buy coffees, get something free

I’ve been thinking about this for a while: although not all the cafes offer loyalty cards, when they do, it’s an extension of the cafe-going experience, so it’s worth considering. I’ve scanned in a few that I picked up recently, and thrown them into this post.

In my own experience, my first encounter with these kinds of cards was from Gloria Jeans. In the olden days, they had two stripes of “buy ten”, the first gaining a free coffee, the second gaining your choice of free coffee or free small bag of coffee beans. Back then, you could go to any of the franchise stores, but look what they have now done:

gloria jeans

The card isn’t stamped, but it’s punched with a custom punch. Over the years, they had various problems with people stealing the punches, and getting free cards: this is the trouble, I guess, with franchising.

Franchise tea store easy way had a similar problem, and ended up scrapping their whole card system, and replacing it with a database and magnetic stripe card. In the world of coffee, that’s something that Hudsons coffee did from when they arrived in Sydney. Every purchase adds up to reward points that can be cashed in on coffee, food, or other rewards.

So when you set up a reward system, one decision you have to make is whether you are trying to keep the customers aware of the cash value of the freebie, or if you are trying to create a relationship with them – to have a conversation of sorts.

Probably not having hired an expensive designer for these cards, we have a very economical card: four goes at “buy five, get one free”, and an extra space on the same card for the customer to buy ten meals, and get a free meal. It suggests a cheap-and-cheerful approach to running the business.

2060 espresso

Espresso di Manfredi appears to offer its customers a template for cards that they can customise. This cafe, near the Philip Street (Law) campus of Sydney University, has two lots of buy ten, get one free on the one card, and limits the generosity of the free coffee. Even if you’ve bought ten large coffees, the free coffee is a small one. In my opinion, this undermines the spirit of the loyalty card: why not splash out and make a large coffee if your customer wants one?

society caffe bar

This card for on the grind has a few coffee-themed photos on their card, the full contact details, and a star-shaped punch. After two runs at buy six, get one free, the customer gets no just a free coffee, but a free muffin as well.

on the grind espresso bar

Until I saw this card, I had no idea there were so many Miami Ice cafes around the place – this card spreads the word across the whole group of cafes, and the sales are marked off with a texta.

miami ice

Home Espresso in North Sydney has a simple, elegant design for their cards: consistent branding on these cards, and the separate business cards. In this case, the hole punch ends up completely obliterating the card by the end: worse, there’s no contact details on the card – it’s up to the customer to keep coming back. The problem here is that it makes it harder for word of mouth to spread: instead of being able to give the card to someone else, you have to walk your friend down to the shop yourself.

home espresso

If you want to see a real relationship develop on a single card, look at this card from caffe marco. The longer you hold onto the card, the more you get. First, you have to buy seven coffees to get a free one. Next, six, then only four, and then, you can come back and have a free dessert with a meal. It’s a little celebration on a card: plus there are seventeen coffees bought.

caffe marco

Newcomer three beans has gone to town on their sense of design, and trying to carry on their hippy, environmental theme – and their branding – across to their cards. There’s no punching to be seen here, instead, it’s a coffee-bean shaped stamp.

three beans

So that’s it for the initial review of these cards: what does your favourite coffee do to inspire loyalty?

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  1. In my uni student days, my then-favourite coffee shop had a loyalty card similar to Marco’s – at first the 7th was free, after that the 6th, than the 5th, and so on until it was only one before the free one. This was brilliant, as I had little money back then, and would go there with friends and have 5 coffees at a time between us. I almost always got a free one!

    Nowadays my fave cafe has a loyalty card but I don’t use it, cos to me it just feels cheap.

  2. Hmm! Never thought about it (but then, as you know, I’m not a coffee drinker).

    Thinking about the equivalents in my world (i.e. Easyway), I don’t really see the point of the loyalty/membership card if it’s not going to get you much. As you say, free is a great motivator, and more free is even better.

    Thinking more broadly beyond beverages, one of the reasons why I LOVE my Kinokuniya card is because I get a 10% discount on purchases (excluding DVD and stationery) every time. Couple that with Kinokuniya’s range and the occasional awesome event it runs (Neil Gaiman, Shaun Tan, those gorgeous art exhibitions in their windows near the escalator) makes for one very happy customer.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention their e-newsletter and the occasional giveaway of free movie tickets! 🙂

  3. I’m not interested in loyalty schemes for coffee – the only thing that will keep me going back is good coffee. On the other hand I do have a“ rel=”nofollow”>gleebooks card (you have to pay an annual fee) whereby every time you buy a book, you get 10% of the cost added to the card. Every 6 months they send you a voucher valued for 10% of all your purchases. The way I buy books that usually means a free book or two. However I’d buy books at Gleebooks regardless as it’s a bloody good bookshop.

  4. Coffee cards don’t build loyalty. Engagement & quality brings people back. Loyalty cards attract people looking for a discount. If next door makes getting a freebie quicker (eg. get your 8th coffee free vs your 10th), assuming the coffee not atrocious, there’s a good chance you won’t see that customer again and all that has happened is that a 10% discount has become a 12.5% discount on a $3.30 beverage!

    Check out Wealie in the App Store. It’s a universal loyalty card app designed to build engagement between a customer and their favourite venues. It provides the convenience of storing all loyalty cards on your phone as well as keeping you in touch with what is going on at your favourite coffee shop, sushi bar, barber, etc. It is having insight into the other party in a relationship that generates loyalty…and loyalty goes a long way in overlooking shortcomings…like the occasional below par coffee.

    Loyalty cards have come a long way since you originally penned this. Perhaps its time to revisit the subject. Misuse can be curbed and addressed through technology. Wealie for example, employs and is working on everything from algorithms, refreshable QR codes, encryption and geo-location with more features to come.

    The critical issue now is why are users asked to provide their name and contact details when they download some of these loyalty apps. The answer lies in who is behind them and what are they doing with your information. Beware of marketing companies bearing free gifts.

    Wealie is the only loyalty app in Oz that protects the anonymity of users. No one to become spam fodder to 3rd party advertisers. At the end of the day, the greatest asset a coffee shop has is their client base. Coffee shops should not be giving their customers away to a marketer’s database simply because they are getting to be on an app…or do they know?

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