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Peter Imes: Smackers uses text messages to build business

 

Peter Imes

 

 

For anyone new to the area, Smackers is a relatively new frozen yogurt shop, located near the intersection of Highway 45 North and Highway 82, just behind Chili''s. Since opening on Valentine''s Day this year, Smackers has done a tremendous job of branding themselves (The catchy name comes from a combination of the last names of the founders: Smith and Acker) and in using new technology for promotions. 

 

I visited with owner Nelson Smith last week at his office in the Regions Bank building on Main Street about his use of technology. 

 

In their planning stage Smackers was turned on to a company called Sundrop. Sundrop offers a text messaging loyalty program called loyalTXT. Rather than using yet another punch card, Smackers uses cellphone numbers to track purchases and to allow customers to earn free yogurt. 

 

Each customer is asked for a cellphone number. Soon after providing their number the customer will receive a text message that tells them how close they are to earning a free yogurt. If they don''t have a cellphone or can''t receive text messages they can register with their email address. Once you earn a free yogurt, a code is sent to your cellphone. Providing that code at the register is all it takes to redeem your free yogurt. 

 

Sundrop says that Smackers has used their service more effectively than any other company. In fact, Smackers is a featured case study on Sundrop''s website. Within five weeks of opening, Smackers had 6,673 cellphone numbers in their database. According to Smith Smackers now has about 11,000 cellphone numbers. These cell numbers represent a direct link Smackers now has with their customers. If they decide to run a big special, they can send a text message "blast" out to every one of those customers.  

 

Sundrop also allows registered customers to connect their Smackers account with Facebook. When these customers purchase a yogurt a message gets automatically posted to their Facebook accounts, instantly promoting Smackers to that person''s Facebook friends. Smackers now has about 2,000 Facebook fans. 

 

Smackers used a combination of new media (Facebook ads) and old media (newspaper ads, bumper stickers) to launch their business. Though they no longer use Facebook ads, Smackers does use their Facebook page and their Twitter account to connect to customers. A couple of weeks ago, Smith decided to try a spontaneous sale on Facebook. At 8:30 p.m. he told customers to come in and mention his Facebook post for 15 percent off their purchase. Thirty people responded in the next 90 minutes. 

 

Though Smith says there are no announcements to make at this point, he would like to expand the Smackers brand to additional locations. Based on the phenomenal success he has seen with Sundrop, I''m sure these services will play a role in building future locations.

 

Peter Imes is publisher of The Dispatch. You can email him at [email protected]

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment bob commented at 6/10/2011 2:00:00 PM:

Beware this technology!! My wife gave her cell number to Smackers and paid with a debit card. Shortly afterwards, she has been called on her cell number with identity theft predators pretending to be a bank or credit card representative asking for her social security number or her debit card number all as a front to prevent "suspicious" activity. I'm sure Smackers is not to blame, but these calls only began after signing up. My guess is that someone is hacking into their database or Sundrop's loyalty program.

 

Article Comment tlpriest commented at 7/14/2011 2:42:00 PM:

Bob, sorry to hear you're the target of identity theft predators. It's an unfortunate coincidence on the timing of those calls, but I assure you there is no link between your participation in Smackers' loyalty program and those calls other than pure coincidental timing.

These "phishing" attempts actually do not require the predators to hack into anyone's database to obtain phone numbers; a simple predictive dialer will do the job. In just a few minutes, almost anyone can use one of the new web-based dialing services to launch the phishing attack you describe.

What would make it more effective is if the predator actually mentioned personal details "We're calling about your visit on 6/8/11 to Smackers at 11:14am to verify the charge you made." If you received that type of message, then you would have great cause to suspect a database break-in because it would use specific transaction detail to convince you of the authenticity of the call. Typically, the predators will simply mention the name of a large bank (SunTrust is a target in our area) and the message will say "We're calling about a potential data breach on your SunTrust account. Please press 1 to continue..." If you happen to be a SunTrust customer, you might be more likely to take the bait.

Obviously, with the high profile nature of recent hacking attacks such as the Sony Playstation network and even EMC's SecureID system, we're all watchful and suspicious. We take great pains to safeguard our customers' data and offer full disclosure in the event of a breach. To date, our data servers have never been accessed by unauthorized users.

Travis
CEO, Sundrop Mobile

 

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