Monthly Archives: November 2009

Protecting Your Data In A Crisis

According to a report in The Sunday Tribune of November 29 half of all businesses which lost computer data in the recent floods will end up going out of business. While the article doesn’t mention the number of businesses affected it does highlight the issue of disaster recovery for digital data. Not all businesses keep regular backups of their data and even fewer keep those backups outside their offices.

Sunday Tribune Article

The loss of Loyalty records might not be as serious as losing your accounts but it can still lead to bad feeling from your customers. The automatic protection of this information is another advantage of myrewardcard.ie. A system you host yourself requires that you are responsible for regular backups and storing them in a secure location. myrewardcard.ie however is not only operated on a cloud cluster with built in redundancy but also makes externally-stored backups twice a day and then archives these on a weekly basis. This peace of mind is an integrated part of our service and is included in the low annual cost.

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Stamped Cards

The most common Loyalty Card implementation in Ireland is the “Stamped Card.”  This is the the cardboard card which the retailer stamps after every purchase and which entitles you to a free item when all the stamps are completed. While this is most common in coffee shops they are also used in various other businesses.

The reason stamped cards are used so widely is primarily because of the benefits they bring but also because of the difficulty and cost of a technological solution. We will address the benefits of a technological solution later but for now lets look at the stamped card on their own terms.

 

The Benefits

Stamped cards have some very strong benefits for a business;

  • Speed: Implementing a stamped cards system is very quick. Just decide the terms of the program – what the points are given for and what you get back. Make a final decision on the design, print the cards and distribute them.
  • Branding: A stamped card is allows a business to brand itself easily and cheaply.
  • Flexibility: It’s easy to change the terms of the program, for instance to include another product
  • Cost: Each card is cheap itself (though this is partly offset by the large numbers required)
  • Simplicity: This program is simple for the customer to understand and for staff to implement.
  • Value Checking: Stamped cards contain their own built-in point display that lets a customer know exactly how many points he has and how many he needs to get his reward.

 

The Downsides:

The downsides to the Stamped Card exist not in their own terms but in comparison to the greater benefits  offered by alternatives.

  • Lost Points: Stamped cards are seen as disposable items whose points are lost if the card is lost. Because of this they have minimal influence on customers who often forget to bring the card with them or leave them in their pocket during the wash.
  • Lack of Customer Data: A stamped card goes out the door and you never know anything about the customer. You canʼt tell if they use it again, how many cards that person takes, how long between uses or any of the other information that would help you run your business more effectively.
  • Business Image: Cardboard cards are instantly forgettable. Yes they are branded but because they are so common people tend to forget them and because they are simply cardboard they tend to go into a  pocket where they are squashed and crushed. Other media such as plastic cards project a better image and are also retained for longer.
  • Flexibility: Points can only be awarded in multiples on a stamped card. This limits your ability to fine-tune your program so that it gives different ranges of points to different products or time of day.
  • Cost: Cardboard cards are individually cheaper than the high quality plastic cards. However the churn rate is high which requires the re-issuing of multiple cards and, because they don’t collect any data they become a cost rather than a benefit for the business.
  • Forgotten Cards: Because the card is the only membership identification in a stamped-card scheme they must be shown by customers when they visit. There is no facility to use name, phone number or email to award or redeem points.

 

 

Stamped cards have a place and, for many businesses, they are the ideal option. However their limitations  do eventually come to inhibit a lot of their users. What happens then is that the cards are left at the end of the till but they are not promoted or changed and the whole program grows stale for both business and customers. More advanced systems such as those provided by myrewardcard.ie can overcome these problems as we will see at a later date.

The 4 key design parameters of myrewardcard.ie

myrewardcard.ie was developed to help independent businesses, chains and groups implement professional reward programs cost-effectively. It had become clear to us that Reward Programs fell into two categories: the comprehensive, detailed and expensive versions operated by the likes of Tesco and the basic stamped-card type (operated most visibly by coffee shops).

Stamped Cards are the most commonly available Loyalty System in Ireland for a number of reasons: they are cheap, easy to understand, and quick to administer. Any solution we developed had to meet these criteria but also do more.

It quickly became apparent that any solution had to do four basic things;

Brand the Business

A business is its name and we had to design a service that acknowledged this. After all no business wants to promote us when they can promote themselves. For this reason myrewardcard.ie is low key in both its look and operation. The business issues their own card with their own design and myrewardcard.ie is simply a central place to manage their points. In this way the cardholder carries the business in their wallets. They know which businesses offer them Rewards and they have an address and other contact information handy if ever asked to recommend a place.

Be Simple and Flexible

We wanted the system to be simple and available to everyone so we designed it to require no special hardware and to ensure that there was no software to download or keep updated. The business can choose many different ways to operate the system, from scanning barcodes to manually entering card numbers. The system can be run through any browser and there is no time or complexity involved in expanding the number of terminals in use.

This simplicity and flexibility extends to the customer side. Not everyone in Ireland is comfortable with the Internet or has an email address. myrewardcard.ie gives these customers the opportunity to use phone numbers to activate their account…and those who are not comfortable with the internet can even have their account created instore. Even better, if they have already created an account it is a 5-second job to register a new card to it. And if they have a group card (such as one from a town) they only need to carry one card to access programs from multiple different businesses.

Be Cost-effective

From the outset we knew that we wanted the benefits of a professional reward program to be available to all businesses, large or small, stand-alone or part of a chain. This meant keeping costs as low as possible and led directly to our central management design. By centrally hosting the software we can make the service available to all businesses, chains, or groups without having to customize each installation. As a result of this central management we can keep our costs  – and price – low.

Not only is the price kept low enough that the normal benefits of a Reward Program quickly allow the system to pay for itself but it also helps reduce costs by providing data that allows more efficient and targeted use of advertising budgets. The range of reports allows the business to see where the customers come from, how often and in what patterns they visit and to use this and other information to target  advertising. You can also see what advertising results in visits from lapsed customer and which brings in new ones, and which results in single-visit customer and which generates repeat visits.

Being able to target the advertising not only to groups but to individuals  is the most cost-effective marketing solution available and not only generates business but reduces costs.

Bring Benefits to Customers

A system that only brings benefits to businesses is not much use. It also needs to bring benefits to customers if it is to be successful. myrewardcard.ie was designed to do this. As mentioned above it is possible for those who already have a myrewardcard.ie account to register cards from multiple businesses in seconds. They can also manage all these cards in one place. This includes seeing their points balance and transaction history. This reduces the friction involved in accepting a new card, making it more convenient and likely that they will accept yours.

Once they have registered their cards your customers can also be reassured that their points are safe even if they lose their card. Not only can they transfer points from lost cards to new ones but crucially (and, as far as we know, uniquely to myrewardcard.ie) they can protect the points even before they get  replacement! They simply ‘suspend’ the card and then collect a replacement in their own time.

These are the four basic ideas we knew myrewardcard.ie must satisfy. The served we offer now does not only this but much more. We’ll go into detail about the features we have in later posts as well as outlining the simple things that go to make a successful Reward Program.

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Loyalty Card helps Tesco gain market share

There was an interesting article in The Guardian last Wednesday (November 11).  According to this report Tesco increased its market share in the UK for the first time in two years thanks to its Clubcard scheme.

Tesco-stores-001

This program has been running for some time but they recently relaunched it and doubled the points they were offering and saw their market share grow by 4.7%. The doubling of points cost them money but they made it up in the market share. By increasing their market share they are also positioning themselves well for when the recession ends.

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About our new blog

I’d like to say hi and thank you for reading this. This is the first blog we’ve done here at myrewardcard.ie so I’ll have to ask you to bear with me as I find my feet – and my voice.

The first thing I would like to do is introduce myself. My name is Brian O’Connell and I am the Chief Executive of myrewardcard.ie. I’m also the primary person designing and coding the product we have to offer businesses in Ireland.

This blog is intended to fill three purposes:

1. Let you know about what myrewardcard.ie does, new features we introduce, and things we are working on

2. Let you know where the ideas come from and why we make the design choices we do

3. To let me highlight ideas on business and particularly on how Reward Programs work in the real world. While the first two purposes are clear enough this latter one is likely to be a bit more free flowing but potentially the most interesting. I envision it being occasional items seen in newspapers etc as well as some of the lessons we have learned (and are learning) as we develop this service.

I hope this blog will help not only our existing customers but will also be of interest generally. Let me know either way.