The race for users has begun, according to a Lodi tech start-up eager to connect local businesses with loyal customers.
MySocialBlend is the result of 2 1/2 years of software development that chairman and founder Harry Grundmann says will change the way people interact with their favorite businesses.
Grundmann and his associates have worked in financial services for 13 years from the same offices in Bella Terra Plaza. About three years ago, he noticed the social media trend kicking up and wanted to get in on the ground floor of making money through digital means.
"Social media sales are here to stay. It's an exciting trend, and we want to monetize social behavior," he said.
The company's PunchCard app is being tested in Lodi, San Diego and South Carolina.
The software goes beyond the deep discount sales model created by companies like Groupon and LivingSocial. Those are great deals for the customer, but not so great for the merchant, Grundmann said.
His app is about establishing customer loyalty, he said.
Customers who sign up earn points and cash at all the participating businesses they opt into. But the first store where customers use PunchCard gets a special kickback with every new store the customer opts into. It's called the influencer effect, and Grundmann said it makes all the difference.
"The system is so cool you don't realize what it's doing," he said.
For example, say you head to a pizza place for lunch. You're registered with PunchCard, so you scan your receipt to earn points and cash. There are no cards to keep track of, and it's all on your phone.
Business owners benefit from the ability to customize deals for just their most loyal customers. Plus, the software offers a range of data on each customer and their purchases to get into the nitty gritty details of marketing.
Customers will get tailored discounts and offers, but only from the stores they opt into.
Go to another shop for coffee, and the pizza place gets a kickback, too.
The software is definitely smartphone-driven, but the less tech-inclined can also participate by managing their account from a desktop computer and registering their credit card to connect to the program. Customer rewards can go back to your credit card, be applied to a debit card, or set up for automatic donations.
The software is also open to nonprofit groups. Register with your church or school boosters, and they'll get the kickback when you opt in somewhere else.
There is no up-front cost, though each registered purchase does cost the business 15 percent. A third goes to the consumer for cash-back rewards, a third goes back to the original influencer and the final third is the company's cut. But Grundmann says that's what business owners should be spending on advertisements.
"That's normal. You might be good at flipping hamburgers or making donuts, but you don't have the skills set to do marketing," he said. "MySocialBlend will provide it."
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.