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Social "Stealz" The Show With Affordable Loyalty App

SMB Retail by Jan Knight
Let Your Customers Do The Talking

In 2012, after college and stints at corporate jobs that left them wanting to accomplish something more, friends Jim Zidar, Brent Nolan, Brant Elliott and John Charlesworth founded Stealz, a mobile application and beacon-based loyalty platform that harnesses the power of social media to fuel customer growth for restaurants and retailers.

Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Stealz currently works with over 1,000 restaurants, bars, specialty boutiques and entertainment venues in 20 markets across the Southeast U.S. (and in Canada and Guatemala). “We were seeing businesses working very hard to get very little result on social media and we wanted to solve that,” said Brent Nolan, co-founder and CSO. “And we thought, what if your customers were doing the marketing for you? So we locked ourselves in a condo in Myrtle Beach and decided to build a mobile app.”

Social-Driven Loyalty

Groupon was just taking off, and was getting negative reviews from retailers dissatisfied with hit-and-run ‘deal hunters’ who never returned for a second visit. “We wanted an application that both businesses and consumers loved,” noted Nolan.

Stealz rewards customers who share pictures of your restaurant or store on their social media pages. Customers come in to your establishment and take a photo using the Stealz app. When the picture posts on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, your restaurant is automatically tagged and shared with all their friends. And as your customers’ friends like and comment on the post, it gets shared with their friends—and keeps on giving. You reach an exponentially larger audience with amplified “word of mouth” endorsements from real live customers.

It doubles as a rewards program, so that every time customers share social images they earn points, and can redeem them for free food, discounts, or any offer you choose. The more visits and photos the customer shares, the more points they earn, and the bigger the reward.

Word Of Mouth On Steroids

Retailers should embrace social media, but that alone is not enough since you’re only reaching a fraction of the people who have already “liked” your business. The people who drive new guests to your business are other guests. According to Nolan, the Stealz advantage is that 90 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, compared to just 10 percent who trust brands. “We’re creating a way to get people talking about your business. It carries more weight if I tell you about my experience.”

A study by Small Business Trends corroborates this data, citing that 85 percent of small businesses get new customers through word of mouth. It’s still the most potent form of marketing there is. Social media delivers the ultimate word of mouth, to pretty much everyone you know, all at once.

Beacons Deliver

The addition of beacons brought a new level of performance to the Stealz app, which originally used now-archaic QR code scanning and GPS technologies to engage with customers’ phones. Stealz now uses a battery-operated Bluetooth transmitter that doesn’t connect to users’ WiFi and requires no power source.

As a Stealz user enters a restaurant with a beacon inside, the Stealz app detects the beacon, or “bumps” it. The app now knows that it’s inside a location with Stealz coverage, and prompts the user to take action specific to that location. Take a photo, post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and get a deal.

According to Nolan, “The accuracy of beacons provide limitless opportunities for the buying behaviors our customers are trying to create. They allow us to know when the customer enters the business so we can automatically deliver customized messages such as upselling a new item, informing them of an upcoming event or something as simple as asking them to share their photo on Stealz to earn points. We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the advantages beacons provide our customers.”

Don’t Have An App?

To support beacons, you’ll need a mobile app. Building your own mobile app is expensive and you’re likely to get cookie-cutter functionality that’s not customized. Although you’ll be able to push your own brand, you’ll only reach the extreme loyalists willing to put yet another app on their phone. The average consumer uses five apps a day, so the likelihood they will download yours may not be high enough to justify the expense.

Stealz helps SMBs compete with stores who have their own branded mobile applications. According to Nolan, with a branded page on Stealz, retailers have a place to push customers that has the full functionality of a mobile app —and more. The other value is that customers can use the Stealz app around town at multiple places. So they are more likely to download and use it.

Building Loyalty Effectively

We asked Nolan what he feels retailers are doing wrong when it comes to growing customer loyalty. “We’ve seen lots of business owners kill themselves trying to make everyone happy. Your older demographic wants one thing while Millennials and teens want another. It’s not only important to think about the ‘who’ but also how often they visit. Are you creating a loyalty program for people who come in every single day or just a few times a month? If you know the answers to these questions you should be in good shape to decide what type of program will be most beneficial.”

Easy Signup, Fast Results

Stealz supports social sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with plans to support new social platforms as they gain traction with users. Businesses can sign up on getstealz.com for a $100 monthly subscription. As for results, the Armadillo Grill, a fast casual Tex Mex restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, has had over 1,800 photos shared by customers in the past 30 days, and those have reached nearly 400,000 friends on social media. Word of mouth just doesn’t get any better than that.