As a small business owner, one of the most important parts of your marketing plan should involve a powerful loyalty program that will maintain your current customer relationships as well as attract new ones.

Entrepreneur.com’s Jed Williams and John Swanciger write that coffee-chain franchise Starbucks as well as electronics retailer Best Buy created customer loyalty programs that gave each company a competitive edge, but boosted sales as well.

This strategy can work for well for small businesses too.  Rewarding frequent customers with a diverse series of discounts is guaranteed to keep them coming back. Also, new shoppers may become interested in your store if they learn you give out certain incentives for increased patronage.

In addition, you’ll gain valuable marketing insights. Loyalty programs provide a treasure chest of important data that will help your company grow. You can use this system to identify things like purchasing trends and other information. This can aid you in creating more targeted promotions in the future.

Now, you just need the right tools to get this started.

Previously, most merchants implemented this system in the form of a plastic or cardboard loyalty card. Customers would come in, buy something, and have a hole stamped in the card in order to reach a discount that was promised.

These cards tended to get lost or easily destroyed which could inhibit customers from achieving their goals.

Fortunately, the rise of mobile apps has simplified this process. A bevy of these pint-sized programs have been created, which enable merchants to quickly reward customers with a few simple clicks. Also, these apps enable you to track spending habits, making it easier to adjust your strategy as time goes on.

If you are starting a new business or looking for ways to keep your current one thriving, we rounded up the best loyalty program apps you can use.

Check them out below.


LevelUp is a free mobile payments app available for iPhone, Android, and Windows. It lets customers pay for things with their phones at a variety of businesses nationwide.  All it takes is the creation of a registered account and syncing any credit or debit card to a unique QR code found within the program.

Every time a customer visits your store, they should pay with LevelUp. The more they use the app, the quicker they will unlock additional savings at your store.

Essentially, the app can take the place of an actual credit card or cash. Every transaction made on LevelUp involves a flat fee of 1.95%

So why should choose LevelUp? For the analytics, of course! Signing up with this program gives you access to a trove of valuable data regarding your customers. Every purchase is logged in something called a Business Dashboard.

To access it, go to www.TheLevelup.com. Enter your merchant credentials to view up-to-date information on things like purchasing trends.


Perka is available as an iPhone and Android app. It only takes an hour to set up this program. Perka’s team in New York will work with you to create a program that is guaranteed to reward your regular customers and VIP’s as well provide strong incentives that will entice newcomers to keep coming back.

You’ll have to pay about 50$ a month to use Perka. If you sign up for this service, customers can receive two types of digital punch cards.

The first one is aptly named Perka Punch card.The company’s website explains that this version is suitable for cafes, counter service spots, or any business that has a frequent regular.  Customers would be available for a certain amount of perks after buying a certain amount of items.

The next one is called Perka Flexpoints. This program involves rewarding customers based on the actual amount of money they spend.  According to Perka’s site, this tier of service is better for retail shops, restaurants, and stores that sell a large variety of products.

This is a good app to have, especially during a slow season.  Messages about special sales and discounts can be sent directly to your customer’s phones. You can send SMS text messages to people with older phones to keep them included on promotions you may be running.

You’ll still have access to a suite of analytics, but the monthly fee is a bit steep.

Regardless, Perka’s personalization efforts could become very useful. A competition to get cards punched might be the best motivation for customers to continuously shop at your store.


AppCard has adopted a hybrid program for its loyalty program. Customers can choose to use a mobile app, create a web account, or have a plastic card.

The premise of AppCard is simple. You can quickly send personalized offers to all of the customers housed within your database. Customers who consistently use AppCard at your store to buy things will climb higher on the loyalty ladder.

More discounts will become available as customers continue to use AppCard to claim rewards and make purchases.

Everything is digital so you’ll never have to worry about losing a card or forget to keep track of certain buyer’s progress in claiming rewards.

Owners are going to be able to view more than 90 reports that will help you learn more about your customers and help you track your store’s performance.

Reports can be synced across multiple platforms as well. You can view up-to-date information at anytime anywhere.

Although customers can earn special benefits through three different channels, they are completely safe. AppCard has a built-in fraud detection mechanism.


Test out Belly for a 30-day free trial. Belly is a digital payments app that contains a powerful suite of marketing tools.

You can create a series of customized email campaigns along with Facebook and Twitter alerts designed to keep your clientele informed about what is happening at your store.

Loyalty programs can be useless if you simply rely on word-of-mouth promotion. It could take forever for your customers to finally hear about your sales. Belly might be your best bet.


Front Flip Places a little more power in your customers hands. Basically, the mobile app provides a direct line to Facebook ,Twitter and other social media profiles.. They’ll be able to boast about rewards, invite family and friends to use the app, and share other offers that you send them.

Your customers would help you with your marketing efforts. The usual analytics reports are going to be able available with Front Flip too.


There are plenty of loyalty programs out there, but we feel these are the best ones. Focus on these goals when deciding on an app to use: customer retention, optimizing profits, continuing growth and enhancing your reputation.

If you’re interested in up-to-date analytics, go for LevelUp. Perka can help you add a bit of personality to your rewards system. AppCard provides multiple alternatives for customers to capitalize on special deals.

Belly and Front Flip can encourage more engagement with your community of customers too. You’ll want feedback on what is working, what might not be working, and how can you can keep improving.

By selecting one of these apps, you should see significant growth in no time.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.