"Our customer, Japanese ramen restaurant Ippei-an successfully signed up more than 1,000 members in five weeks," said Aitken. "It'd take five years to accomplish that with paper-based cards."
Founded less than a year ago and funded by SingTel Innov8, Pollenizer, and Yuuwa Capital, Soda offers a loyalty program platform comprising a smartphone app, a physical kiosk for new user registration, a plastic card, analytics, and support services.
Asked why the system includes a plastic card, Aitken said it's given to a new consumer who can register at any participating location by scanning the QR code on the card at the kiosk and providing an email address.
The person then receives a welcome email with the steps to complete his or her account creation process and begin receiving custom offers from their favorite shops, he added.
By downloading the Soda app for iPhone or Android, a user can synchronize accounts by logging in with his or her registered email address and PIN. So the user can look up new offers, view points earned, and redeem offers with his or her smartphone.
Some of the Soda's customers include Habitu, French pastry shop Paul Lafayet, Just Salad, Yoppi Yogurt, and art jamming. According to Aitken, more than 100 locations will have Soda kiosks where consumers can register for a variety of programs offered by different merchants.
In addition, merchants can understand customer behavior—like what they redeem and how often they visit them—more efficiently with the data and analytics Soda provides. "One size doesn't fit all," said Aitken. "Now with segmentation, merchants can create different rewards to suit different customers."
Based on data collected, merchants can also do A-versus-B testing on similar customers to see what offers they prefer, he added.
Long-term strategy needed
>Though technologies can offer much help to retailers, the retail firms must offer products that customers want in the first place, said Aitken.
Merchants must also be realistic and realize that customer loyalty is a result of a long-time effort. "You can improve engagement over time, but don't expect huge increases in sales overnight," Aitken said. "You have to work to make loyalty happen. There might be a few products like airline services or cars that have a relatively easier time in building loyalty, but many others—like F&B—need to create effective communications channels with customers and examine their data closely."
Chong from Green Tomato also stresses the importance of a long-term app-based marketing strategy. "You created lots of noise a few years ago if you had a mobile app," she said. "But today simply having an app isn't enough. You must know what you want to achieve with the app and constantly update your offers to attract both new and existing customers."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.