According to The Seattle Times, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told managers that customers loaded USD$1.3 billion in Starbucks cards across the US and Canada during the October-to-December Holiday Quarter, representing an unprecedented figure in the company’s history. But why should large retail chains have all the fun?
Rewardle, the Melbourne-based membership, points and rewards platform is on a mission to provide the marketing tools and business intelligence used by larger retail chains like Starbucks to local High St merchants. They recently added prepaid and gift card features to its offering after launching the feature during the Christmas season.
“We’re giving indie coffee shop owners, or any merchant type for that matter, the opportunity to cost effectively implement systems similar to those used by the big guys like Starbucks,” says Founder and CEO of Rewardle Ruwan Weerasooriya.
For those who haven’t heard of Rewardle, it’s basically the digital version of the ubiquitous “buy 9, get 1 free” paper punch card used by local businesses across Australia. Rewardle provides local businesses with a customer-facing tablet that acts as a kiosk. During visits, customers check-in on the tablet using a card or smartphone app to collect points and redeem rewards – ranging from free coffee or a high-five from the barista, to a latte art lesson – during daily transactions at their favourite places.
Weerasooriya says allowing merchants the ability to offer customers prepaid and gift cards through the platform was a natural next step for the startup, and had proven to be a winner with both merchants and consumers during the Christmas season.
“Our tablets were already acting as a currency collection and redemption platform for points. With pre-payment and gift cards we’ve just added tracking real dollars into the mix,” he says.
“We noticed that many merchants were operating simple paper based IOU systems that allowed customers to throw down some cash up front and then work their way through the prepaid credit. Just like the paper punchcard before it, we’ve now digitised the pre-payment system and in doing so have added value to both the merchant and the consumer experience. We describe it as a digital IOU system.”
He adds that pre-payment and gift cards are just different names for the same mechanics that large organisations such as telco’s and retail chains have used for years to engage customers and collect forward revenue.
“Independent local merchants are typically time poor and running businesses on tight margins; they desperately need the sophisticated marketing strategies and systems of large corporations to compete but don’t have the time or resources to implement them.”
Rewardle is also going the extra mile to provide each merchant with custom branded gift-card sleeves that hold a Rewardle card with pre-paid value ready for sale and gifting.
In the past months, Weerasooriya and his team have been working rigorously on online and mobile pre-ordering services that will be launched later this year.
“A number of startups have attempted online and mobile pre-ordering without gathering what I would consider commercially viable critical mass. Like all things we do as a lean start-up we’ve been working closely for many months with a group of pilot merchants to develop a solution that adds value for both merchants and members.”
For more information on Rewardle, visit www.rewardle.com.