By Emma Hall
How often have you reached into your wallet for a punchcard to use at a local business only to realize you left it at home, or you don't have the right one? Supportland aims to fix this problem by providing one swipeable card for numerous local businesses —90 so far.
Supportland works like this: Make a purchase at your local record shop or massage therapist and get 15 points for your first time there. Get five points for each transaction after that. Then, just like the punchcards of yesteryear, once you get enough punches/points, trade it in for a free cookie/smoothie/haircut. Except with Supportland, you can trade in your points for an offer from any of the participating businesses. Swipe your card every morning when you get coffee down the street, and soon you'll have enough points for a free T-shirt.
Pretty sweet deal for consumers, but how do businesses benefit?
Local businesses pay $49 a month to participate in the program. Besides the fact that they get a nifty sticker to put in their window declaring them part of the Supportland crew, the businesses also get to offer three deals to customers, of which two can be used metro-wide. Businesses also can offer one of the more classic punchcard-variety rewards: for example, every 10 purchases at Cellar Door Coffee Roasters you get a free 12-ounce bag of coffee.
Businesses also get access to a wide array of information on consumer spending. Supportland doesn't track customer's personal information, but they do track spending metrics, like what other nearby businesses a customer frequents.
Katrina Scotto di Carlo pitches Supportland to local businesses each week around Portland, and plans to ramp that up to three informational sessions a week with businesses. This is quite a big step for Supportland, which she launched in August 2010 with her husband, Michael. Within the first month, 6,000 Supportland cards went into circulation. That number is now 17,135 and growing fast. (Consumers can only get the cards at participating businesses.)
There's also more in the pipeline for Supportland in the near future. The owners are working on smart phone apps so customers can check-in on their phone rather than swiping a card. They also are creating new ways to earn points. "The future of Supportland is doing good and giving back to the community," Katrina says. So far that may mean getting extra points for working out at the Green Microgym in Alberta, where people actually generate electricity by using the exercise machines. In the future, it could be getting extra points for volunteering.
Katrina and Michael are looking into ways to make Supportland benefit a wider array of businesses. The biggest hurdle so far has been restaurants because of their proprietary POS systems. Currently, they're partnering with ¿Por Qué No? on Mississippi Avenue to find a way around this (the solution may be as simple as a separate tablet provided to each restaurant for swiping the rewards cards).
The Scotto di Carlos just returned from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conference in Bellingham, Wash. Michael programmed the Supportland software to work anywhere, not just the test market of Portland. At the conference, they connected with four other West Coast communities, which are now interested in trying out Supportland. "We're totally keyed into the larger buy local movement," Katrina says.
Emma Hall is the Web Editor of Oregon Business.