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This article was published on June 12, 2013

Now at 6,000 customers, Belly expands its merchant-facing rewards service and sampling tool

Now at 6,000 customers, Belly expands its merchant-facing rewards service and sampling tool
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Today Belly, a Chicago-based company that provides consumer rewards services for small businesses in the United States announces a number of new features that will bolster its growth, and help its customers better connect with consumers — both digitally activated and not.

The company has a simple vision. Logan LaHive, founder and CEO, tells TNW after a lengthy discussion that Belly’s goal is simple: the firm wants to “take the traditional offline experience in local businesses and bring it more online.” That’s a grokkable goal, but not an easy task. The smaller the business, the more conservative the businessperson, as a rule.

Before we delve into the granular feature side of Belly’s new today, it’s worth noting a few facts about the company. It now counts 6,000 customers as its economic base. The average price charged per company lands close to the $80 per month mark. That puts the firm on around a $6 million run rate – yearly – at the moment. Belly adds between 100 and 150 new customers per week, putting its growth rate between 6.6 and 10 percent per month.

Now, to the news.

Command Center

Belly’s product isn’t hard to understand: the company offers small businesses a quick, easy to use customer loyalty solution. It deals with both physical cards, and mobile applications that track customer activity. The company has taken rewards out of the era of punch cards.

But how can you keep track, even digitally, when you have a store to run?

Belly’s new Command Center answers that question by bringing in-store analytics to the tablet devices it provides to its customers. The iPad Mini you were supplied with, in other words, will now be the place you go to see how the day went, and who showed up.

Belly powers millions of consumer events per month for its customers. Knowing who has come is key for owners of small businesses. Command Center, while also providing analytics capabilities, also allows customers to “adjust loyalty points to a customer’s account as well as view customer history, data and demographics.” This is akin to Foursquare’s Mayor feature, but broader, and more flexible.

Now, for the obligatory provided screenshot:



In addition to Command Center, Belly is rolling out new social capabilities to its platform designed to help it drive more targeted social interaction, including the accumulation of Yelp reviews, and certain Facebook interactions.

Yelp targeting, in Belly’s estimation, will help the company drive more reviews from happy customers to a customer’s Yelp page; more better reviews more better customers and higher top line. According to its early testing, this new Yelp capability has helped “select” – thus, take the stat with salt – customers pick up 10 Yelp reviews weekly. From the customers that dig them. That’s big volume for a small company.

As the new feature additions to Belly’s platform will help companies accrue Yelp love, the upgrades will also allow customers pick up new Facebook Likes. This is no small currency in the social economy.

Finally, Belly is expanding ‘Belly Bites,’ its sampling service. Bites helps companies dole out free samples to where they will be the most effective.

Belly is a key Chicago success story. And it is rapidly expanding its product. Its customer growth in a way validates its model. The question now becomes something more interesting. Can Belly sustain sufficient customer growth to achieve the momentum it needs to catapult out of the private markets?

At a 10 percent monthly growth rate, Belly is on course to pass $50 million in yearly revenue within 24 months, using the most conservative of calculations.

Perhaps Chicago will be allowed a do-over of the somewhat painful Groupon slide? That Lightbank money has helped fuel Belly is therefore something of a beautiful irony.

Headline image via Thinkstock