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Lokalty: digital retail loyalty rewards program for local business expands to University City

The first time a cafe offered this reporter a “buy ten, get one free” punch card, the rewards program seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Then it seemed like every business caught on and my wallet bulged with semi-punched cards for coffee, ice cream and bubble tea that I promptly forgot to use. Lokalty, a […]

The first time a cafe offered this reporter a “buy ten, get one free” punch card, the rewards program seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Then it seemed like every business caught on and my wallet bulged with semi-punched cards for coffee, ice cream and bubble tea that I promptly forgot to use.

Lokalty, a loyalty rewards program founded by three students at Penn, digitally aggregates the entire hole-punched mess and has recently expanded its service area from Center City to University City.

Balu Chandrasekaran, 25, Bipen Sasi, 24 and Philip Tribe, 27, launched Lokalty in October. But the idea germinated when Chandrasekaran, a Wharton student from Hyderabad, India, mentioned the idea to Sasi when they met at a Wharton start up “Speed Dating” session. Tribe joined the team in July 2011 and about five months later they were ready to roll out Lokalty, he told Technically Philly.

“Things became more serious and rubber hit road around the end of August,” said Tribe, a graduate of St Joe’s and Penn’s Integrated Product Design program. “By the end of October we had launched with a product at eight local businesses.”

 

With Lokalty, customers can either download the smartphone application or send away for a keytag that displays an individual QR code. Flashing the QR code when making a purchase at a participating local business is equivalent to remembering to remove a punch card from your wallet and hand it to the cashier.

Technically Philly headquarters are located in Center City, so I tested out the iPhone app at Elixr, a coffee bar on 15th near Walnut. The app took a little while to load, but that could be partly due to my dated iPhone 3Gs. Regardless, the Elixr barista seemed unphased and mid espresso shot pull he checked back to show me how to scan my QR code. The scanner made a funny little chime and within seconds my LokalPoints — as this digital hole punch system metric is called — showed up in the tracker on my app. Success!

Including the new partnerships in University City, you can earn LokalPoints at 33 Philly establishments ranging from cafes to pizzerias to Chinese food restaurants. Campus Philly recently named Lokalty one of ten new Philly businesses to watch, as Technically Philly noted in a recent Startup Roundup. Tribe says the group is looking to scale, but signing up local merchants can be a slow process.

“Selling to small businesses can be a fragmented, challenging task, that has only been made more difficult with the amount of sales calls they are already receiving,” said Tribe. “Each sale is its own conversation and relationship with a new person.”

Other neighborhoods up next for Lokalty expansion? Dense local retail areas, like East Passyunk, Northern Liberties, Old City and Chestnut Hill are Lokalty’s prime potential markets.

“This city is amazing for some real great local businesses and the communities that support them,” said Tribe. “There has also been interest from businesses on the Main Line, where we already have some presence in Wynnewood. We’re very excited for what’s in store.”

That last line may seem like a pun, but any Philadelphian with a favorite food spot or retail establishment should keep an eye out for the Lokalty scanner to make an appearance.

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