Loyalty Is Not Enough — It’s All About Customer Relationship Management Now
Flok, formerly known as rewards platform Loyalblocks, is expanding its CRM offerings for local businesses and SMBs with an app designed for mobile immediacy.
As shoppers and restaurant-goers are increasingly turning to smartphone apps for retail discovery and reservations, it makes sense that the businesses serving them reflect that mobile sensibility.
That’s the idea behind Flok for Business, which the company formerly known as digital punch-card provider Loyalblocks, is positioning as a “customer experience app” for merchants’ own smartphones. The app is intended to give businesses more flexibility to drive loyalty, foot traffic, and incremental sales — all from their mobile devices. The app is available to download for Apple’s iOS and will launch on Google Android’s system later this week.
In terms of execution, the Flok for Business app appears to its users like a “customer news feed,” enabling businesses to sort, segment, and engage customers via one-to-one or group messaging.
The app also comes with a “human-assisted” artificial intelligence chat function, which allows for automated messaging for campaigns along with proximity-triggered notifications to keep up with customers around the clock. These tools are managed from the new business-facing app or Flok’s existing web dashboard.“In today’s connected environment, most people have ‘chatfirst’ relationships with each other. Now, they’re expecting that same conversational UX from the businesses they frequent. And given the huge growth potential in the AI and messaging space, we knew it was time to release a more powerful communications tool,” said Ido Gaver, Flok’s CEO. “The average business owner might not have time or resources to become an expert in conversational UX or AI, but they are experts in delivering a great customer experience. We’re helping these businesses to translate that great CX into quality UX in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost.”
Location services are also a big part of the company’s app. Flok for Business is also being rounded out with Traffic Map. With this tool, businesses can view where opted-in club members are in proximity to the store and message them with offers or incentives to visit the location.
The five-year-old company, which is headquarted Tel Aviv and New York, says it has driven verified sales lift and foot traffic for over 100,000 businesses across multiple categories — from fitness studios and gyms to franchise restaurants and bars — in all 50 U.S. states and Canada.
In emphasizing the role location plays as a CRM tool for local businesses, Ido Mart, Flok’s COO, explained that the it all comes down to “the right person, right message, at the right time.”
“Context is vital to engagement success, and location is one of the best providers of context,” Mart said. “We’re using beacons and geofencing to make mobile engagements (or automated interactions) more relevant to the customer based on their offline behavior. We started Flok with location in mind as the main contextual driver, and we still believe it plays a vital role in the success and growth of Flok’s programs. Every business we work with receives a complimentary Flok beacon to help their program succeed.”
SMBs Adopt Enterprise Practices
In releasing its new set of tools, Flok, like many companies in the space, has sought to satisfy SMBs’ relatively new interest in adopting practices — like CRM — that have previously been the available only to large-scale chains and enterprises.
Sean Webster, senior reputation manager for local marketing agency Hi5 in Nashville, Tenn., has worked with Flok for four years. His shop helped test Flok for Business for a restaurant client, JB’s Pour House.
The pub had initially concentrated on using the digital versions of loyalty “punch cards” that have been a staple of driving local business. But the new offerings have deepened the local pub’s connection to its customers on a more individual basis, beyond the general idea of simply checking in to the establishment and receiving a discount after reaching a certain number of visits.
In a sense, Flok’s new tools also reflect the evolution of the “loyalty” concept for local businesses, while still retaining the core idea of recognizing regular customers when they enter a business location. In the past, managers, waiters, shopkeepers, and their customers remained the same and were able to maintain a constant relationship. But with staff turnover, the ability to identify a frequent customer has gotten more difficult. The use of Flok’s technology represents an updated version of nurturing the one-to-one feel that local businesses have historically relied upon.
“I don’t think that the idea of ‘customer loyalty’ has changed,” Webster said. “I think the user incentive changed. Now, a customer expects to have a loyalty program for most services. More importantly than that, they expect to be heard. If somebody reaches out digitally through this loyalty program, they expect that they can get in touch with the business and get a response, and pretty quickly.”
For example, in addition to keeping tabs and messaging customers ahead of their birthdays, the app can also prompt a business’s past patrons when they’re nearby and haven’t visited for a while. Flok of Business can customize the time-frame when it comes to sending a customer a message to a patron that hasn’t stopped by.
“For people that have turned off their notifications, they can get an email instead and it continues to re-engage the loyalty to that business,” Webster said. “Secondarily to that, I really like being able to chat with my members. If I want to log in and pick out a particular demographic. For example, if I want to look at members that have been in my store 30 times, and they’re females between the age of 25- and 35, I can call those people out and send them a direct message, send them a reward, or just simply say, ‘Thank you.’ It just allows me next level, interaction, and segmentation of my current loyalty program.”
Lining Up New Alliances
As Flok rolls out its new product, the company is considering working with third-party ad/marketing agencies, data providers, and location tech companies, said Mart.
“We’ve been hyper-focused on building Flok into the industry’s most powerful, most affordable B2C/C2B communications product,” Mart said. “Today, we’re working with thousands of partner businesses who are driving real value and loyalty via enhanced digital communication.
“In recent months, we’ve received hundreds of partnership requests — from marketing agencies and merchant services to chambers of commerce,” he continued. “We only consider partnerships that are consistent with our philosophy: In the digital age, we want to preserve and enhance the local experience of frequenting a business across digital channels. Many think that technology is making our experiences “less human.” We’ve found the solution in the problem. We’re using digital communication to improve and enhance the local experience.”