Plink's recent campaigns with major retailers like Taco Bell and Burger King may provide a glimpse into what other new niche entrants can expect with their virtual currency loyalty programs. Consumers using Plink's three-month-old platform - which rewards retail purchases with Facebook Credits - are spending 65 percent more than before at participating brands while visiting twice a month instead of once, according to the technology firm.
American Express and Zynga today unveiled a similar loyalty card that lets consumers earn virtual currency.
Speaking with ClickZ on Tuesday, Plink CEO Peter Vogel shared aggregated data that was pulled from nine retail partners, including Outback Steakhouse, Regal Cinemas, 7 Eleven, Arby's, Dunkin Donuts, Red Robin, Quiznos, Taco Bell and Burger King. The data was accrued over the last 85 days and compares users' credit card activity from the month before they started using Plink to their first month in the program.
Though the data shows an aggregate 65 percent lift in dollars spent per Plink user at those participating merchants during the month users joined the program, the numbers do not take into account the possibility that they may have paid with cash or another card during the previous month on some visits. Those visits would not have been tracked by Plink.
Consumers register their credit or debit card at Plink.com to get started. When they pay with the card at a brand partner location, they earn Facebook Credits that can be used to purchase virtual goods on Facebook games. The retail brands pay for the Facebook Credits in exchange for foot traffic.
"[Social] currency is the fuel that drives engagement," Vogel said.
Names like Taco Bell and Burger King are certainly not the only ones testing the idea of rewarding purchases with social media currency. American Express and Zynga's new partnership includes a "Zynga Serve Rewards" Amex credit card that lets members earn Farmville credits whenever they make purchases with the card. Farmville is one of Zynga's most popular games on Facebook.
When asked, Vogel of Plink said the Amex-Zynga effort wasn't copycatting his company's program. "Our rewards are tied to specific brands and restaurants, not a credit card," he said. "Their program promotes the idea of using the American Express card. We are 100 percent card agnostic."
At the same time, Vogel said, "[The Amex-Zynga program] is in the same world. Whatever draws attention to the potential of virtual currency is a good thing."
The CEO wouldn't give exact usage numbers for his young program, but said Denver-based Plink has had "tens of thousands" of consumers sign up since launching in February.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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