Can mobile apps replace loyalty cards?

Peter Tanham


Digital Boost

The relentless push for new customers can be incredibly tough. Many businesses find that focusing energy on retention and upsell with existing customers can actually generate more revenue than trying to find new ones. Some of the smartest of these companies are using mobile apps as the cornerstone of this drive.

There’s nothing new about the concept of a customer clubcard: a loyalty card, and the postal relationship it opens between you and your customers, is an open communication channel you can use for things like promoting promote seasonal offers or delivering money-off rewards.

But if you really want to drive home the business benefits of a loyalty program, you need to look at how a mobile app could take the place of a more traditional loyalty card program.

Great customer app examples include Starbucks globally, as well as Paddy Power here in Ireland, which also uses its Twitter feed to answer customer questions about the Paddy Power app.
A mobile loyalty app allows you to send customers push notifications of special offers, and you don’t have to pay the traditional costs associated with off-line loyalty schemes such as posting hard copy coupons. There are however upfront development costs, and as Mike Creaven advised in his blog on building a business app 101, you should choose your developer selectively, ensuring you’re working with an app developer who really grasps your business objectives.

If you’re launching a loyalty program, consider also that going the app route lets you use customers’ mobile numbers as their clubcard ID, rather than adding complexity by issuing separate customer loyalty card numbers.

Profile, segment and target your offers

Talk to your mobile app developer about how you can begin building a profile of your customers’ buying history through the app. You might discover, for example, that 75% of your customers who buy cappuccino also buy a croissant; you could then target the 25% of cappuccino drinkers who don’t yet purchase croissants with their drink and deliver them a special offer.

And don’t forget the off-line promotion of your new app: why not have a sign in your premises announcing a 5% discount on their purchases today if they agree to down download loyalty app now?

The Irish market already understands clubcard schemes, and moving to mobile is simply a logical next step. Why not explore your options?

Do you already give customers the option of providing you with their email address to receive information and offers from you? Why not ask them if they’d also like to provide their mobile number for the same purpose?


Peter Tanham is a mobile marketing expert. He began his career in the telecoms industry, working in the marketing department for one of the world’s largest mobile phone carriers. He founded Amp Communications, a digital marketing agency in 2010, running successful online marketing campaigns for clients like The Corrs, Dublin Gospel Choir and Heathers.

Peter is the founder and CEO of SparkPage, a mobile relationship marketing company. SparkPage provides a suite of online tools to help businesses acquire and retain customers via smartphones. These tools make communicating with mobile customers through apps, SMS, social media and email much more effective.