launching a new addition to our platform – one that we hope will make a difference to communities across the country.

These are tough times and we all know that voluntary organisations are seeing drastically reduced income. This is particularly true of local voluntary organisations who typically have a smaller number of income streams. At the same time everyone is aware of how small local businesses and their communities are suffering. No-one is unaware of the difference that shopping local can bring – but it’s not always the feasible option since discounts elsewhere can be so much better.

We have seen these problems that same way everyone else has but realised that we had the ability to help do something about it. So we went to work on the myrewardcard.ie platform and during our ‘silent period’ we have been developing a solution that can be used to help solve both problems. It has been designed to allow businesses to reward their customers for choosing them and at the same time ensure that for every transaction a donation is made to a chosen organisation.

The Glanmire Community Fund – Supporting Glanmire Community And Businesses
On February 1 the Glanmire Area Community Association launched such a program. Using our platform their model rewards customers of participating businesses with entry into a monthly draw where they can win a range of prizes.
The operation of the Glanmire program is a simple one that does not require any changes on the part of businesses nor the installation or management of IT equipment. All the business does is purchase vouchers which they in turn give to their customer. A portion of the price of the voucher goes to reward the customer (through funding the prizes) and the rest goes to the Glanmire Area Community Association (GACA) to cover administration costs and fund capital projects.

The concept of vouchers seems counter-intuitive – would it not be better to have a fully electronic solution? We worked closely with GACA and it was obvious that in order to allow the maximum number of businesses to take part we had to minimise the disruption to their workflow and also ensure their costs were under control. Introducing technology broke both these rules – adding immediate and ongoing expense for the equipment as well as causing them to worry about its operation and management. Thus the vouchers prove the simplest and, in the circumstances, the most elegant solution. The software provides, in addition to administration functions, the reassurance to customers that the vouchers they receive are authentic and that their entry into the competition is received.

We are starting in a controlled manner with 11 businesses and interest from a further 8. The first competition takes place on February 21.

About The Glanmire Area Community Association

THKK

GACA is an association that has been running for over 30 years. They are an integral part of the community and the parent organisation for the Tidy Towns, Coder Dojo, Playing Pitches, Senior Citizens groups and more. The biggest problem that have always had was the lack of a recurring revenue stream that they can use to fund capital projects. These include things like developing the playing pitches, creating parks and walks etc. The new program allows people to directly support such projects whole also supporting local businesses and potentially winning monthly prizes.

You can learn more at http://www.gacacork.com

Alternative Implementations
The Glanmire project is designed for that community. Our platform offers a range of options suitable for any community or charity. For instance a program run by multiple groups (say the local GAA, Rugby and Soccer clubs) can allow the customer to select the benefitting organisation directly. Since we also track the exact number of points we can also allow those to be converted to cash or shopping vouchers rather than competition entries.
And of course we still have the electronic option that allows each business to run their own loyalty program with customers only requiring one loyalty card.

The Future
Times are tough for businesses, voluntary organisations and ordinary consumer alike. We hope our platform can make a difference and are already talking to a few communties and voluntary organisations but would be happy to talk to more. If any individual, community or organisation would like to discuss introducing a similar program to the one in Glanmire please drop us a line at info@myrewardcard.ie.

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How Vouchers Are Being Used

A few weeks ago we launched Vouchers on the myrewardcard.ie platform. As you may remember these are trackable codes with value or messages attached and can be used in a self-service mode by customers or instore by businesses.

When we released these we saw uses for them that included tracking advertising performance and managing promotions. Now that they have been available for some time we have had a chance to see how they are being used in practice and I thought it would be interesting to let you know what other businesses are doing. And I also want to tell you about an upgrade based on feedback we have received.

How Are People Using Vouchers?
Vouchers can be configured so that they are applied to Reward Cards either by the issuing business or by the customer themselves. To date the only vouchers we have seen used have been redeemed by businesses in store, primarily for two specific purposes; 

Promotional Advertising
Each voucher code generated by the myrewardcard.ie platform can be configured to have thousands of individual redemptions while at the same time limiting each individual use. Each voucher can also have start and end dates and value or a message attached. The most common use we have seen is for businesses to use these features to manage and track their promotions and advertising. The best way to explain this is to take an example;
Company A runs promotions on a regular basis. These take the form of “3 for the price of 1” or “50% off selected items” and are intended to increase awareness of the business while also generating interest in excess inventory. They typically advertise these in 3 papers but up to now the owner has not been able to get a clear picture of which of the papers produce the best response, whether the same customers are the ones to take up the offers, if they attract new customers, the long-term effect of the promotions or which promotions work best with each demographic. They have some anecdotal information but collecting and analysing the hard data has been too unwieldy. They now gather all this information automatically using vouchers. 

They generate 3 vouchers for each promotion; one for each newspaper. These vouchers can have 10,000 individual uses but can only be used once by any individual. The ads in the papers each contain the voucher code and the ad must be brought to the shop in order for a customer to avail of the offer.
Once a customer comes in with the voucher both it and the customers card number are scanned and this confirms that the same customer has not used the voucher previously. At the same time it allows the business to build a picture of their promotions effectiveness. Immediately they can see which channel produced the best results but over time they also get a greater picture of which promotions appeal to which customers, if they see the promotions in just one paper, how often individual customers respond to a promotional offer, if a promotions leads to later sales and more.
This information of course helps them plan better and reduce their costs since they now have a picture they never had before and can send promotions direct to customers.

Forgery-Free Gift Cards
If you are like the majority of businesses in Ireland you provide Gift Cards as paper which you might stamp or sign. However these are extremely susceptible to fraud since the signature or stamp is easily forged and the paper token itself is quickly photocopied. What a number of businesses are doing is generating a unique code which is printed on every voucher and then, when the customer comes in, they enter the voucher number alongside the Reward Card number. This confirms that the code on the voucher has never been used before and, since there are a potential 150 trillion possibilities, the chances of someone guessing a valid one to print on a forgery is practically non-existent. Vouchers therefore act as a security measure but they also provide information on who purchases the vouchers, when they do so, what they buy in return and a lot more. They also increase the number of customers using the Reward Card and this in turn leads to repeat business.

These are the two most common uses of vouchers and it reinforces for me how flexible the system we have put in place is. However there is one major request for us to make and today we are implementing it.

Todays Upgrade
We originally designed the voucher system so that the voucher can only be used in conjunction with a registered Reward Card. This arose because we included the ability to set a limit on how many times a single customer could use the voucher and we designed it so we meant customer and not card. In other words a customer could not obtain a  second or third card to reuse a voucher.  This worked as designed but has caused difficulties for some businesses. Basically they would run an ad in a newspaper or put a voucher in a voucher book but if a new customer took advantage of this they would need to be registered in the store. You can imagine for popular promotions this would be an issue

So today we have just updated the platform so that voucher can be used with unregistered cards. This means that in the above scenario the customer can come in with the voucher and this can be used alongside a new card which they can then take home to register at their leisure. This is an optional setting and you can choose to remain with the customer limits if you wish and this decision can be made ona  voucher-by-voucher basis. If you do decide to allow unregistered cards then the customer limits will apply to the card and not to the customer. This can have some implications if you are running a promotional campaign, but it does not affect vouchers which can only be used once in total (Gift Vouchers being a good example).

Vouchers are working as well as we had hoped when we first introduced them and it is interesting for us to understand how they are being used but also to know what issues you are seeing. For this reason we will keep a manual order system for the moment. If you want to order some vouchers please use the order form online or drop me an email. These are a powerful tool (both for security and for collecting data which can save you money) and I want to make sure we help you use them to their maximum effect.

Vouchers – part 2

Two weeks ago we introduced vouchers to the myrewardcard.ie platform. These can contain different values such as points or prizes (see the details here) for issuing to customers. At that time we released the self-service portion of the service, allowing customers to take vouchers you had issued or had printed in newspaper adverts and enter the serial number at home to collect their reward. This design allows you to promote your service and to track your advertising response. For instance by printing a voucher in a newspaper and encouraging people to register it (maybe giving them points to do so) you could not only tell which channels produced the best response but also which ones led to sales a few months down the road.

But vouchers can do more and on Monday we are introducing the second element of the service: allowing you to redeem vouchers in-store. 

What You Can Do
Before telling you about the mechanics I’d like to take a minute to outline what you can do with this and how it differs from the self-service implementation. 
Vouchers can be used to manage any promotion you run in any medium you choose but they can also help in managing an array of day-to-day customer interactions. The benefits of the self-service option were outlined in the previous post so I won’t go into them again. The in-store option will now brings added advantages; allowing them to manage store credit,  reduce fraud, track direct advertising and operate limited-time promotions. The best way to understand the different possibilities is to look at some examples;

Preventing Fraud
The biggest issue with the paper-based systems for awarding store credit or gift vouchers is that they are so susceptible to fraud. It is easy for people to photocopy a voucher or forge a signature and you have no easy way to make sure that you catch these without extensive investigation. But using individual vouchers that are limited to one use each gives you a way to check that they are real and make sure that they will not be used more than once. Simply print (or write) the voucher code on your existing credit notes and redeem it when it is used. The voucher itself does not have to have any points on it – a simple message such as “€5 credit voucher” is enough to provide you with a record. And it keeps the revenue commissioners happy too.

Limited-time or Transaction Sales
If you want to generate excitement about your business you can run limited-time sales and promotions; for instance making a particular item half price for one hour. The problem is controlling such promotions since often customers will expect you to extend the terms just for them. Vouchers give you a way to insert these controls. 
For instance you can run a  promotion in the paper highlighting a promotion (“The first 25 people to present this at our till after 8am on Thursday get a  50% discount”). By printing a voucher code on the advert you can easily set the limit to 25 customers and have the system refuse any further uses. This allows you to tell customers that “the system won’t allow it”. It also makes it simple to control such sales across multiple premises.

Tracking Advertising
If you run  an ad that encourages people to come into your business you want to know which ones work and which don’t. By using a voucher code that needs to be brought in at the same time either to avail of an offer or to obtain an extra benefit  you can track the effectiveness of the radio, newspaper or voucher booklet you are advertising in.

All of these uses has the added advantage that, because the customer must have a registered card to use the voucher, they encourage membership of your reward program. And the advantages of this are the extra contact and tracking that becomes available to you.

Where can they be used
Because vouchers can be configured so that they are used multiple times you have the freedom to use them in mass-media. For instance you can print a single voucher in a newspaper or radio ad and limit it to one use per person while allowing up to 100,000 people use it. Or you can text individual vouchers to people and monitor which people respond.

Using Vouchers On-Premises: The Mechanics
There is now a new link on the main toolbar, next to the “DEDUCT VALUE” link. 

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This brings you to the voucher page illustrated below. Simply enter the card and voucher number and any values will be applied to the customers account.  If the voucher is invalid for any reason such as having expired, been used too much or not valid for the card then you will also get this information. Remember that you can use vouchers to manage actions other than awarding points (for instance giving a free bottle of wine to the first 5 diners after 5pm). In these cases you are responsible for ensuring the action is carried out along with the registering of the voucher.

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Managing Vouchers
Management accounts will also now have an extra section available to them. “Vouchers” is located on the left bar under Communication. Because vouchers are new we have limited functionality for managing them right now. We want to see how they are used before finalising the development of this section. We will develop a range of reporting and other tools based on your feedback but right now what you can do is order vouchers. 
The form will ask you for the various bits of information required. Vouchers will be manually generated so we will screen the information you have given us to ensure they are consistent. There is also a section for you to describe what you are going to use the vouchers for. This will help us to make sure that the criteria you specify for the vouchers themselves are suitable for your needs. If we have doubts or are uncertain about any issue we will call you. Because of this manual intervention it might take a day or so to issue you with voucher numbers so please order them as early as possible.

This is the second functional update for vouchers in the last 3 weeks. I believe the flexibility we have built into this system gives it huge power to help your business. As you can see from the examples above, vouchers can be used in many different ways and all have the extra advantage that they get people registering. Whenever you reach out to customers you should consider how a voucher can be integrated into the transaction.  And if you have any questions about how best to use it for your business please contact us.

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Introducing Vouchers

I recently told you that we were working on a new voucher system for myrewardcard.ie. This new functionality is intended to do a number of things; allow businesses without internet access to run an advanced Loyalty program; allow you to assess your advertising channels; allow promotions and competitions and more. Today we are launching the first element of this and I wanted to let you know how it will work, what can be done, and the plans for future development. That’s a lot of stuff to cover so let me start with what the additions we are adding today can do for you.

Vouchers are a simple concept: each one has a code that contains a value and when entered into myrewardcard.ie the value is applied to the card. We will be adding an option to redeem these codes within the business but what we are releasing today is the ability to have the customer redeem the vouchers by themselves at home. So what can you do with it?

Self-Service Loyalty Program
Businesses that do not have an internet connection in their store can now operate their own advanced Reward Program either as a stand-alone function or as part of a town card. All they need to do is to print a range of vouchers and, when a customer has made a qualifying purchase (spent €50 or more for example) the staff hands one of the vouchers to the customer. The customer then enters it at home to collect their points. Of course if a business does not have an internet connection they cannot redeem points directly so they will need to run a report every month and post out discount vouchers in the same way that Dunnes Stores do. 
Since the product purchased can no longer be recorded the business loses some information that an internet connection allows but this allows  businesses who do not have the equipment in-store to offer their customers the advanced points-based loyalty programs they prefer. These businesses include not only retailers but also taxis, plumbers, market stall holders and others

Promotions
Because vouchers can have different values it is now simple to create some excitement amongst your customers. You can easily have vouchers that guarantee customers 10 points – and mixed in among them have 5 that have a prize. This prize could be anything from merchandise to an entry in a  draw or cash. When the customer redeems the voucher online they will be instantly told what they have won and can then contact you to collect the prize. This instant-win aspect makes it exciting and gets customers talking – all of which helps promote the business. It allows you to promote certain lines of goods, encourage custom at quiet times or just generate some excitement a few times a year.

Encouraging Registration
A Reward program is not an instant fix for a business. What it is is a long-term investment that increases in value as time passes and data collects in the database. However a lot of businesses with an existing mailing list like to try and jump start their program by posting cards to customers. In general the number of registrations received this way is not high – only when you get in the habit of asking people if they have a card can you be sure of building your database. However the registrations from a posting can be increased with vouchers. 
You can create a promotion such as outlined above and include both a  voucher and description with the card. Someone receiving this knows that they will be guaranteed some points by registering – but because they can also win a significant launch prize they will be even more enthusiastic about the fact. Not only will a properly designed and explained launch program increase the registrations but it will also get people talking. 

Advertising Monitoring
Existing clients can now monitor the effectiveness of their different advertising channels. The problem with advertising of course is that you can never be sure which channel actually works. You put the same advert in two different papers and get results – but equally from each or is one a waste of time? By printing a different voucher code in each paper you can now encourage people to register the code and get additional Reward Points. Later you can see which one had the greatest response overall or amongst specific demographics and focus your future advertising there, saving you money. 

Secure Gift Card Top-ups
Cash Cards are often used as Gift Cards. By having vouchers in specific values you can now make it easy for relatives to give gift vouchers that are added to the recipients existing Gift Cards. If the recipient doesn’t have a Gift card you can provide one at the time. The other benefit is that you can cancel a stolen voucher or even manually track who you issued vouchers to and double check this against the recipient.

There are other uses of self-service vouchers such as fundraising opportunities and community cards but these are some of the highlights for an individual business. The question now is how do the vouchers actually operate?

Voucher Controls
While vouchers are a simple concept, we have designed our system to be flexible and comprehensive, with each individual voucher having a range of controls.  
 – Start and Expiry Dates: vouchers will automatically be refused outside of this date range.
 – Card Type: Vouchers must specify if they are valid for Cash Cards or Reward Cards. This prevents what is intended to be 50 points instead giving 50 Euro.
 – Place of Use: At the moment we are only allowing vouchers to be redeemed by the user themselves. In the next few weeks we will activate a function to allow you to redeem the vouchers in store. This opens up a new range of uses which we will discuss at that time. 
 – Total Uses:  A vouchers can be used once or multiple times. Most vouchers you issue will only need to be used once but if tracking advertising for instance, you will not want to print a different code on every newspaper. In this case a single voucher per advert is used and you can set this to a  maximum of 10,000 or more uses.
 – Uses per Customer: In addition to total uses you can set a limit to the number of times a single account holder can use the voucher. Again this is most likely to be 1 but under some circumstances it may be more. This is more likely to be greater than one when we release the in-store redemption feature.

In addition to these overall controls each voucher can also have a range of values. These specify the message to be shown and the value to be awarded and they specify which businesses the specific set applies to. By including multiple values on a  voucher we have ensured maximum flexibility – so some vouchers can have 10 points while others have 10 points plus a message letting the recipient know they own a prize. These are recorded as individual transactions in the database, making it easy to identify prize winners.

Customer Activation Process
Customers receiving a voucher must have a registered card before they can redeem the voucher itself. Once they have done so they will now see a new button on their detail page. Once they click this button they will be given some instructions and the space to enter the voucher code. If the voucher meets the criteria set such as usage and valid dates then the values are awarded and the voucher details are displayed for the customer in the way show at the top of this post. Both the business and customer can then see the voucher number and the details in the transaction history. This allows businesses to run reports on specific voucher usage.

Voucher_redemption

Pricing
I’ve spent some time on trying to get the pricing low. I wanted to keep this free for the majority of businesses but given the computational and database requirements involved I needed a system that ensures overuse does not lose money. The compromise I’ve settled on is that each business that uses myrewardcard.ie for their Reward Programs can will have 10,000 vouchers or redemptions (whichever is largest) per calendar year. What does this mean in practice?
A business can issue 10,000 unique vouchers in a year free of charge, allowing a sole trader to issue 38 vouchers to customers every work day. Alternatively a single voucher can be  redeemed by 10,000 individual customers soa  business can run 10 adverts each of which get 1,000 actual responses. Or you can mix them and have 5,000 unique vouchers and 1 that is redeemed by 5,000 people.  The first 10,000 in a calendar year are free of charge. For those who do exceed these they can then obtain extra on a pay-per-use basis of just 1 cent per voucher/usage, allowing you to control costs. This means a further 10,000 vouchers/uses for just €100. 
I think under these conditions the majority of businesses will pay nothing for their vouchers and the minority that do will not pay more than €100/year. It is the fairest method I could devise that meant I could continue to offer this service without risking large losses.
Allowances cannot be carried forward to the next year, but this means that your full 2011allowance is now available for use in the next 6 months.

Getting Vouchers
As we are rolling this service out in stages there is currently no direct way to create your own vouchers. I want to see how they are used before settling on a  final interface for that aspect. If you want vouchers drop an email to info@myrewardcard.ie with your requirements. I’ll get back to you quickly with any questions or clarifications and generate a spreadsheet of codes for you which you can distribute in any way you wish. Similarly if you have any questions please drop a line.

I am excited about this element of myrewardcard.ie. I think it’s going to be one of the big innovations on the platform and one that can change how you use your Reward Programs as well as opening the service to many new businesses. I will be monitoring it carefully over the next few weeks and will let you know when the next stage is implemented.

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Wasted Advertising – A Solution

There’s an old saying which you’ve probably heard: half my advertising is wasted but I don’t know which half.
It’s a cliche but like all cliches it has a large degree of truth in it. In this case it’s one that is particularly true for small businesses. The big companies and brands monitor their advertising with focus groups and surveys. They also have the technology to track the response rates directly. Small businesses on the other hand advertise pretty blindly and try to gauge if their advertising worked based on whether they see an immediate increase in customers. This can be a guide if you advertise specials occasionally. But if you advertise regularly and/or if you advertise in multiple channels at the same time (such as two newspapers or a direct leaflets and the radio) how do you know which is the half that worked and which is the half which wasted your money?

Loyalty Cards can be some help in telling you how many people convert to regular customers or is they come in only that one time for the offer, never to return. But that doesn’t do much to tell you which advert worked best. You are still left wondering if the fact that all the new visitors were females in their 30s from one suburb is because one paper worked best or if the offer appealed for some reason only to that group. And so for the next offer you again advertise in all the same channels, wasting the same money reaching demographics that will never visit you.

A lot of businesses are now beginning to rely on direct advertising by means of discount voucher books and websites such as Groupon. These gives a more accurate reading on their performance since you have someone coming in with physical proof of where they saw your advert. But monitoring these still takes effort and does not give you any indication of people who saw your advert, were not in a position to purchase at that time and came along only 6 months later because it remained in their mind.

What to do then?

Well what if you could directly see in real time which channels worked, which adverts had the best response and which promotions led to delayed purchases? What if you could not only do that but also identify the channels by demographic? And if you could link this in to your Loyalty program in a way that told you which advertising channel led to one-time bargain hunters and which resulted in long-term customers?

Direct Marketing companies have been doing this for years and soon we will make this option available to you. We have been busy developing a system that can be used to do all the above and more. It can not only allow you to monitor the effectiveness of general advertising but also that of vouchers and offers.As an added advantage the system will also allow businesses who do not have any internet connection to run a self-service Loyalty Program. It can even help organisations build a local fundraising system for clubs and charities.
This is not a magic bullet – it is a simple and established idea we have spent time developing a new mechanism for. Like everything in business how successful it is for you will depend on how well you use it. But for those who are interested in saving money and generating business it will be a powerful tool.
We will be introducing the service in stages over the next few weeks. As we introduce each element I will keep you informed and will give examples of how that stage can be used to help you save money while increasing revenues. Look for the first stage in 2 weeks time.

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Beat the Price Cutting Trap

Rarely do price promotions lead to increased sales; more often than not, they simply attract deal seekers or encourage consumers to stockpile items that are on sale – Harvard Business Review

In the current economic situation more and more focus is being placed on prices. Obviously people are taking more notice of what things cost and grocery shopping in particular is being fragmented. Where before people were happy to do all their grocery shopping in one location they are now being more discriminating and spreading their basket across multiple shops. The discounters such as Aldi and Lidl are seeing increased market share as a result.

The temptation on hearing this is to immediately assume that you have to cut prices in order to compete. But the message is actually more subtle and, for non-grocery retailers at least, is more hopeful. I have seen customer survey results in recent times and my analysis of them showed that yes price is important but even within the grocery market it is not everything. If price was the only factor people placed a priority on then there would be no splitting of the shopping – it would all transfer to the cheapest shop. But in fact what is happening is that people are moving the dried products such as canned goods to discounters but they are still placing a premium on the fresh products such as meat and vegetables and are willing to pay more for them.

What does this mean for the general retailer?

I have given this some thought and believe it means that rather than simply cutting prices a business can maintain its margins if it is clever and pro-active. Cutting prices alone is a dead-end path, one which puts it up against larger organisations which, through their sheer scale have greater bargaining power and efficiencies. This conclusion was reinforced for me in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.

The article focused on the dangers inherent in attracting customers through price cuttings. It specifically mentioned web sites which encourage businesses to offer deals to their visitors but it’s message was more general than that and results from decades of research showing that  price promotions are “suitable only for specific purposes under specific conditions.” It’s main points are;
  • Reducing prices lowers the perceived value of the product or service and makes price the only reference point. No longer will the quality of the product, the personal service or the ambience of the location be the factors that consumers take into account.
  • Price promotions attract people for whom price is the only factor. These people have already been desensitized to the other benefits you can provide and, as soon as you raise your prices again they will move on to the next place with a discount.
  • Price promotions that are available only to people who received a voucher book or purchased a discount card create resentment amongst your regular customers. These people are your bread and butter but they see others getting a better deal than they do and they don’t tend to like it. 

The result is that a business who tries to offer a special promotion (either by themselves or as part of promotional scheme such as a discount website or a voucher book) and expects this alone to improve his business will be disappointed – or worse. There may be an initial surge of customers but, as the article notes these rarely lead to increased long term sales. In fact “a steep price promotion can make consumers permanently price sensitive… and can distract customers from a products benefits, leading to permanent damage” that results in lower long-term revenue.

Of course none of this means you can raise your prices and expect to thrive either. You have to remain competitive, you just don’t have to be the lowest price available. And you don’t have to avoid sales and price promotions completely.  If you use them sparingly and have a plan to convert the resulting 1-time customers into more profitable ongoing customers they can work. As the article says “what merchants need is a full tool kit of marketing programs.”

A Reward Card can be one of the most important tools in that kit. 

Llets look at how a Reward Card (or a Gift Card) can help you avoid the price game and also get you the maximum benefit from those rare promotions you do decide to run.
  • Most obviously the Reward Card allows you to replace the price fixation with one of your choosing. It is always better to give product rather than a discount because its cost to you is lower. So if you can get your customers to expect a bottle of wine after 5 meals or a free tire balance after 3 services then it helps your bottom line.
  • Because you are not providing a discount to every customer you automatically save money. Some of this can go towards greater rewards for the loyal customers, making the loyalty program itself more attractive.
  • The fact that a person has to do business with you to earn the rewards is seen as fairer by your regular customers and creates a positive attitude towards you.
  • When you do run  price a promotion your Reward Cards can help you get the maximum value from customers. Be sure to ask every customer if they have a card or would like one. This is standard practice anyway for any successful Reward Program but it is critical during a price promotion. Most effective is to load the card with points and give it to the customer even before putting the purchase through. This will result in almost 100% acceptance of the card and now you have the opportunity to try and convert this bargain-seeking 1-time visitor into an ongoing customer.
  • myrewardcard.ie allows you to make private notes on each card that can be searched. Use this facility to record the promotion that brought the person in and the purchase they made. This will allow you to filter each promotion and assess which have been the most effective in bringing in customers and which have led to ongoing business.

Promotions such as sales or voucher books do have a place in business as a tool to bring customers into the shop. But they must be used sparingly and as part of a plan. Signing up to every voucher distributor has the same effect as permanently lowering your prices – lower profits. But if you know when and why you are going to run a promotion it can bring the customers in. Part of that planning is to have a Reward Program ready to convert those new customers into regular ones.

A Reward Card is not a replacement for all your other promotional opportunities, nor is it a magical device that will make your business a success. It is a tool that requires you to use it.  If you do so it can help reduce the need for other tools such as vouchers and price promotions that might be easier to operate but cost your business more in the long run.
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Site Redesign

Example 1: The Front Page

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The “Create Account” button is more obvious and the explanation of what the site does and the benefits of the individual cards are more clearly explained.

Example 2: The cardholders card statement. 

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Cardholders who have registered their cards can at any time login to see their transaction history. When they do so the new design makes not only the individual transactions easier to read but also highlights any points that will expire this month. The news from the business which issued the card is also  more obvious – making it easier to avail of any offers and giving the customer even more reasons to return!

Example 3: The individual business directory page.
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Each business already  has their own page with contact details, a map to their premises and their latest news. The new cleaner look makes it easier for the visitor to find all this information. 

New Sharing Buttons
While I said there are no functional changes to the design the observant among you will have noticed that two of the screenshots have new Sharing buttons.These allow visitors to quickly let their friends know about the page by email or on facebook and twitter. They are on the front page and also on every individual business page.

We’ve based the redesign on watching how people use the site and on feedback from clients and cardholders. While not earth-shattering I think it is a good improvement and one that our feedback suggests will create even more use of the programs available .
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Using Cash Cards pt.2

Earlier this week I looked at 2 ways business could implement Cash Cards. The first example was a bookshop that replaced its existing paper based Gift Vouchers with a myrewardcard.ie card and the other was a restaurant that used the system to reduce the amount of time taking telephone orders tied up the line while also reducing cash handling.
Today I want to finish the series of examples with two more; a toy store running a Christmas Club and a Taxi Company which increased cash flow while encouraging regular bookings.

Taxi Company Looking to Increase Regular Bookings
The taxi company wanted a way to encourage regular bookings, particularly from corporate clients. It felt that a points based Reward program was too complex to manage and explain. Instead it decided to use the Virtual Wallet.

Solution
People making advance bookings were encouraged to sign up for a Wallet. Whenever the person rang to make a booking the depot could usually identify the person from the caller ID. Where this was not possible they asked the person for their card number.
The depot could then identify the person and simply asked them to confirm the address where they wished to be collected, saving the time of getting directions. At the time of booking the depot informed the client of their account balance and at the end of the journey the fare was deducted from the clients card. If there was not enough credit the passenger could top-up as well. Each top up of €20 received an extra €1 credit, providing a bonus to the client and encouraging them to use the system.
The company started with a paper based system limited to regular bookings.  When the driver was given the booking they were also told the card number and the credit on it. They then recorded the value of the trip and this was deducted back at base.
The system could later be extended to trips made without pre-booking and, using internet enabled phones, the paper was eliminated.

Comment
This system achieved a number of benefits for the taxi company;
  • It allowed them to reduce the cash held in each car
  • It reduced the amount of cash required in each car since passengers tended to leave the extra on their account.
  • It helped cash flow as the passengers paid in advance, offsetting the top-up bonus.
  • It encouraged repeat business.
  • It made bookings more efficient as most of the information was already present in the system at the time of booking.

Toy Shop Christmas Club
A toy shop ran a successful Christmas Club every year. However they found that it was time consuming and the data they collected was spread around, making it hard to use effectively. They also found that their cash flow was hurt since a significant percentage of customers did not spend the full amount saved and they had to return the remainder at a key period of the year. Finally a number of customers every year lost their savings book and this left the business to decide whether to refund the customer or not.

Solution
The store purchased their own branded cards simply labelled “Saving Card”. These were issued to customers who wanted to save. Customers could save regularly and any amount remaining on the card could be rolled over to the next year. The same card was issued as a Gift Card.

Comment
The Saving Card successfully replaced the existing Christmas Club solving the previously identified issues. It also had the advantage of allowing the saving habit to be implemented all year round. By using it as a Gift Card they now also had a way to encourage recipients to return after their first visit. All the data on new and existing customers allowed targeted promotions.

These and the previous examples are just some of the ways Cash and Reward cards can be used to help increase custom while also reducing time taking orders, increasing cash flow and generally helping businesses survive the recession. If you want to discuss how you can use a card to bring additional benefits to your business give me a call on 021-2349920.
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Using Cash Cards pt. 1

Last week I took a look at different ways businesses can implement Reward Cards into their business and get not just the direct benefits that the card itself can bring but also make better use of the data and controls the system bring. This week I want to take two quick looks at  Cash Cards and how the new introduction to our platform can bring you benefits far beyond those available from paper based systems.

I want to take a quick look at 2 examples today and a further 2 later in the week.

Book Shop Gift Cards
A book shop had been offering Gift Vouchers to its customers for some time. However it did not have any accurate picture of who was getting these, how long it was taking for them to be used or if they prompted the recipient to come back on a regular basis.

Solution
The shop made the decision to replace all its Gift Vouchers with Gift Cards. The decision was made to maximise the flexibility for the customer and allow the purchase and redemption of value in any amount.

Comment
This implementation provided the store with a range of information that was never previously available to it. Now the store could see who received vouchers, what for and what books they purchased. They could also identify average times from issuance to redemption and plan their stock accordingly.
They were able to use their information to maximise their relationship with customers and send them personalised offers, encouraging them to come back after the initial visit.

Takeaway trying to remove cash handling on deliveries
This shop wanted to reduce the amount of cash their delivery people had to handle. They investigated a system of taking credit cards at the time of booking but this was unpopular and very time-consuming and led to lost orders when the lines were tied up.

Solution
The restaurant encouraged regular callers to avail of the Cash Card and to top it up with value. Cards could be topped up in the restaurant or with the delivery people.
They system was run alongside an existing Reward Card and this sped up the order-taking process since the system already knew the customers name, address and the directions to their house.
When the caller rang them the restaurant took the order, confirmed the identity and informed the caller of their remaining balance. The delivery person did not have to deal with change as the cost of the order was deducted from the customers card at the time of order. If they customer wanted to top-up their account they did so by handing the cash to the delivery person.
The two systems were integrated further by awarding extra Reward Points to Cash Card holders.

Comment
This system was easily integrated with the restaurants existing Reward Program since both used the same myrewardcard.ie platform. The customer gained by not having to worry about cash when ordering and they got extra Reward Points by holding both cards.
The restaurant gained happier customers and could take more orders by reducing the time each order held up the phone line. Deliveries were also more efficient as they did not have to deal with issues around change.

Cash Cards are new on our platform and can be used in many ways, such as Gift Cards, Christmas Clubs, Virtual Wallets etc. If you want to see how they can benefit your business don’t hesitate to give me a call on 021-2349920.

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RewardCard Usage pt.2

Shoe Shop With No Internet Connection
A shoe shop wanted to provide a Reward Card to its customers but did not have any internet access to allow real-time entry of transactions.

Solution
The shop arranged their program around vouchers posted to customers. When a customer complete a valid transaction their card number was written down along with the points due. These were then entered into myrewardcard.ie at the end of a day.
Every 3 months a report was run showing all customers with more than 500 points. These points were deducted and a voucher for €50 was posted to the customer. 

Comment
While adding some extra work the system they devised allowed the shop to offer a Reward Program. The posting of vouchers also reminded customers of the shop and gave them a reason to return as well as sparking discussion amongst the customer and their friends.

Clothes Shop With Internet-enabled Till
This shop wanted to implement the system using their existing till as a terminal.

Solution
myrewardcard.ie does not integrate into the till operation itself. However it operates through a browser on any internet-enabled till. The shop logged into the system and whenever a qualifying transaction took place the staff member simply switched screens on the terminal and entered the details.

Comment
While adding an extra transaction to the sales process this solution allowed the store to use its existing equipment and did not require extra space at the counter. The extra transaction easily took place while the customer entered their credit card details.

Restaurant Requiring a CRM System
The restaurant wanted to be able to streamline their take-away business by reducing the information to be collected during each call. In particular they wanted to introduce a delivery service and avoid confusion about addresses.

Solution
The business changed their default screen to Search. When  customer rang in they used the Caller ID (if it existed) to immediately pull up the customer details and greet the customer by name. If this did not show up they asked if the person had a Reward Card and used this. They then recorded the order and points awarded and were able to confirm the Reward at the time of the order. 
The restaurant also configured their Reward Program to focus on giving people rewards when they had a meal inside the restaurant. And they offered constantly changing “double-points” which focused on slow-moving high margin dishes. These changed depending on stock levels each day.

Comment
myrewardcard.ie fulfilled the two functions of Reward Program and Customer Relationship Management System for this restaurant. 
  • It made bookings more efficient as most of the information (name, address, directions) was already present in the system at the time of booking. This allowed more orders to be taken as the line was not tied up for so long.
  • It allowed the restaurant to encourage purchase of slow-moving items by flexibly awarding extra points on different dishes each evening.
  • It encouraged eat-in meals by offering larger points to in-house dining and also by making the rewards redeemable in the restaurant itself.
  • As a bonus the the restaurant was also able to provide proof of rewards to the Revenue Commissioners when an audit was conducted – an important consideration for a cash business.

These and the previous show the flexibility of the platform and its ability to meet your business needs when implementing a Reward Program. Next week I want to discuss ways in which the new Cash Card can be sued either as a direct replacement for existing paper based Gift and Saving programs but also how they can bring additional benefits that paper does not allow.
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