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Chicago merchants connect online, offline via mobile-social loyalty programs

Businesses in Chicago are using mobile-social rewards to generate awareness, encourage in-store traffic and build customer loyalty.

Various merchants are participating in Bling Nation’s rollout of its mobile platform featuring near field communication by offering incentives via its FanConnect social rewards program in Chicago as part of a broader national rollout that also includes San Francisco. Every time customers earn a reward, which is redeemable at the point of sale via mobile, they can share it with their Facebook friends, who can access that deal and use it when they visit the business.

“We are building a mobile platform to connect businesses and consumers using NFC as a technology that we feel will advance and become the predominant vehicle over QR codes and what have you,” said Matt Murphy, general manager of Bling Nation, Palo Alto, CA. “We recently launched FanConnect in Chicago, a social rewards platform that merchants can use to incentivize consumers to come back to their business and tell their friends about it on Facebook.

“It is a great platform to make retailers’ customers more loyal and have them inform their social networks and attract new customers,” he said. “Consumers are getting rewarded for going to the places they go the most.

“It is a way for merchants to reward consumers for their loyalty by sending rewards directly to a BlingTag-enabled mobile phone.”

Bling Nation is a mobile platform that enables tap-and-connect capabilities such as social media connectivity and mobile transactions at checkout. 

Bada Bling
After its debut in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bling Nation has brought FanConnect to Chicago, helping bricks-and-mortar businesses to engage with their customers both online and offline via customized mobile rewards and discount offers.

Bling Nation is working with a variety of businesses in the downtown and surrounding areas of Chicago, including Bachman Aero, Declan’s Irish Pub, Deleece Restaurant, Gauntlet Warbird, Kickstand Café, Noble Tree Café, Ortanic, Shred Shop and White Glove Car Wash.

Residents of Chicago can discover deals and get rewarded every time they visit one of these local businesses.

FanConnect lets businesses reward their consumers, and lets customers share these rewards with their friends on Facebook.

Mobile rewards via NFC
To find Bling Nation deals, consumers can go to Facebook and add the Bling Nation application or view a deal a friend has shared on their wall.

Examples of mobile rewards include airbrush-tanning company Ortanic, which is distributing 30-percent-off coupons good till Feb. 15 at its Lincoln, Gold Coast and Lakeview locations.

Gauntlet Warbirds is offering 20 percent off an airplane ride.

Kickstand Espresso Bar is also offering 20-percent-off mobile coupons.

Deleece Restaurant is distributing 15-percent-off rewards, while Noble Tree Cafe is offering 20-pecent-off coupons.

Once consumers access a deal online, they come into the business to redeem it, without needing to bring a printed coupon.

After they claim their deal, they receive a near field communication-enabled BlingTag to use every time they visit a business to accumulate rewards for future purchases.

Every time they earn a social reward, customers will automatically share a special offer to their Facebook wall and the first five friends to click on the post will get the deal for their next visit to the business. 

Participating businesses get an NFC-enabled voucher printer called a BlingBox, NFC-enabled BlingTags and merchandising materials.

Bling Nation sees mobile loyalty and rewards initiatives as a way to drive adoption of NFC.

Once consumers are familiar and comfortable with getting and redeeming coupons via their phone, they may be more open to using their phone to make payments.
“Why would someone switch over to a mobile wallet unless we add value in some way?” Mr. Murphy said. “That is where this reward initiative comes in.

“We’re offering more value through an NFC tag than just tapping your phone to make a payment, which is where we see this mobile wallet eventually going,” he said. “We start our merchants with mobile loyalty, and they can add mobile payments down the road.

“In addition to redeeming rewards, consumers can tap and pay using their mobile phone via their PayPal account.”

Final Take
FanConnect businesses