Swipely: The Death of the Fob

Apr 6, 2012

It started with my keychain. I put my gym membership card on it, followed by my grocery store discount cards, followed by … well, now I have what resembles janitor’s keys: 15 loyalty/discount cards dangling from my keychain. Of course, now there’s an app for that, which manages all the various loyalty programs, but that means I have to have a SmartPhone.

So I think what Swipely has done is genius. Link the loyalty programs and discounts to a credit card and let the points and rewards accumulate when I swipe it. I’m always resistant to giving my credit card number out, but that resistance is dwindling as it’s already “out there,” and I’ve never had a problem with it. Amazon, Nordstrom, and iTunes already have me just a click away from my credit card, which they keep on file. I wouldn’t want the hassle of keying in my credit card every time I buy a book for my Kindle or download a song.

Swipely can also take the information on what customers buy, when they buy it, and how often they buy it, and make the information beneficial to both customers and retailers. Retailers can send “thank you” and “we’ve missed you” emails to customers, and track in real-time how various promotions are going.

Customers can receive email updates regarding discounts offered from their favorite retailers. They can also track their points, purchases, and cash rewards at Swipely’s website. According to its site: “When you swipe offers or rewards, we deposit to your Swipely cash balance. For example, spend $50 at a business offering a 20% discount on Swipely, and we’ll put $10 right here … To get money out, click ‘Withdraw.’ Swipely will send your cash via check or Paypal. Soon, Swipely will offer ACH instant withdrawal to make the process even easier.”

There is one caveat. It is only available in Boston, San Francisco, Providence, and New York. I visited their site and decided to sign up, but its homepage neglected to give me this information. After I signed up, it told me that it currently wasn’t working in my local market but it would let me know as soon as it is. Really? You need my credit card information for this? I think a better approach is to let people create accounts and then when it becomes available in nationally, send them an email so they can enter their credit card information. I kept the account but deleted my credit card info from it.

I also visited Swipely’s Twitter account. From its quick response time to customers and merchants, I can see that it’s working many of the bugs out before it goes national. And the people using it in the available markets are very enthusiastic about it. I guess they don’t like their key chains either.

Bottom line? When they roll it out nationally, it’s well worth using. Your customers will enjoy the ease of not hauling around frayed loyalty cards on their key chains and when they see the cash rewards piling up, they are likely to become even more loyal. But as with most things, there may also be a down side. Your customers may become more loyal to the Swipely brand, instead of yours. Therefore, be curious, but proceed with caution.