-  Local coffee shop is the first to launch a new digital punchcard

Long ago, a marketing technique used by a telephone service provider encouraged people to pick up the phone and “reach out and touch someone.”

That strategy is being re-employed by a local business, via the digital age.

Paperless Punchcard went live Wednesday, July 17, with the launch of a loyalty program for IOS smart phone users.

The application is a free download through the Apple App Store and offers more than just the opportunity to ditch one loyalty card from your wallet or purse. It’s a digital tool that benefits merchants, as well as their customers.

“The point of the app is so that the small business owner can reach their customers where their eyes are most — their phones,” said Leah McMahon, owner of Silk Espresso in Gresham and co-founder of Paperless Punchcard. “It came about because I was tired and frustrated at the end of the day that I didn’t have the energy to market my business. We are so conditioned that things just happen on our phones and this is just simple and easy for both the business owner and the customer.”

In early 2010, McMahon was collaborating with longtime customer and digital marketing guru Rebecca Noles on a video marketing plan for Silk Espresso. McMahon asked Noles, “How do I offer a punch card to my customers that won’t get lost, reduces fraud and costs me less time and money?” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Left, Leah McMahon is owner of Silk Espresso and co-founder of Paperless Punchcard, along with Rebecca Noles (right) and software engineer, Greg Krsak (not pictured).

Noles recruited her cousin and former Intel Network Evaluation Engineer, Greg Krsak, to undertake the technical programming and development of a smart phone app, and Paperless Punchcard was born.

The application may be a convenient and efficient loyalty card for consumers, but it’s actually a powerful information program for business owners.

Paperless Punchcard uses Quick Response Code (QR) technology — that funky black and white pixilated patch on products and store windows — to track information. Different from a Universal Product Code (UPC), which is used to manage individual products and their inventory, QR codes are able to store vast amounts of information on several levels. Once the customer installs and uses the app, store owners can identify everything from their customer’s purchasing patterns to the hours of higher sales volume.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Paperless Punchcard uses Quick Response Code to help merchants identify their customers purchasing patterns and other information. It also serves as a digital loyalty card for patrons.

“(Paperless Punchcard) can help a business schedule their employees because they will know what their busiest times are,” Noles said. “The app helps business owners see how best to serve their customers based on their behavior. It would work well in any retail environment.”

The app also is a boon for marketing, according to McMahon, by providing merchants with a vehicle to place coupons and promotional information directly in the hands of their customers.

“A loyalty program is hospitality for a business,” she said. “Digital coupons or deals are totally at the discretion of the vendor, but customers don’t have to clip something and bring it in. As long as you have the app on your phone, you’re good.”

Paperless Punchcard requires users to establish an account upon initial installation. Once registered via an email address, the app provides a list of participating merchants located through GPS. Users select their location from the list and up pops the store’s loyalty card. Scan the store’s QR Code with your phone at the time of payment and voila! Your digital loyalty card is “punched.”

“We wanted to make sure the app was fast and streamlined, even if you’ve got your hands full,” McMahon said. “As a business owner, (Paperless Punchcard) allows me to do what I do best — make good coffee and serve my people.”

Silk Espresso is the first vendor in the Portland area to introduce Paperless Punchcard to its customers, but McMahon and her partners are actively seeking other merchants who would like to offer the technology to their clientele and join the app’s network. It’s a win-win for both merchant and user, McMahon said, noting more than 50 customers are already using Paperless Punchcard at her coffee shop.

“Everyone has their go-to

apps,” McMahon said. “We want to be there too. We want to be where people’s favorite things are.”

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