Tag Archives: Perka

Belly Adds Apple Ties, Enhancements: A Look at Local Loyalty, Post 2011

A slew of membership-based loyalty plays such as Belly, Five Stars, SpotOn, Spring, Perka, Thanx and others launched in 2011 to focus more on customer loyalty than new customer acquisitions. The business model: charge SMBs monthly fees; recognize customers via Point of Sales or other means; drive new purchases and loyalty.

Since then –but not recently– a lot of VC Money has flowed into the space. At the top level, Five Stars raised $42.7 milllion, and Belly raised $30 million. First Data likely spent a similar amount in purchasing Perka.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The companies haven’t scaled as quickly as they thought. Local sales channel issues have been paramount. There have also been issues attracting customer signups, a glut of promotions options; and a shortage of attractive merchant offers. Without significant marketing budgets, there are also under-developed brands.

The economics of the services also haven’t been great. It’s tough to score big when you are providing stores with $400-$500 tablets, as some do. Some also announced trials with major companies. A 2013-14 trial that Belly ran with 7-Eleven, for instance, ended up with 7-Eleven apparently abandoning the Belly platform and launching 7-Rewards, its own loyalty program (although it is possible that the program is being white-labelled by Belly.)

Here’s the situation today: It is hard to see how many subscribers each company has, but Belly may be the leader – especially if the space is narrowly defined so that it doesn’t include the larger, financial institution-oriented, card-linked offer players. It has 10,000 announced customers, each presumably paying near the rate card of between $100 and $199. Eighteen markets have been fully launched. Five Stars may be the second largest, in terms of merchant count. It is forecasting 8,000 SMBs by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, the companies have learned a lot and keep working at it. Today, Belly announced it was adding several enhancements. These include DIY offer generation for the SMBs; and analytics for SMB email marketing campaigns. Most intriguing to us are efforts to leverage its Apple relationship, which is no surprise. Belly was among the first to embrace Apple Passbook, and visitors to Belly’s offices are surrounded by thousands of iPad boxes in the lobby. Under the new deal, Belly is included as one of 40 + partners for Apple Pay and one of the most significant players tied to smaller SMBs.

Will the relationship deepen? Would Apple, for instance, be interested in acquiring Belly? As Perka executives noted after its sale to First Data, it is hard to be in this business as an independent. In a story published by Crain’s Chicago Business, CEO Logan LaHive said “This is an incredibly exciting new distribution channel. It allows us not to just focus on direct sales but focus on resellers and other channels, with new partnerships that will open up new geographies.”

First Data Adds Beacon Technology to its Perka Loyalty Solution

First Data, the payment processing giant, has been building up a suite of services that would take the company far beyond payment processing and inject it squarely in the middle of SMB marketing.

The suite as currently configured includes the Clover Point of Sales system; Insightics analytics of transactions; Gyft virtual gift card services; and Perka, a sophisticated loyalty program for SMBs. Each of the services works independently, but are also increasingly integrated as well.

Perka was purchased by First Data roughly one year ago; in tandem with First Data’ purchase of Clover. Competing with Belly, Five Stars, SpotOn and other loyalty services, Perka now has over 1,000 merchants, and has recently increased its monthly fee for new customers from $50 to $59.99.

Co-founder Rob Bethge recently talked with BIA/Kelsey about the service’s progress under First Data – a sale which Bethge says has given it a chance to scale on a global basis– technologically and commercially – much faster than if it had been a standalone company.

Bethge says the company is just now “commercializing” with First Data’s various channels, including the use of up to 1,700 First Data sales reps of various stripes reaching out to SMBs. The service’s latest feature is the addition of proprietary wireless Beacon technology with rolling security codes, which will be provided for free to subscribers. The technology, which requires consumer opt-in, allows stores to know precisely who is in their store at any time – a favorite merchant feature, says Bethge.

Among other things, stores could theoretically craft special promotions based on this knowledge. The service, which is Bluetooth enabled, also allows easy transactions when consumers hands are full (i.e. if they are carrying a baby or a cup of coffee).

Theoretically, using the Beacon, consumers can turn on the feature for the morning at some stores, and then turn it on for other stores in the evening. The Beacon technology also enables individual merchant apps, in addition to Web access. “It allows for very location oriented offers,” Bethge says.

Interestingly, Bethge says the Beacon service would not have had an impact when Perka was first introduced in 2011. At that time, “less than half of locations had WiFi. Now it is not even a question.”

Spending-Based Loyalty Programs: Perka Gets Beyond ‘Buy 10, Get 1’

“Buy 10, Get 1″ loyalty programs are directly descended from paper punchcard programs and serve a general purpose. They are especially effective for transactions that are always about the same (i.e. coffee, pizza and the movies).

But how do you spur more buying and more frequent buying when transactions are highly variable? This was a question posed last year by Southwest Airlines when it shifted its loyalty program from trips to dollars spent.

Now Perka, a 28 person, national loyalty provider based in Portland, OR and New York, is adding a “Flex Card” option for its loyalty efforts as well. Perka’s Flex Card program enables local merchants to not only tally different kinds of spending, but it also enables them to set a variety of thresholds for rewards (i.e. 50 points to a shirt, 500 points to a birthday party, etc.)

Co-Founder Robert Bethge tells us the Flex card program was soft launched in October, and costs merchants $50 per month, as opposed to $35 for the standard electronic punchcard. Currently, 50 merchants are on the flex card option, while 450 take the punchcard.

Bethge adds that a key advantage of the Flex card program, he notes, is that it leverages the company’s ability to read directly off Point of Sales systems, adding many additional “closed loop” verification capabilities.