Trying out a new local business can be a high-stakes game, especially if you're planning on walking out with something you can't return, like a bad haircut.
The Chicago-based digital loyalty company, which most recently got a $10 million injection from Andreessen Horowitz , already works with local businesses to create custom rewards programs for customers (at a Chicago comic book store, the most loyal customers get to punch the owner in the gut).
For Belly Bites, the company works with businesses to create sample offers, usually free with purchase, that are designed to leave them hankering for more. But with free samples come swarming crowds, and that's where the "digital" side of Belly's digital loyalty platform comes in. Since Belly collects a lot of data about what businesses and neighborhoods its users frequent, it can target Belly Bites at a business's most desired demographic. Belly uses that data to make sure it's not, for example, offering Belly Bites at a coffee shop to a user who already has a regular spot.
Belly also staggers its Belly Bites offers in the mobile app to different tiers of customers at a time, so a business isn't plagued by the Groupon  effect, in which huge crowds create an overwhelming surge of demand for the business, leaving potential new customers hiking out.
"It's very difficult for merchants to manage in terms of creating a consistent customer experience," CEO Logan LaHive  says of the surge effect. "To convert that person into a loyal customer, what's important is not the discount. That's not what creates loyalty. It's the experience in-store."
[Image: Flickr user heylovedesigns ]