My Startup: LoyalZoo

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Loyalzoo believes it has created a loyalty solution for the mobile age.

It promises loyalty software of simple elegance that makes life better for merchants and their customers with their main product, Prime Loyalty.

Prime Loyalty allows small indie retailers such as nail bars, tattoo parlours, barbershops and car washes, to use a subscription-based loyalty program at the push of a button.

The company works with the top terminal and financial systems in order to allow retailers to take recurring payments and keep a log of their customers. 

Founders: Massimo Sirolla and Mark Ryan

Founded: 2013

Website: loyalzoo.com

We spoke to Massimo to find out more...

LoyalZoo founders Massimo Sirolla and Mark Ryan

Why did you start Loyalzoo? 

We saw large chains and supermarkets moving into digital loyalty, getting rid of their stamp cards and plastic cards. Meanwhile, smaller local businesses lacked the scale to implement these solutions but needed a way of running their own loyalty program. From the start, we wanted a product that would increase customer retention for almost any ‘bricks and mortar’ business.

Tell us more about the company

From the beginning, we put a huge emphasis on customer service, not only to do the best for merchants but also to deepen our understanding of this market, its unique requirements and patterns of behaviour. Strange to say, when we started out, there were more competitors around than there are now. Most have folded, for one simple reason: this is a hard market to reach.

There are millions of small businesses in the US alone, but how do you sell to them? You could recruit a sales force, but this would require massive investment and carry a huge risk. We always knew that addressing the market, rather than the product itself, would be the key issue and at an early stage, we settled on a long-term strategy of partnering with companies that already had a relationship with merchants and could enhance their offering by adding Loyalzoo to their product range: the likes of card payment companies or suppliers of POS systems.

So we stayed lean and focused. We also understood that our merchants are not small versions of big ones. Smaller merchants have their own requirements and concerns: they are more interested in customer engagement, for example, less so in data. 

What exciting updates have happened recently?

We are about to launch what we believe is the world’s first Prime-style loyalty system for small businesses, after an extensive trialling period with a small group of US-based retailers through our Clover platform.

Merchants will finally be able to sign up customers to a paid subscription for their services. For example, a customer could pay a barber £40 every month for unlimited haircuts and beard trims, or £10 per week to a restaurant for a 20% discount on every bill and free delivery on takeaway. 

We’re very excited by the idea of merchants having a guaranteed revenue stream, rather than just hoping customers will come through the door. Imagine what it can do for a merchant’s income and planning, not to mention peace of mind? We think it’s the future of loyalty and we’re rolling it out worldwide in the coming months.

In line with this, we’ve also invested heavily in multi-language versions, of both points-based and paid-subscription programs, especially for the European market. Customer loyalty programs have been slower to take off in Europe than in the US, but we can see this is beginning to change. Lots of card payment companies are making serious investments in this area. We intend to be the biggest supplier of customer loyalty programs across the whole of Europe.

What are your aims for the next year? 

To build on our success in the US market and to deploy across a wider range of POS systems through more card payment companies. Our European operations will also be a priority, with major projects in Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Poland.

What’s been the hardest thing about getting Loyalzoo off the ground?

Building and managing partnerships. Many of our partners are big global organisations. We are small. Much of what they do is far beyond our range of influence. Take something like staff turnover. We can spend months building great relationships with a project head; next thing he or she has moved on to another role or left the company.

We have to start all over again with someone new who may have different ideas... or our biggest dread: acquisition! When a company is acquired, every project, no matter how far advanced, can be put on hold or scrapped altogether. You need to have as many partnerships as you can manage, going at any given time and recognise that nothing’s in the bag until they’re deploying with our software.

So it takes steadfastness and persistence as well as a commitment to the long view. This is not a business of quick-wins. Which may also be why there are not many competitors!

Why should more people be using Loyalzoo?

It is the easiest way for SMBs to increase customer retention and boost profits. There is a wide recognition now that getting your existing customers to spend more is a far more reliable and far cheaper way of increasing revenue than trying to acquire new customers.

In most cases, the savings in advertising alone will cover the cost of the service, many times over. Plus, it gives merchants an invaluable CRM system. Over time, the most innovative merchants come to appreciate this feature most of all. Loyalzoo can transform the relationship merchants have with their customers, making it stronger and more enduring.

How much will it cost people to use and why is it worth it? 

For both our digital loyalty (points-giving) and our memberships and recurring payments (Prime style) services, the starting price is £19 per month. There are enhancements, such as SMS notifications to customers, but all get the same features: two blast promotions each month (to their entire customer list) plus our handsfree marketing engine which segments their list into New, VIP and ‘slipping away’ customers and messages them accordingly. 

There are no limits on the number of customers they can have and no limits on the number of notifications. Once they start using it, merchants will not let it go - we are constantly being told how vital our service is to the running of their business!