As social networking increases in popularity, retailers and financial institutions continue to look for ways to use the medium to expand their marketing and sales capabilities. In January 2010, POS solutions provider pcAmerica integrated the social networking initiative of nationwide frozen dessert chain Tasti D-Lite LLC into pcAmerica's loyalty program.
This interface attaches the social networking habits of consumers to their in-store and loyalty activity and is designed to build brand, consumer awareness and sales for Tasti D-Lite. According to David Gosman, Chief Executive Officer of pcAmerica, this is the first time a retailer has connected social networking with in-store purchase capability, also known as multisite loyalty social networking.
"Tasti D-Lite is very conscious of branding and marketing as far as social networking goes," Gosman said. "They do a lot of hands-on work engaging directly with their customers through Twitter or FourSquare, so they wanted a means to tie in the purchasing habits of their consumers and incentivize them to talk about their brand and their products.
"And by integrating customers' social networks with a pcAmerica loyalty program, stores and restaurants gain access to a marketing tool that has an actual dollar value for the consumer."
Consumers who register for the Tasti D-Lite loyalty program receive a TreatCard, which they can register online and connect to their Twitter and FourSquare accounts. Every time the consumer uses his or her TreatCard when making a purchase, an automatic Tweet and FourSquare check-in is posted by pcAmerica's POS system to the customer's account, indicating the individual has earned points or a free frozen dessert.
Tasti D-Lite awards an extra loyalty point for each purchase as well as for each Tweet or FourSquare check-in posted. When customers earn 50 points they receive a free frozen dessert. Gosman said social networking is an extremely cost-effective marketing method and can be deployed to nationwide retailers in addition to smaller, independent businesses.
He added that sending a tweet to customers' accounts when they earn points or free desserts can generate viral marketing and exponentially spread a company's customer base. "When friends tweet, most often they live close by each other and have similar interests," Gosman said. "So they see you getting messages on your social network regarding your points, and they're going to want to know how to get those loyalty points as well.
Gosman said opportunities for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to offer social networking as a value-added service to merchants, tied to a loyalty plan, are significant and increasing all the time. PcAmerica offers its POS, loyalty and social networking solutions through several ISOs and processors across the country.
Gosman's goal is to evolve the company's social networking through loyalty solutions as a stand-alone value-add that can be deployed through other POS systems or processors' back-end servers.
He added that the company's loyalty program not only has cash value, but also increases brand awareness by opening an extremely low-cost avenue of advertising for merchants. Additionally, it eliminates printing costs and mailing lists because social networking consumers are bringing a particular merchant, its brand name, products and services, directly to their friends.
"So now, instead of just selling card processing and other basic merchant services, ISOs and MLSs can introduce their merchants to social networking revolving around payments," Gosman said. "And tying a loyalty system into our technology helps merchants increase exposure to their customers' social networks, which is really the golden crown of marketing today."
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