A town launches a loyalty program

Discussion
Feb 02, 2015

Orland Park, in the south suburbs of Chicago, has launched a loyalty program designed to encourage civic engagement.

In partnership with Chicago startup BondingPoint, an online platform, inour.community/orlandpark, in late January began offering members an initial set of opportunities to earn points and rewards.

The site so far features 18 categories, each with multiple ways for members to earn points. Categories include Community Pride, Supporting Area Businesses, Village Programs and Spotlight On Our Non-Profits.

The Community Pride category, for example, invites members to earn points by trying an Orland Park trivia contest, re-tweeting a congratulatory message for the Carl Sandburg High School Cheer Team, and posting a photo of a favorite Orland Park location on Instagram with a specific hashtag. Points may also be earned by attending events such as the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge, answering village surveys, and fulfilling civic duties such as not waiting until the last minute to register their vehicles.

Points are then redeemed by bidding on numerous items on the website. At launch, rewards included four tickets to see "The Million Dollar Quartet," the first dance at the Daddy-Daughter Dance, skydiving sessions, a variety of gift cards, and lunch with Orland Park’s mayor.

"What makes this a novel program is that people can earn points for being more engaged and for things they do all the time in Orland Park, like eating at local restaurants, visiting village buildings, attending village events, shopping at Orland Square," said the town’s Trustee Jim Dodge, in a statement.

Area businesses can get involved by providing goods and/or services that would be used as rewards on the site, and can also advertise on the InOur.Community website. Ad revenue will support the program.

"Knowing that communities thrive when their local businesses thrive, we’re making it possible for even the smallest of businesses to market themselves," said BondingPoint CEO and Orland Park resident John Calzaretta.

BondingPoint works with the Chicago Park District and private-sector clients, but Orland Park is the first town to use the company’s platform, according to the Chicago Tribune. Membership is free and open to Orland Park non-residents.

Can loyalty programs translate to towns? What opportunities do you see for local retailers to capitalize on such programs?

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19 Comments on "A town launches a loyalty program"


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Ralph Jacobson
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

Why can’t this work? I love this. There are aspects that could be leveraged by communities of most any size. Another city, I think it was Oklahoma City, once held a city-wide weight loss campaign. Why couldn’t local merchants and CPG brands alike help sponsor and promote ideas like this?

Tom Redd
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

As electronically-addicted as the Millennials are and as attached their kids are to smartphones, etc., this concept is smart. Sadly, many people live and communicate more on the internet than in real life. Facebook is the new center of their lives. So leverage their life-platform, use loyalty and points and integrate it into their life via Facebook.

The benefit of this is that some of these lost new generation people might meet a real person as they get more loyal to their city.

Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

There’s no reason why innovative loyalty programs can’t translate to towns. Local retailers could play an integral role in these programs, through prizes and encouraging participation. Through skillful use of promotions tied to the loyalty programs local retailers can highlight their uniqueness and drive traffic.

As with any loyalty program, success will lie in keeping the program fresh and in the forefront of residents’ minds, things that are not easily accomplished.

Zel Bianco
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

This is an excellent idea. Sometimes I feel that as we become a more global society we are losing our connection to smaller communities. This is a great way to engage people with the opportunities nearest them and give smaller mom-and-pop retailers the chance to compete with chains.

Roger Saunders
Guest
3 years 9 months ago
Loyalty programs can and do translate to towns. The community pride, supporting area businesses, village programs, and spotlight on non-profits are important reasons, as Tom Ryan points out. Equally important, the consumer is a winner in this success game as well. Everyone loves a bargain, including those who may fall in the top quintile in terms of household income. The Blonde Bombshell (wife of 41 years) and I spend time in our home in Naples, Florida during the winter months. We’re joined by several hundred thousand tourists who fly into Southwest Florida each year. Naples’ year-round population swells from 100,000 people to close to 300,000 at any given time during the peak season. Many Naples merchants, restauranteurs, service providers and non-profits have participated in a card program that provides a five percent, 10 percent or even 15 percent discount at the time of purchase. The merchants win with added business as well as the opportunity to reward a potential new patron with a reason to come back even after the tourists have returned north. The… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

A great idea that appears to be truly innovative. The best part is that it can be very quickly measured … and tweaked.

The even better part is that the results can be used to motivate and stimulate others (groups, businesses and citizens) to participate.

A very interesting component to watch will be if residents respond with doing more than buying local. There could be an interesting twist focused on rewarding volunteers for specific activities that the community needs most.

Marge Laney
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I really love this! As we become more and more isolated from our immediate surroundings while we go global through our online activities, this is the best way to get communities involved.

Many small local businesses have no expertise or resources to get in on the webrooming phenomenon of researching online before shopping in-store. Having a community website that provides a venue and structure for these retailers would be great for them and would offer real value to all members of the community they serve.

Ed Dunn
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I believe the correct term for this program is gamification where points are rewarded based on activity and can be redeemed. Loyalty is a personal effort by the retailer supported by a system to encourage customers to come back and do business again. Gamification involves activity and includes other rewards such as “badges” and “level up” designations.

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

Now this is interesting! What perks can we offer citizens and visitors of the municipality that would make them want to come back? Discounts to restaurants and stores? Points toward a free meal? There are lots of ideas.

The bigger question is how it gets funded. Is it part of a tax? Is it a merchants association that contributes to the promotion and loyalty program?

I’m not as concerned about the answers to the above questions. They are the conversation that starts to get this idea, which I like, to the next level.

Phil Rubin
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

Loyalty programs can absolutely tie to towns and communities, just as they tie to other brands. The real question is how and whether or not a transactional, points-driven model is the right one. That said, there are better opportunities, transactionally, if retailers are tied in. Creating win-win-win relationships between businesses, residents and communities is a no-brainer. Whether that should be points-based, however, is not so simple.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

Loyalty programs can absolutely translate to work in community settings, IF the definition of loyalty means going beyond “spend and get” and moves to engagement and reward of positive behaviors among the citizen group.

That seems to be exactly what Bonding Point has helped the city of Orland Park do in this example.

One of the promises of customer loyalty has always been to create an emotional bond between brand and customer. It is admittedly difficult to do this in some retail settings, especially where the product is perceived as a commodity, but where better to build emotional ties than within a community?

People are normally proud of where they live and are willing to promote it to others. I hope we see more of this type of program in the future.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I agree with Ed that Orland Park’s rewards are more aptly called gamification of civic activities than loyalty.

For local retailers and other local businesses to join in, success depends on number of participants, depth of discount, and length of program. Game theory and network effects influence the outcomes. If few businesses participate, they gain an advantage over competitors but shopper participation is low. If many businesses participate, merchants engage in a discount war but it’s a windfall for shoppers.

And in the latter case, a wildly successful program makes it harder for non-participating merchants, even with merchants absorbing the cost of discounts.

For an example of a town-wide merchant loyalty program, see Five Stars’ partnership with Palo Alto in 2012. If “Made in Palo Alto” is any indication, these programs don’t live up to hype and they sunset.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

Loyalty programs can apply to any homogeneous sector with national, regional or local pride. Participating would be a home run for retailers.

Mark Heckman
Guest
3 years 9 months ago
The concept of creating a “village” of retailers, civic organizations, events and activities that all lead to relevant rewards is, in my opinion, the future of loyalty marketing. With so many programs and apps in play, each with their own rules, regulations and steps for the consumer, a comprehensive approach will have great appeal to those who are tired of carrying dozens of cards, downloading apps and spending more, not less, of their scarce time to do so. Merchants should embrace this “community” approach by activating or starting their own brand of loyalty within this broader system. Retailers who currently sponsor the symphony, the local arts or even school systems could leverage this type of program in lieu of the expense and labor of building their own sponsorship programs. For this to work long-term it must be easy for the user. This means an easy access portal with app that has universal value in each member’s store, facility or event must exist. Along with easy access, the system must be in position to provide reportage… Read more »
Ian Percy
Guest
3 years 9 months ago
I absolutely agree with those who see this as a brilliant idea. And for goodness sakes, let’s not dissect it to death or worry about the “right” labels to attach to it. It can go a lot further for sure. I’m working on a project called “City Possibilities” which is an online citizen engagement platform. The US Mayor’s association said the #1 problem cities face is the lack of citizen engagement, so this whole discussion it extremely timely. “Loyalty,” however, doesn’t have the energy of true “engagement.” Loyalty is how one relates to another entity. What we want is citizens to BE that entity. They become loyal to themselves! What I’m trying to do is change the community mindset from one of problem-solving (fix the potholes on my street) to one of seeing possibilities. By that I mean revealing the ideas for innovation, beauty, health, education, entrepreneurism, etc. etc. that are lying dormant in the minds of the citizens. How do we connect these wonderful minds so they find each other and can start working… Read more »
Lee Kent
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I too love this concept and the community mindedness it promotes. I live in a community that has a park and the park has caused many reasons to get together. This sort of program would be a great addition.

Kudos, for my 2 cents.

Rob Culin
Guest
Rob Culin
3 years 9 months ago

The larger opportunity here is in integrating the town’s civic loyalty program with a town-wide merchant’s loyalty program. Create an expanding platform which helps citizens earn and spend rewards for eating or buying local, engaging with the city, providing tips or suggestions, fixing something on their own, volunteering….

Wendy OConnor
Guest
Wendy OConnor
3 years 9 months ago

I really love this idea! I think any way to engage your community members is great and social media a huge step in the right direction for those that are looking for other ways to engage or not currently engaged. I’ll be following this story!

Seeta Hariharan
Guest
3 years 9 months ago

I think loyalty programs are an excellent way to encourage civic engagement. More and more citizens today are tech savvy and drawn to innovative digital programs and incentives. They are looking for new engaging ways to connect with each other and with their communities.

Programs like “In Our.Community” are a win for all stakeholders. Citizens build a deeper sense of belonging by getting more involved while they earn points for patronizing local establishments and participating in local events; local businesses win with a new, affordable way to market their business for increased awareness and revenue; and the city wins with deeper civic engagement, more transparency, a new communication channel for sustainable city initiatives, and increased tax revenues from thriving local businesses.

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