9 Q&A: LOC Card aims to unite rewards programs, help merchants serve and connect with customers

CINCINNATI - Store reward programs seem to proliferate daily. Now one company wants you to swap out the deck in your purse or wallet for a single piece of plastic: LOC Card.

According to its website , "LOC Card allows users to participate/enroll in as many reward programs from almost any merchant with the use of a single card."

While LOC Card has yet to hit it big in its own Tri-State backyard, the company has high hopes based on early consumer research and success in another region of the country.

9 Questions for LOC Enterprises President Jack Kennamer

1. What inspired the LOC card?

Inspiration came while I was standing in line at a major sporting goods store. I started hearing this cadence: "Do you have a rewards card? No. Do you want one? No." I kept hearing it over and over again. Finally, a lady in the next line over answers, "Sure, I’d like one," and a guy behind her lets out a big sigh as she starts providing information to the cashier for the application. The guy behind finally says, "Come on already, I’ve got to go." Then the cashier asks the guy in front of me the same question and he holds up a key ring brimming with what looked to be a hundred key fobs, and he says "No room for you."

I later researched the issue for more than a month and discovered that no truly universal loyalty card was available even though consumers had been demanding one. A universal loyalty card had not been created in the past because the cost of computer servers and hardware needed to handle such an endeavor was prohibitive. However, computer virtualization and cloud computing have changed that dynamic.

2. Where are you in the process of getting the card into shoppers' hands. Can they be used now?

Our biggest success so far has been in New England. We have do have one business in the Cincinnati area that is distributing cards; however we are working on more. The only way to get a card is at a participating merchant. Consumers can set up an account online and use their smart phones now, if they don’t have a card. To achieve something of this scale it requires many facets to come together and they are just starting two. We have only been out with the solution since last fall and working to get exposure. This exposure will help those thought leading merchants find us.

3. Are businesses accepting the card now? How many?

One in the Cincinnati area, but we have additional merchants on the verge of going live up in the Northeast. We will be making those announcements soon!

4. How are you encouraging shoppers to sign up for a card or download the app?

As we are working to bring more merchants on board, we are encouraging consumers to create an account at LOCcard.com . Once created, they can list all the merchant loyalty programs they belong to. That will also help us identify and prioritize the order we approach merchants. Once consumers have created their account, consumers can utilize social media to let the merchants know they want to be able to use the LOC card in their locations.

5. What types of businesses are early adopters of LOC?

Early adopters will be businesses that recognize consumer needs and demands are changing. Loyalty programs cannot sustain if they continue to be linear. Merchants need to adapt to consumer demands to strengthen loyalty and capture a greater share of wallet. A recent research study conducted by SMARI Research Group showed that merchants who use the LOC Card are likely to increase their consumer visit frequency by 46 percent, and 61 percent of consumers said they would switch to a merchant who participates with LOC. Early adopters will recognize the opportunity to get a jump on their competition and make their business stand out.

6. Do you want to reach big retailers? Have you had any luck with that?

We see the LOC Card benefiting merchants of all sizes, including the Tier 1 retailers. To date, we’ve have a few conversations with Tier 1 retailers. They see the benefit, but we haven’t landed a large account yet. We believe early adopters will be Tier 2 and 3 merchants, as it is typically easier to be nimble and make changes in smaller organizations. At the end of the day, Tier 1 retailers will be participating in our program. Consumer demand will warrant those changes.

7. Do you plan to expand services into other areas in addition to the card?

We now have enrollment/engagement option for merchants that do not have a CRM (customer relationship management) program to integrate with. This program will allow smaller merchants to create a channel to connect with consumers, send offers and messages, and make access to their social network channels much easier. If these businesses decide to offer an electronic CRM option

in the future, all the customers who have signed up will be easily migrated into the integrated option.

8. I understand the appeal of the LOC card to shoppers, why would businesses want to use it? Especially if they already have a program in place?

It’s important to understand that the LOC Card is not a loyalty program. It doesn’t replace what a merchant already has in place. The LOC Card will simplify the enrollment process for consumers, therefore increasing the number participating. The program also gives the merchant a more convenient channel to communicate with its customers.

Email inboxes are overloaded and many messages are not even opened. With the LOC Card program, merchant offers and messages will not be lost in a mass. They will be easily identified and response rates will increase. Merchants also have the option to utilize direct feedback from their customers. This strengthens the loyalty of the consumer as they will be more inclined to provide feedback since there is no need to search a merchant’s website to find contact information.

Merchants can set up surveys to identify opportunities to capture a greater share of wallet as well. This really is a win-win. Current programs operate in a linear manner, so consumers will only sign up for so many programs. LOC allows loyalty to expand far beyond the current linear model.

9. What's next for LOC?

We continue to approach merchants, and are also in discussion with POS (point of sale) companies. By having POS companies integrate LOC into their portfolio of solutions; merchants will have an even easier time integrating. We are in discussions with a regional grocery brand as well as a number of retail merchant associations, Chambers of Commerce and of course, merchants. Our goal is to continue to spread the word to grow consumer support as well as educating merchants on the benefits of participating. 

WATCH: You & The LOC Card 

Connect with WCPO Contributor Feoshia Davis on Twitter: @feoshiawrites.  Look for a new column each Monday.

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