Rewardle is an Australian mobile app start-up that is on a mission to clean out the paper and plastic loyalty cards filling wallets everywhere. The Rewardle app available on iOS and Android uses customers smartphones and merchant POS material featuring QR codes to allow consumers to record and carry their membership data at participating businesses on their phone.
Everyday, around the world, cafes and a raft of other businesses hand out paper and plastic loyalty cards by the dozen, Rewardle’s founder, Ruwan Weerasooriya, knows plenty about this practice, particularly in cafes.
In 2007 he founded CafeScreen, a media business that operates a network of large digital screens and free WiFi hotspots in a national network of over 320 CBD cafes. Last year CafeScreen was sold to Australia’s leading out of home media company oOh!Media.
Drawing on his experience in dealing with hundreds of independent small business owners through the development of CafeScreen, Weerasooriya locked in on addressing mobile membership, loyalty and rewards for local businesses as his next venture. Weerasooriya and his team at Rewardle have been building and testing iterations of the Rewardle platform with the aim of providing convenience to consumers and assisting local businesses to leverage technology to grow.
“In building CafeScreen we dealt with hundreds of amazing, independent small business owners. They are time poor and running businesses on tight margins, typically they can’t afford the time or money to implement the sophisticated marketing strategies or systems used by large brand name retail chains but they desperately need them to compete.”
Initially the Rewardle team has turned its attention to migrating traditional punch cards into a mobile app. “With more than half the population carrying a smartphone it just makes a lot of sense to carry membership and loyalty records in the cloud rather than our wallets” said Weerasooriya.
Weerasooriya says that both the consumer and merchants win with the Rewardle approach. “Consumers get a convenient and fun way to engage with their favourite places while merchants receive the benefit of customer feedback, data and analytics that does not exist with the standard paper punch card.” The data and analysis is where Rewardle is looking to turbo charge small business growth by uncovering and highlighting trends for business owners to act on.
He added “large brands with full marketing departments are struggling to grasp the changes occurring in the way consumers engage with them so imagine how challenging it is for the little guy. Our aim is to help them to nut out how to leverage online, social and mobile opportunities to grow their business.”
Trying to simultaneously engage merchants and users is a bit of a chicken and egg problem for the Rewardle team. “Merchants want users and users want quality merchants. You can’t succeed unless both sides of the equation are engaged.” Said Weerasooriya
Rather than committing to a bet on a single approach to the solve the problem Rewardle has adopted an increasingly popular start up methodology known as “The Lean Start-up”. This approach relies on launching a minimum viable product then rapidly learning and iterating the product.
Weerasooriya said “Lean Start-up is challenging because the product is never really finished or as stable as you’d like it to be in the early stage. This can frustrate some early users and we’ve certainly seen this happen but we’ve also uncovered an amazing supporter base who seem to understand that we are trying to build something new and are supporting us with great feedback on a daily basis. They see us constantly striving to improve the product and have joined us on the journey.”
While it’s still early days for Rewardle, Weerasooriya explains that as the company has learned and rapidly incorporated feedback from its beta product the merchant and user engagement metrics have ticked up making him increasingly confident that the company will soon crack the formula for a sustainable business model.
He added “CafeScreen is a pioneering Digital Out of Home business model that we built into a multi- million dollar media business using Lean Start-up principles. We learned a lot through that process and are bringing that to the table for Rewardle”
With the aim of building the equivalent of Google Analytics for bricks and mortar businesses if Weerasooriya and his team solve the puzzle it could very well be a $B business built out of the Australian startup scene. Now that would be Rewarding indeed!