Whrrl Adds Game Of Chance Spin To Social Media Loyalty Program

Traditional loyalty programs based on discounts earned as a result of transactions are being re-examined. The value proposition is generally very costly for the brand and doesn't necessarily lead to a deeper relationship with the customer. At least that is the belief of Whrrl, the latest location-based social network and what is behind their goal to rework a dated business model.

John KimJohn KimJohn Kim, head of product development and marketing for Pelago (Whrrl's parent company), while currently only at 300,000 users - is stepping up its game in a crowded space with the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla. The first-time offering is to present 'Society Rewards' for brands to market to loyal customers that are motivated by game-like interaction, that includes an element of chance.

In interviewing Kim today, Kim believes "there is a significant innovation occurring in the game space right now, and brands want to leverage the lessons." Differing from traditional loyalty programs that have to invest in a long-term and costly strategy, a location-based loyalty campaign like the one that Whrrl is launching is quicker to get to market and to motivate users because bigger prizes can be awarded.

Kim uses the example of "would you rather earn $.50 off your next fill at the pump, or would you rather have a chance of winning a $50 tank of gas?" The former is based on reaching VIP status in a traditional loyalty program, whereas, the latter relates to Whrrl's Society Rewards program, based on check-ins and brand recommendations. The more engagement, the greater the level - the more levels - the greater chance of winning the greater reward.

To kick off Society Rewards, Whrrl has teamed up with its first partner, Murphy USA, a gas-station operator with over 1,100 locations nationwide. As the prototype for other brands to follow, the 'Murphy USA Society' will "reinvent what it means to be a gas station," with the assistance of social media, according to Kim. "Why does fueling up need to be a mundane activity when it can be an opportunity for surprise, delight and fun? We are excited to be working with a brand that wants to add spice to your everyday activities," notes Kim.

As the first Society Rewards brand, Murphy will "learn what works and what doesn't (and) the program will get better because they will gain knowledge as to what motivates their customers," say Kim. As a monitoring device, Kim asserts that "every time users recommend an idea, Whrrl creates a social record of the friends and followers who act on that idea," again, allowing users to level up and gain more chances of winning a free tank of gas.

When querying Kim as to how Whrrl differentiates themselves from the bigger players in the location-based social networking space like Foursquare, he focuses on what he calls "passion groups."

For example, if users joined the Mountain Biking Society, their smartphones will become a compass to find the best trails and recommendations based on contributions from its members. While Foursquare focuses on check-ins to restaurants and bars, Whrrl's members might be passionate about 'vegetarian dishes' (not just venues - but a passion for the cuisine). In essence, Kim describes the Whrrl loyalty campaigns as those that 'build community,' 'activate people in the real world,' while encouraging the program's 'virility.'

While taking loyalty into the 21st Century, Whrrl is testing what works best for today's customer that chooses to be more engaged with the brands that want to learn from them. As a first step, I think it's worth giving this service a whirl! 

For other Whrrl related promotions, see "Red Bull Takes A Whrrl On Location-Based Social Network For Air Race."

Jul 8, 2010
by Anonymous

Element of chance for Loyalty Programs

An element of chance could reduce the response to a loyalty program. An instant gratification is a sure shot killer. An instant gratification like an assured 10% off on a product could be a killing proposition and plus requires no extra fiinancial investment (retailers will need to manage margins well). LBS could be used to check the mobile present scenario. Revenues in this case would be a subscription or a membership fee that the operator could charge and could end up being shared by all parties.
The element of chance could be a topping on the cake i.e You get an assured discount of 10% plus you stand a chance to win free gas.

Jul 9, 2010
by Anonymous

I like the way you think

Thanks for the feedback

Jul 9, 2010
by Anonymous

@bobtroia re: sweepstakes

We are compliant with all applicable laws. Because there is an element of chance, we have structured the program in order to avoid the element of consideration. In order to do this, we provide an alternate means of entry via postal mail.

We provide Brands with two types of rewards programs in Whrrl. The chance-based contest offers great prizes and rewards the more loyal / influential customers by giving them more chances to win. We also offer non-chance-based rewards to people, which would typically be less valuable because everyone “wins”, but we can give better rewards to people at higher levels. Murphy has both types of rewards for its Society members.

John Kim

Jul 13, 2010
by Anonymous

Hmmmmm not so sure about this one

Alf Marcussen • I see an issue in it being Getting something for Nothing....and I also feel that if as a person that would enter that "contest like" type of promotion, it becomes less focused on Why we are in the first place being Loyal to this business, whereas it is more based on the Luck of the Draw that comes in to play...

...it is a little hard to explain how I feel about it, but for some reason it does not "sit that well with me" ...and I guess I would need to know more how it is actually run and how the rewards are dished out etc. etc.

Alf Marcussen
Founder / Inventor
We help you get Referrals EVEN when you don't ask for them.

Aug 7, 2010
by Anonymous

Sounds like a great thing until......

We have an iPhone and use whrrl and checked in at a Murphy gas station and won $50 in gas about four weeks ago. The cashier wouldn't accept it since it wasn't printed out. It's a phone - it also stated that it was an electronic coupon. She refused it. I then contacted whrrl and they said they'd pass the information along to Murphy. Murphy then contacted me once asking for my address to ship a gift card to me and that was three weeks ago.

I'm thinking it's all a gimmick and am going to remove the app from my phones and suggest to my friends and family to do the same.