Loyalty app Spoonity working with Google to harvest better customer data for food-service clients

Max Bailey
Max Bailey

An Ottawa-based firm whose customer loyalty app is used by millions of consumers in two dozen countries says it’s poised to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever as it enters Google Canada’s new cloud accelerator program.

Launched 10 years ago, Spoonity develops loyalty and payment programs for restaurants and grocers. About 8.5 million people use some variation of the company’s app.

Spoonity works with 200 brands ​– including Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts as well as local mainstays such as Kettleman’s Bagel Co. ​– and now has customers in 25 countries.

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After growing steadily for nearly a decade, Spoonity hit some rough water last spring when many of its clients shuttered their operations at the outset of the pandemic. The firm’s monthly recurring revenues plummeted 70 per cent in April 2020, forcing it to shift gears and branch out into food delivery.

That move helped right the ship, according to co-founder Max Bailey, who says Spoonity’s income from monthly subscriptions is now ahead of pre-COVID levels as economies around the world start to rebuild.

‘Change in attitude’

“Once everything fully opens back up, we should be quite a bit further ahead than we were pre-pandemic,” Bailey says. “Our eyes are more on 2022, but we definitely see a change in attitude in merchants.”

Spoonity received an additional boost in late June when it was one of 12 Canadian companies admitted into the inaugural cohort of the Google Cloud Accelerator Program. The virtual bootcamp aimed at helping entrants scale their operations kicks off July 7.

Over the following 10 weeks, the Ottawa firm’s executives will work with Google’s business analytics gurus to implement new ways of employing AI technology to help customers get a clearer picture of consumer spending habits.

The way Bailey sees it, a spending frenzy is about to be unleashed across the planet as COVID-related restrictions ease and consumers’ favourite restaurants and food stores reopen.

Spoonity’s goal is to arm retailers with the most accurate data possible about their customers so they can create more effective marketing campaigns tailored to particular audiences.

New approach

“The businesses that are going to be able to capitalize the most on that (spending boom) are the businesses that are going to … have the data about their customers and engage with them,” Bailey explains. “Those are the merchants that are going to be the ones that win.”

Most of Spoonity’s customers are brick-and-mortar businesses that haven’t traditionally used sophisticated analytics tools to take a deep dive into who’s buying their products and what kind of ROI they’re getting on their ad campaigns, Bailey says. 

But that’s starting to change, he adds, and companies that don’t embrace such technologies will be left in the dust.

“You can see the sales, but you don’t know, ‘Did I cause that or was it just because there was a fair in town that day?’” Bailey says, describing the old-school approach. “With a loyalty program, you can see all the way from end to end, ‘I messaged this customer, they came in, they spent this amount of money and they bought these things.’

“We know that just broadcasting the same campaign to all of your customers is not nearly as effective as doing targeted campaigns for (specific) customer groups.”

“That’s something that e-commerce has had for a long time, but it really hasn’t existed in a powerful way for brick-and-mortar stores. That’s what we’re bringing to them.”

Many retailers have been forced to cut staff during the pandemic, he adds, making it even more essential for them to implement machine-learning marketing solutions that do the number-crunching for them.

“We know that just broadcasting the same campaign to all of your customers is not nearly as effective as doing targeted campaigns for (specific) customer groups,” Bailey explains. 

“But the reality is … you’ve got businesses that have a limited capacity trying to do a lot of things. Often what ends up happening is (they take) the path of least resistance, which is, ‘I’m just going to message everybody.’ We want to help solve some of those capacity challenges with some of these advanced technologies.”

Now at about 30 employees, Spoonity recently opened an office in Mexico City as it seeks to penetrate deeper into the Latin American market. Over the years, the company has received some financing from angel investors and the Toronto-based MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, but Bailey says Spoonity is content to grow organically for now.

“It’s something in the back of our mind, but it’s not something we’re actively pursuing at the moment,” he says of a VC funding round. “We’ll see what the future holds. I always like to keep that door open.”

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