Belly: The Universal Loyalty Program App

Logan LaHive wants you to get rid of all those pesky loyalty cards stacked in your wallet. You know.. the ones with the frayed edges that you usually forget you have until after you get home from the coffee shop. LaHive, formerly of Redbox in Chicago, left the company to take on the role of CEO at Belly, seeing a great opportunity in loyalty.

“We took an entirely new approach to the loyalty space.  Traditional loyalty programs are broken, for both businesses and their customers. People don’t want to carry a million punch cards, and businesses need a loyalty program that drives visits and adds value,” said LaHive. “Belly focuses on what’s missing: a smart and custom loyalty program that reflects the unique personality and culture of each store.”

Formerly known as Bellyflop, this new Chicago-based loyalty rewards system is smart – utilizing your smartphone in place of the unnecessary assortment of tattered rewards cards hidden in the depths of your wallet and scattered throughout your desk drawers.

The premise is simple: Open up the Belly app (available for iPhone and Android), scan your phone at the point of purchase of participating stores (on an iPad, provided by Belly), and immediately start earning points.  Collect enough points to start receiving rewards.  Some the early rewards include punching the owner of AlleyCat Comics in the gut or a 10-minute all-you-can-eat cupcake buffet at Molly’s Cupcakes (sign me up).

Even those without a smartphone can get in on the fun.  Belly supplies their partners with a physical rewards card, good at all participating businesses.

If the concept sounds familiar, that’s because it is.  “Loyalty in small business not a revolutionary concept,” says Lahive. “Our success comes down to building a product that people are excited to use.”  If the early results are any indication, the team at Belly is well on their way to accomplishing just that.  Since its pilot launch just three months ago, Belly has more than 18,000 users and 50,000 check ins.  With already 285 businesses signed up, many of these participating stores are already seeing more check-ins through Belly than Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla, Twitter and Yelp combined.

Although Belly has had a great deal of early success, their focus lies more in the quality rather than quantity.  When asked who Belly’s ideal customer would be, Lahive offered an already existing partner, “Lito’s Empanadas on Clark in Lincoln Park.  Lito is just a guy with a great product and great culture.  We want to partner with businesses like that, where we can add real value.”

As for goals in the immediate future, Lahive made it clear that Belly’s top five priorities are, “product, product, product, product, and product.  We want to build a great user experience, add new businesses, and offer great rewards.”

There’s little doubt of the necessity for a digital, universal rewards program.  For Belly to thrive it will “all come down to execution and scale.”  Although the loyalty program is currently only available in Chicago, they will be expanding to other major cities shortly, “in weeks not months,” promises Lahive.  “We are looking at cities rich in culture and personality.”

Early on, Foursquare made a conscious decision to focus their business model on social over loyalty.  As an indirect competitor to the check-in titan, the question naturally becomes, how, or if, Belly plans to incorporate social into their product?  As Lahive sees it there’s no rush because “too often social is done poorly.   When we do introduce social, we will do it in a cognizant, thoughtful way – unique to the Belly brand.  We’re building a product that people are excited about.  Naturally, they want to share this with their friends.”

In it’s first round of funding, Belly has received a “seven figure raise” from Lightbank, where Lahive formerly sat as Founder in Residence.

People of Chicago, fill your Belly with their iPhone or Android app.   To the rest, stay hungry.  Belly is coming soon.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.
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