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Beyond the Pitch

Reward Works Helps Mid-sized Businesses Reward Loyalty

These days it’s hard to find a consumer business that doesn’t offer a customer rewards program.

From Hilton Hotels to Starbucks to virtually every major airline, the reason there are so many rewards options is that customer rewards programs work. They drive repeat business and build customer loyalty.

“We all know and love rewards programs. Until now the best programs have only been available to very large companies,” said Bob Fisher, co-founder and chairman of Reward Works, an Ohio-based startup that provides branded online shopping rewards programs for mid-sized businesses.

“There is a huge middle market that doesn’t have access to the extensive types of rewards programs available to the airlines or giant hotel chains,” said Tina Fisher, Reward Works co-founder and CEO. “We call these ‘full-spectrum’ shopping programs. Reward Works makes them widely available.”

The Fishers, a wife and husband team, are serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, and have significant experience in building networks with international brands. “We have agreements with over 1500 retailers spanning a broad array of categories,” Ms. Fisher said.

Categories include clothing and accessories; baby, kids and toys; entertainment, health and beauty; home and living; sports and fitness, and travel and accommodations.

With Reward Works, Businesses Expand Brand Loyalty and Create New Sources of Revenue

Initially, Reward Works is marketing to companies that have a billing or statement relationship with a significant number of customers. This creates a ready-made pool of prospective users for the rewards program. For example, credit unions or owners of rental properties—commercial or residential—are likely candidates.

Through the privately labeled rewards program, renters can earn dollar credits toward their rent by shopping online for purchases. When residents shop, property owners can earn commissions from a wide variety of retailers including department stores, specialty stores, mass merchandisers, and niche players.

“Of the top 100 retailers in the country, we already have most of those who participate in marketing partnership programs,” Mr. Fisher said.

Consider one of Reward Works’ early customers: a company which provides loft locations customized for hair stylists, massage therapists, and nail technicians. Beauty professionals rent loft space from the company and then operate independent businesses on the premise, serving their own customers.

Using Reward Works, that company now offers an amenity program which allows these small business owners to earn rent credits by shopping hundreds of popular retailers. Reward Works provides a marketing advantage which differentiates this company’s rentals from those of competitors.

The Reward Works platform redirects shoppers to the retailer’s website. There is no change to the retail pricing or retailer-provided promo codes; shoppers see the same price and offers that others see. The difference is that behind the scenes, purchases also help pay the tenant shoppers’ rent.

“Beauty professionals are very hardworking,” said Ms. Fisher. “They can shop online for home, family, and for everyday purchases while reducing their loft rent. There are no coupons or paperwork, the process is completely automated and earned credits appear in their next rental statement.”

When the program was announced, hundreds of transactions came pouring into the platform.

“We witnessed a flood of small business owners making purchases in such categories as travel, apparel, entertainment, & sporting goods,” Mr. Fisher said.

Next Steps for Reward Works

Reward Works is adding a friends-and-family feature that allows reward members to earn additional rental credits through purchases by their buddies and relatives.

The Fishers are upbeat about the future as Reward Works lends itself to rapid scaling.

“This is a very exciting time for Reward Works,” Mr. Fisher said. “After months of developing the platform, we are now seeing results and gaining a real understanding of the benefits we can provide to our customers—and the benefits they can provide to their users.”

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