Ferret Card

Battle brewing for mobile coffee cards in Toronto

Our smartphones are consistently changing the way we live our daily lives so it's not surprising that they're also evolving the way we order a cup of coffee. With talks of mobile becoming our wallet, many of us in Toronto are already starting to lighten our pockets and purses by using mobile apps in lieu of the traditional coffee card to earn our next cup of joe.

If you're looking to impress your friends or coworkers or are dying to stop carrying around those torn, coffee stained stamp cards, you'll want to download these four apps for your iPhone or Android device and try them out around the city.

Club Ovahi and Punchd are two apps which aim to directly replace the traditional coffee stamp card. The process in using these apps is exactly the same as using the paper card except instead of getting a stamp for every purchase you scan a 2D barcode (QR code) with your phone. The app keeps track of your purchases and notifies you when you can redeem your reward.

Club Ovahi is currently being used at Red Rocket Coffee locations on Danforth and at Wellesley where customers can earn a free cookie after buying 5 beverages on separate occasions. You can check out Punchd at Tealish on Queen Street West and earn a free drink after buying 10 drinks. In talking with Tealish, the Punchd program has been so successful that they have stopped using their paper card program and have been focusing solely on the mobile app.

Club Ovahi and Punchd have seen some of their support diminish over time. R Squared on Queen West no longer supports Club Ovahi as more of their customers preferred the paper card to the mobile version. And Thor Espresso on Bathurst near Niagara stopped using Punchd once it found out that Google was shutting down the app. Google recently acquired Punchd and announced that effective June 7, 2013 the app will no longer be valid for earning and redeeming punches. Tealish is aware of the closure but currently has no concrete plans to replace Punchd. They told me they'll continue to use Punchd until Google provides them with an alternative or go back to using the paper cards until they have figured out what app will take its place.

Ferret Card and Point Monkey are taking a very different approach to loyalty cards making it a more "gamified" experience by providing points for purchases or actions within the app. Where Club Ovahi and Punchd only allow users to earn rewards for purchases at one store for one specific reward, these apps offer the ability to earn points across a network of participating locations making it much easier and faster to earn and redeem a variety of rewards.

Ferret Card has the widest network of locations in the GTA as well as Canada, the US and Taiwan. Ferret Card uses stamps as their point system which can be earned by purchasing items at select merchants as well as reviewing, sharing and favouriting stores within the app among other in-app actions. Ferret Card also provides exclusive offers and specials within the app for their members.

Coffee lovers can check out Ferret Card at various cafes and coffee shops around the city including Mabel's Bakery (Queen Street and Roncesvalles) and The Mad Bean Coffee House (Eglinton West). From some quick calls with some of these cafes, I confirmed that many had yet to try it out. In fact, most of the cafes said that I would be the first to use this loyalty program if I was to come in and give it a try.

Point Monkey is currently in beta mode and has primarily kept its pre-launch focus on the Toronto downtown core, with a larger percentage of merchants around the Ryerson University area. From a coffee perspective you can find Point Monkey at The Black Canary Espresso Bar in the Silver Snail on Yonge Street near Dundas Square. According to Point Monkey CEO, Haitham Kaloub, Toronto should expect more Point Monkey locations to pop up in the city once they officially launch within the next few weeks.

What's most interesting about Point Monkey is that they provide their merchants with an iPad when they sign-up for the program which sits at the point of sale to both market the Point Monkey loyalty program and also allow customers to scan their card to earn their points. New users can also sign up directly on the iPad.

My experience with Point Monkey when I went in for a latte at the Black Canary was fast, engaging and easy to understand and in talking with the barista on duty at the time it seems as though their customers are taking well to the program.

In addition, Point Monkey offers the most rewards as well as the most creative rewards in the four programs I reviewed. CEO Haitham explained to me that "The rewards are customized for each merchant and designed to highlight their business, products/services as well as reflect the owners' personality and business culture." For example, The Black Canary offers a high five for 5 points; a free espresso for 60 points; and the ultimate VIP reward of naming a drink for the week for 150.

According to Haitham, merchants have seen at least double the amount of activity in using Point Monkey over their traditional paper card. In addition, he says merchants are finding that the real benefit of the program is not just retaining users but being able to attract new users that didn't know about their business until they saw them in the Point Monkey network.

What do you think? Will you be using any of these cards? Add your 2 cents to the comments below.

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