Loyalty and Reward startups are hot right now. One thing that some of the newer entries into the space are learning is that people are tired of accumulating points and rewards at one place, that they can only spend at one place. Philadelphia’s Lokalty, DesMoines startup FreeBee Cards and Kansas’ Front Flip are all loyalty reward networks that allow users to earn points in one place and spend them at another.
Chicago’s Ox&Pen takes that reward philosophy and brings it to the bustling city of Chicago. Ox&Pen isn’t just about checkout reward points though. With the OxandPen app you can earn points by checking into network places, socially sharing network places and of course with purchase rewards.
The app is quite robust and feature packed while keeping the UI graphically rich and easily organized. There is also no printing involved with Ox&Pen, everything happens in-app including redemption.
With Ox&Pen once you accumulate enough in network points the rewards are free and require no additional purchase.
The best part about the network? It’s reserved for local, independent, unique merchants. You won’t find deals or rewards for big box national chains on Ox&Pen, but you will find promotions for Vera, The Fifty/50, Krista K Boutique, Bleeding Heart Bakery, Dog-a-holics, Roots Pizza and more (only in Chicago at this time). And, of course, you can earn loyalty points at these placesand redeem them anywhere in the network.
We got a chance to interview Ox&Pen, check out the interview below the break.
What is OxandPen?
Ox&Pen is Chicago’s universal loyalty network where members earn points (with purchases, check-ins and social shares) andcan use those points as a virtual currency toward purchases when shopping and dining at local merchants in the network. This isn’t just a digital punch card where dollars spent at one shop only earn you points at that shop; with Ox&Pen every point you earn is good toward purchases at any merchant in the network.
Members also have access to exclusive promotions that require no upfront purchase (a la the typical daily deal site) and no printing of vouchers to redeem. All redemptions of loyalty points and promotions go through the Ox&Pen mobile app (foriPhone and Android). Simply use the app to scan the merchant-provided QR code.
The best part about the network? It’s reserved for local, independent, unique merchants. You won’t find offers or rewards for big box national chains on Ox&Pen, but you will find promotions for Vera, The Fifty/50, Krista K Boutique, Frontier, Bleeding Heart Bakery, Dog-a-Holics, Roots Pizza, The Pony and more (only in Chicago at this time). And, of course, you can earn loyalty points at these places and redeem them anywhere in the network.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Founder and CEO Andrew Gluck has a background in business and finance. He was a portfolio manager and securities analyst for 15 years prior to conceiving Ox&Pen. The idea for a universal loyalty network for local merchants came to him after learning about the daily deal sites, and coming to the conclusion that there were important aspects in creating a sustainable model for small, local businesses that were not included in the daily deal model. One of the major components was the lack of incentive for the daily deal members to return to any of these businesses as repeat customers. As such, one of Ox&Pen’s primary objectives is to incentivize repeat visits by members to merchants in the network.
For the Merchant:
Ox&Pen helps merchants with their customer acquisition and retention efforts. Merchants in the network have more than just heavily discounted “daily deals” to offer their customers. To attract new patrons, merchants offer promotions, but the discounted price is up to them. Members redeem the offers at point of purchase, rather than purchasing up front. The offers do not expire in a matter of hours or days, saving the merchant from the sudden, unmanageable flood of traffic often accompanied with daily deals.
But bringing in customers only when they are taking advantage of discounts is not profitable for merchants; Ox&Pen was tasked with encouraging customers to visit the merchants again—and pay full price. That said, Ox&Pen members are rewarded with loyalty points for every single penny they spend at merchants in the network. Points are also earned for check-ins, social shares and written reviews. By rewarding members for mentioning merchants on social networks, Ox&Pen helps to strengthen social media presence for merchants in the network. Ox&Pen members are thereby brand advocates for the local businesses, and the businesses are exposed to an audience they otherwise may not have been.
For the Member:
Ox&Pen is a TRUE universal loyalty approach, meaning that the points our members accrue can be redeemed for rewardsanywhere in the Ox&Pen network. Also unique to Ox&Pen, members are rewarded with more than just a flat amount of points for each check-in (as is the case with many loyalty apps). Instead, members get points for every penny spent. The more they spend, the closer they are to rewards at any merchant in the network.
Additionally, members have unlimited access to promotional offers from local merchants in the network. Promotions require no upfront purchase or printing of vouchers to redeem. The only thing members need is the Ox&Pen app on their smartphones.
Loyalty is a buzz word these days. Loyalty has quickly replaced group buying in the space, so what is oxandpen’s secret sauce?
The key difference between Ox&Pen and other loyalty programs is that Ox&Pen is a universal loyalty program. Members earn points (through purchases, check-ins, social shares, written reviews and member referrals) from each merchant in the network; those points are banked in the member’s account and can be used at any merchant in the network.
Another main differentiator is that Ox&Pen is a network for local, unique merchants. There aren’t any big-box national chains or franchises in the network, a quality appreciated by both merchants and members.
Why the name ox and pen?
Ox&Pen is derived from “Oxford Scholar” and “Eighteen Pence” (or Oxford and Pence), which, in Cockney rhyming slang which originated in London’s East End, translate to “dollars” and “sense.”
What’s one lesson you’ve learned in the startup process?
Working for a startup is lots of fun, but is definitely not without its teachable moments. As a company, we’ve learned more in a year than any of us had in our previous roles. Primarily, we’ve realized the importance of coming together as a team andkeeping our eye on one goal. The key is maintaining the drive, excitement and confidence we’ve had since Day One.
What’s next for oxandpen?
We are in the process of planning our launch into the suburbs. After that, we will be looking to establish our presence in markets in other states
Similarly, we will continue to improve and enhance our web and mobile technology with more functionality, in order to continuously better the user experience.