No longer reserved just for big companies, entrepreneurs and small business owners can now offer their customers loyalty programs that go beyond the traditional punch card. With the help of third-party companies like Groupon, Belly and Perka, who all offer digital reward programs, the little guys can now compete with larger companies.

FoBoGro, a convenience store located in the Washington D.C. area, recently began offering a rewards program courtesy of Belly. When customers check out at the register, they are able to check their reward points on a tablet furnished by Belly. Before Belly, owner Devlin Keating tried to institute a rewards card program that offered points for shopping but customers didn’t take to it and eventually, Keating gave up on the idea. Keating says, “Now the rewards are staring them right in the face at the counter, and they’re like ‘Oh my God, how do I win that?’”

Creativity Sparks Customer Interest

Keating enjoys coming up with creative ideas for rewards, like a 30-second sweep in which a customer has 30 seconds to grab as many goodies from the store as they can, a date with the store’s co-founder, and a chance to create and name a new sandwich to be included in the weekly  menu. “If we’re going to stand out, we’ve got to be better at this than CVS. We’ve got to make it more fun,” Keating says.

Other more extreme examples of creative rewards include Chicago-based AlleyCat Comics which allows customers to hit the owner in the stomach after 50 visits or Bagelsmith in New York which offers customers who’ve earned 7,500 points the opportunity to arm wrestle the owner to win equity in the business.

Big Business Can Learn From the Little Guys

Jeanne Bliss, CEO of Customer Bliss, a consulting company specializing in customer service, says, “Even big businesses are realizing that they need to start interacting with their customers on a more personal level.” She goes on to say, “So much of what people call service is this automated impersonal stuff. But they’re realizing it’s human beings that they’re trying to connect with.”

That’s where companies like Belly are beneficial. They not only provide a rewards program but also coach companies on creative reward offerings, track and provide data on their rewards, including what was most popular and at what times. In addition, Belly provides data on peak traffic times so companies can forecast more accurately.

Loyalty reward programs provide an excellent avenue for personalization which is typically an area where small businesses already thrive. That’s why it’s clear to see that large retail chains can learn a thing or two from the mom and pop store on the corner.


St. John, Oliver. “Entrepreneurs Get Creative With Loyalty Rewards”. 6/12/13.