By Dave Pelland

One of the most effective ways for small businesses to increase revenue is selling more to existing customers, and loyalty programs can play a big role in helping business owners achieve this worthy goal.

Although loyalty programs have long been a staple of small business marketing, a variety of mobile loyalty platforms have emerged to help small businesses establish loyalty efforts quickly and operate them more effectively than was possible with traditional approaches.

Mobile Basics

At a basic level, mobile loyalty programs provide a digital alternative to the wallet-sized punch cards that have long been used to track customer purchases and reward frequent patrons.

Mobile loyalty programs replace punch cards by allowing patrons to track transactions on their smartphones, an approach that offers a number of benefits to customers and to the small businesses at which they shop:

  • Purchases are recorded directly on the mobile device, eliminating the need for customers to carry around a printed card.
  • Customers are more likely to agree to register for a program if they don't have to place yet another card in their wallet.
  • Businesses save the cost of printing punch cards.
  • Businesses don't have to worry about a clerk over-punching cards to give his or her friends extra benefits.

Overall, mobile loyalty programs are easier to set up and to administer than a traditional loyalty program. Instead of printing your own cards (or developing a mobile app), it's simple and cost-effective to arrange a program with service providers such as Belly, RewardMe, Spendgo, Key Ring, and other popular choices. Most services offer subscriptions that start at about $50 per month, with fees rising based on transaction volume.

Some loyalty platforms allow customers to combine "cards" from a variety of merchants. This approach can provide a potential benefit that helps local customers discover your small business as they shop at nearby merchants.

As you consider adopting a mobile loyalty program, an important first step is defining your objective. Increasing revenue is an obvious starting point, but there are different ways to get there. Some businesses want to reward patrons for stopping in frequently, while others want to track the amount that people spend. Others would prefer to offer discounts to thank customers for referrals. Any of these will depend on the nature of your business and your goals, and can play a role in helping you determine the most effective mobile program or platform provider.

Customer Relationship Management

As another benefit, most loyalty cards are affiliated with services that allow small-business owners to track the purchases of their most frequent patrons more effectively. You'll receive access to an online dashboard that lets you see, at a glance, detailed reports such as your most active customers, popular purchases, busiest time of day, and other metrics that can help you refine your marketing efforts more effectively.

Some mobile loyalty platforms also offer e-commerce marketing services to help you design promotional campaigns such as email newsletters, text messages, coupons or other marketing initiatives.

Many programs also include social media integration that allows customers to offer recommendations to their online friends. This can lead to referrals that increase your sales further.

As a final benefit, although mobile loyalty programs are becoming more common, they still have enough of a novelty value that they can offer a fun and interesting way to promote your small business and reward loyal customers effectively.


Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank.