When psychology senior Alex Rivera goes to Bubble Island, she no longer has to rely on a flimsy paper punch card to keep track of her purchases until her free Bubble Tea.
Since the FlockTAG electronic reward system was installed at Bubble Island, 515 E. Grand River Ave., last year, frequent customers have a way to track loyalty points on their smartphones, which some say is easier than keeping track of multiple punch cards. The system now has expanded to 11 other independently owned East Lansing businesses.
The FlockTAG system, co-founded by Bubble Island owner David Lin, creates an online network that connects participating businesses, since users have one card that works at multiple places.
“(It’s) much more convenient than a stamp card, especially if you lose it by accident,” Rivera said.
Once Lin opened the East Lansing Bubble Island in 2005, he and FlockTAG co-owner Adrian Fortino saw an immediate need for a rewards point system for smaller businesses, who don’t
necessarily have the funds to splurge on a large, independent system like lager corporate chains.
“The big-buck service restaurant cafes have invested millions of dollars in analytics and things for customers — they have their own homegrown (systems),” Fortino said. “Small businesses don’t have the resources for that. It’s a gap we want to fill, a (customer relationship management system) for small business owners.”
Ever since they finished the testing in East Lansing and Ann Arbor Bubble Island locations last year, the system has spread to five Big Ten college towns and have approximately 45,000 users.
“We targeted college towns for a few reasons,” Fortino said. “College kids love this system, love technology and love getting things cheap. They love deals.”
But some businesses aren’t buying in. Georgio’s Pizza, 120 Charles St., uses a punch card because it doesn’t require getting personal information from their customers.
“Our product sells pretty good, we give them a punch card and they’re happy with that,” owner Maria Hruska said. “It’s cost-effective and doesn’t invade people’s privacy.”Bubble Island manager Ariana Warfield said business has noticeably increased since FlockTAG started.
“We get to promote the (business) in different locations; since the card is universal and can be used at different places, you get promotion at other businesses,” Warfield said.
Fortino said their next steps are to expand FlockTAG to other college cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit and Indianapolis.