Social elements are important for loyalty apps, said Gilbert Lau, founder and manager of Hepo, a Hong Kong-based mobile app developer.
CWHK: When did you found the company? How many founders were there?
Gilbert Lau: The two of us started the company in 2011 and soft-launched phase zero of our mobile customer loyalty app: Hepo. Now we have a headcount of six, split between R&D and sales & marketing.
CWHK: Why a loyalty app?
GL: A lot of retailers still use paper or plastic loyalty cards that are costly to produce, but customers may not carry the cards. Smartphones are what people bring with them every day, so a mobile loyalty app can help improve customer engagement--they can redeem discounts and coupons when those become available.
CWHK: How does your product work?
GL: Hepo is a platform for multiple merchants. In our latest version of our app, we have a coupon market where consumers can download coupons they like. When they do so, the app creates a membership card so that those customers are kept updated on the merchant's latest offerings and membership rewards.
Our app also provides information on the merchants and includes social elements so that consumers can "like" shops, leave comments about them, and share them on Facebook from the app. This is how we differentiate ourselves from other loyalty apps that focus only on downloading offerings and accumulating points.
In addition, the app comes with intelligence. For instance, users receive alerts on coupons that'll expire soon. It's also integrated with Google Maps which allows users to identify the nearest shop where they can use those coupons.
On the merchant side, our customers are provided with QR code scanners for scanning customer information--such as which coupons they downloaded, what they bought, points accumulated--on their smartphones that'll be sent to the backend system for analytics purpose. As long as you have a POS system and want to create a loyalty program, you can start using our SaaS-based product.
CWHK: How much does it cost to use your platform?
GL: It costs HK$1,000 per shop per month to use our membership card feature, analytics, and our Web-based content management system that allows you to change coupon layouts. For an additional HK$700 per week, merchants can offer a coupon in the coupon market.
CWHK: Who are your targeted customers?
GL: Our pricing will help attract smaller retailers that want to promote themselves but lack resources to go beyond physical card-based loyalty programs.
CWHK: Have you considered larger retailers?
GL: Yes. But larger retailers have many compliance requirements and might want to own their loyalty platform. We can create a separate platform for them, but I don't think they want to use Hepo--which targets multiple retailers.
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