While a college student in the early 2000s, Catherine Tabor started a concierge errands business to earn a bit of cash. As the business was growing along with its internet presence, Tabor got a life-changing call from Coca-Cola.
“At the time, the Coca-Cola Company was running an employee discounts network and they started to look to outsource it. They did a quick internet search and found my errands business,” Tabor tells Hypepotamus. “While I was very unfamiliar with the procurement process, I actually won the contract over some very large national companies.”
She started building the first postings for the employee discount program. Soon, she had Delta, Emory University, and Suntrust Bank on board as clients as well.
“But, I started to realize that in offering these discounts and promotions to employees, there was a real gap in the market in being able to track a digital offer or promotion in a physical store location,” says Tabor.
“Employers were interested in tracking the employees that went to a customer. They want to be able to say, we’re supporting your business and I’ve sent so-and-so employees.”
For a business of any size, customer acquisition can be an expensive cost to take on. In some cases, acquiring one new customer can be five to 25 times more expensive than retaining your existing ones.
Tracking where leads are coming in and then retaining those customers is valuable.
“Eight years ago, no one had really figured out a way to bridge the online world to an in-store transaction at the cash register,” says Tabor.
She formed partnerships with a few entrepreneurial angel investors and acquired a smaller company in 2013, which she used as a base for her digital marketing platform Sparkfly.
“We had to build ahead of revenue because we knew that at some point we would land a large customer,” says Tabor.
And they did. Sparkfly has landed Chipotle, Great Clips, and many others to launch their loyalty and marketing programs.
Sparkly takes advantage of the fact that the coupon world has grown beyond print to social media and mobile. The platform uses strategic middleware to connect the dots between digital and the physical store.
Marketers used to have to analyze data after these types of campaigns had run their course, but with Sparkfly, they can access real-time information through a dashboard to see results as the campaign is running and act accordingly.
“The point of sale, the in-store connectivity, has always been the Achilles heel of the retail, food, and hospitality industries,” says Tabor. “Our platform gives you an opportunity to optimize digital campaigns while they’re still running.”
For example, Chipotle recently ran a campaign on Twitter to encourage followers to text in every time an NBA announcer said the word ‘free.’ The first 500 people that texted received a one-time coupon.
Sparkfly enables that coupon, sort of like a digital wallet. Once the customer scans the coupon to pay, the data flows into the platform for the company to use for future campaigns.
Tabor says that, looking back, she was able to grow her company thanks to a great team and “the ability to hear no a lot.”
“I was able to keep us on companies’ radars, be tenacious so when the timing was right, they knew we were here,” she says. “I’m so grateful that I entered the market when we did, because we were really integrating with point of sale providers before they were totally inundated with mobile payments. We’re closing the loop now.”