Digital loyalty and rewards startup Belly is experimenting with a marketing concept as old as the supermarket: the free sample. It’s recently introduced a new program called Belly Bites, which allows local businesses to offer complimentary samples of their wares – whether it’s a donut, a manicure or free admission to a concert – to customers in their loyalty programs.
Belly is a Chicago-based startup backed by Lightbank and Andreessen Horowitz that is trying to take retail rewards programs down to the small business and the local level – while providing something much more sophisticated than the buy-10-get-one-free punch card. Belly users either use their Belly app or a QR code on a physical card to check in at a store’s iPad(s aapl) whenever they stop in at a participating business. That allows stores to track their customers’ purchases, award points and market more effectively to their most loyal customers.
The Belly Bites program adds a more active component to a normally passive rewards system. Instead of waiting on the customers, businesses can lure them in by offering a free tidbit, which is then highlighted in Belly’s app. In fact, customers can use the app as a sort of goodie radar, following the path of free treats and services around their neighborhoods. According to Belly, the free samples focus is much more manageable than a daily deal coupon campaign, while still introducing new customers to local businesses.
Belly also revealed today that it has revamped its Android app. The app is now compatible with all versions of the Google OS, but the biggest improvement is for frequent Belly users with the latest Android handset. The new Belly widget can be used to place a customer’s loyalty QR code on the home or lock screen of an Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) device, turning it into a physical card.