Strum app

Get to know a Toronto startup: Strum

Have you ever left a store or restaurant with an elated feeling about the service you received? Instead of constantly feeling that you have to tip "just because", you walked away thinking that the person really went above and beyond to make your experience that much better. Besides leaving a tip, which may be easy to do at a restaurant, but downright complicated when you are shopping for clothes, how else can you get your feedback to the person who made your day just a little bit brighter? Welcome to Strum.

Strum is a new and interactive way for customers to enjoy more influence and rewards at their favourite local businesses. Built around the concept that repeat customers deserve to feel important and great employees deserve to be recognized, Strum is quickly changing the typical feedback loop.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Strum's founder and CEO, Andrew Smith, to learn about how the Strum team is attempting to dramatically change the way customers and businesses connect.

Let's talk about Strum, where did the idea come from?

I spent January, February and March of 2012 interviewing small business owners all over southern Ontario - I was building a feedback channel for small business. But something kept bothering me. I was a regular at a fantastic local restaurant called Coquine. But had I ever given the owner, Rob Prete, any feedback? No. Did I keep coming back? Yes. Why? Sure the food is terrific, but the reason I kept going back was because of Rob and his team. Because I knew before I walked in the door that I was going to feel welcome, important and appreciated.

In the spring of 2012, I talked to Rob. His advice was to make Strum about people. Give his customers - especially the ones who couldn't be in there every week - an opportunity to connect with him and his team personally. That would bring value to his customers and therefore value to him. That was the pivot. We transformed Strum from a focus on feedback to a focus on people. So customers can enjoy direct influence with the people behind their favourite places. And have some fun and get rewarded at the same time.

Can you give me some more details on how Strum works?

Strum is simple: (1) message local business owners directly; (2) earn Strum points; and (3) use your Strum points to bid against your friends on free local merchandise in the Strum Auction. Strum is location aware - we put you three taps away from your favourite local businesses. When you're at a favourite place, just open Strum and message the business owner (what we call a "Strum") - and if you get great service, you can select a specific employee to send a round of applause.

You can send these messages privately, or share them with your followers on your public feed. And because your opinion is valuable, you receive points when you "Strum" that can be used to bid against your friends for great local merchandise in the Strum Auction. "Strum" an employee for great service, and they receive points too. Lastly, when you favourite a business on Strum, you open a channel for occasional rewards - not commercials.

Tell me more about the Strum Auction. Can anyone collect points for providing feedback?

Absolutely: Strum, Earn Points, and Bid to Win in the Strum Auction. As long as you're on-premise, you earn points when you message ("Strum") local business owners - regardless of whether the business owner is currently on the Strum platform. Whether it's a free margarita pizza from Lil' Baci, free Irish nachos from the Churchmouse & Firkin or a free slackline from Boardsports - they're all up for grabs in the Strum Auction. But be prepared - there are a few gunslingers out there - sometimes it comes down to the wire!

Where can I use Strum today? Do businesses have to be signed up before I can interact with them?

We're currently testing Strum with customers in Turkey, the UK, Brazil, the US and Canada; you can message any business on Strum - regardless of whether they're currently on the platform. These messages are visible on your public feed.

In Toronto, we're rolling out with businesses neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Today, you can Strum your favourite local businesses in Riverside & Leslieville, in Church & Wellesley, and in Davisville. We're currently expanding into West Queen West and College Street. If there's a favourite business you'd like to see on Strum, send them an in-app invite!

If you had to summarize, what would be Strum's main goal?

Our goal is simple: To be the world's leading channel connecting customers with the businesses they care about, always placing the customer's interests first.

What are the next steps for Strum?

Each Tuesday at Strum is a Super Strum Tuesday where we promote two favourite local businesses in an epic auction showdown. This past Tuesday saw Boardsports face off against Desmond & Beatrice in a tightly contested duel we dubbed Pop Some Wheelies or Eat Your Feelings? Customers bid down to the wire, with the victors wheeling away (or munching away) with big rewards and bragging rights.

What do you think? Will you use Strum?

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