Welcome to the CandyBar blog!

CandyBar is a customer engagement solution for brick-and-mortar retail stores, by the team at ReferralCandy.

(Check out the latest features we’ve been coming up with to help you delight your customers!)

The CandyBar Blog writes about…

1: Understanding how customers experience retail stores.

We’ll explore things that have happened in the news that have made consumers love or hate the retail experience.

We’ll talk about what makes great stores great, the mistakes bad stores make, and how stores navigate the omnichannel retail experience in the mobile age.

We’ll go through examples of the best retail stores, how to make your customers happy, things that make customers want to come back.

2: Specific marketing tools and systems that retail stores can use.

Loyalty programs. Referrals. Analytics. Google Analytics for your foot traffic. SMS marketing to your customers as an SME retail store owner.

How do these things work, who uses them? How do you think about discounts and giveaways? How do you compete with online retailers? How do you define customer loyalty? What are the best small business blogs you should read?

3: Breakdowns of successful customer engagement tools and systems.

Why should you run a digital loyalty program?

What are the most important loyalty program statistics?

What are the most successful retail loyalty programs? What makes them tick, what are the variables and trade-offs you’ll have to consider?

What are some examples of loyalty punch cards?

We’re looking forward to exploring all of the above and more! We want to help SME retailers take their businesses to the next level and create better experiences for their customers. Stay tuned.

New Feature: Reward Notifications

Customers love getting rewards. Now, your customers will get notified when they get a new one. CandyBar sends out an SMS notification every time a customer earns a new reward.

We’ve also enhanced the history tab and rewards given to customers now show up in the history page. This makes it easy for cashiers to figure out when rewards were earned by a specific customer.

5 Ideas For Marketing Your Small Business

So you’re running a small business. You did the planning, you’ve set up shop, customers have been coming in. It’s been challenging but fulfilling. And now you’ve gotten to a sort of stable pattern, and you’ve started thinking about what’s next. How do you grow the business? How do you reach more people, get more customers?

Marketing a small business is tough, because of the many constraints. You’re not going to be able to hand over a big budget to a glitzy agency and tell them to ‘make it rain’. You’re not going to have the luxury of coming up with an elaborate, multi-part plan – you’re going to have to keep things simple, and get them done fast.

Here’s a list of things you could and should be doing.

1. Make sure your social media accounts are active and your site is search-friendly

Everybody’s on social media now, including lots of grandmas, so you really have no excuse any more.

It doesn’t actually need to be stylish, clever or gorgeous – it just really needs to be user-friendly.

The Oatmeal has one of the funniest ways of putting this across:

What your customers would want from your website (say you’re a restaurant):

  • Menu
  • Specials and happy hour info (including social promotions such as Foursquare, Groupon and Twitter specials)
  • Address with a link to Google Maps
  • Online reservation system that actually works
  • Operating hours, parking and contact info
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal

2. Incentivize your customers to share their purchases on social media


People pay attention to word-of-mouth from their friends and peers more than they do to any other form of marketing.

So one of the best ways to reach new customers is through the friends of your existing ones.

Give your customers a hashtag to use, and you’ll start being able to see when they post their purchases on social media.

2. Clarify your story – make it sticky and contagious

One of the most powerful things you can do for your business’s marketing efforts is to improve your story.

How do you do that? You start by finding out what your customers are already saying about your store. Literally ask them – what brought you here? What convinced you to give us a shot?

Once you understand this well, you want to work this into your messaging.

Your end goal would be to make your store more remarkable – literally.

3. Guerilla marketing – make a strong impression with a bold statement

Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford
Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford

Guerilla marketing is all about creating maximum impact for minimum cost.

One of the best examples of this of all time was Warby Parker’s hijacking of the New York Fashion Show – they invited the editors from the fashion show to a ‘secret event’ at a public library, where they had staffers staking out all the seats. Just before the editors showed up, the staffers exchanged seats with models.

What about if you’re just a little brick-and-mortar retailer along the sidewalk?

Well, you could always get creative with your signage:


4. Do some niche marketing for your target audience

A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.
A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.

Every good product solves a problem for somebody. Even if your business serves a diverse group of people (say, a donut shop), there’s bound to be some pattern – you might notice that most of your best customers come from the nearby offices at a certain time of the day, for example. Maybe you could host some sort of ‘networking event’? Talk to your customers, and look for patterns.

Here’s a fun example – some Lululemon stores turn their stores into yoga studios after hours. This gives potential customers a judgement-free place to explore the brand, and help them to create a positive association with it. If they end up learning yoga and making friends at the store, and they’re going to need some yoga apparel and paraphrenelia, Lululemon becomes the obvious choice.

5. Try a loyalty program


Ever tried running a loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced or forgotten their cards.

That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern loyalty program app for small businesses. No download necessary.

Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co  today!

Should You Use Groupon for Your Small Business?

Here are a collection of reads that we find helpful in thinking about the subject.

  1. Should I Use Groupon? Don’t Be Tempted By The Dark Side
  2. Quora: What do small business owners think of Groupon?
  3. Quora: Is Groupon a successful option for small businesses?
  4. Inc – 10 Pros and Cons of Using Groupon
  5. NY Times Business Blog – Doing the Math on a Groupon Deal
  6. /r/smallbusiness – GroupOn – Does it actually help businesses grow? – consensus seems to be that it only works for businesses that have a high markup, and that you really have to look at it as a generalized marketing expense.
  7. /r/smallbusiness – All my customers are from groupon

The general consensus seems to be that…

  • Groupon users are mostly bargain hunters who don’t look to signup
  • Some retailers have seen success with Groupon, but it seems like failures are far more common

So tread carefully!

You want to make sure you go into it with your eyes open, and not just end up giving away your products and services without getting anything in return.

Make sure you have a plan for getting more long-term value out of the customers that you get (since you’re effectively ‘paying extra’ for them).

Loyalty Program Checklist – 4 Things You’ll Need To Do

You’re busy, and you want to run a loyalty program.

What do you need to make sure you do?

Here’s a simple checklist to help you out.

1. Clearly define what you want to get out of your loyalty program

Do you want to get more regular customers? Do you want each customer to spend more?

The more specific you are about what your goal is, the easier it will be for you to make sure that you achieve it.

It’s common to want to achieve lots of different goals all at once, but that’s actually counter-productive – when you’re trying to do too many things at once, you often end up doing none of them very well.

2. Keep your loyalty program as simple as possible

Lots of big chains have loyalty programs with extremely complicated terms and conditions, so much so that it can almost seem like they’re deliberately trying to confuse and frustrate their customers.

A simple, straightforward loyalty program is a good way to compete with larger, more bureaucratic stores.

Focus on creating a great customer experience for your customers.

3. Make sure your staff understands the loyalty program well

If you do 2, then 3 will be easier – but you should still take the trouble to make sure that your staff knows what’s going on.

It can be very frustrating for customers to try to participate in your loyalty program, only to be obstructed by unhelpful staff.

This can have the exact opposite effect as originally intended.

4. Measure your progress

Measure your loyalty program progress

You’ll want to know how many loyalty cards you’ve given out, and how many stamps, too. This lets you know how you’re doing.

This can be a little challenging if you’re running a paper-and-ink operation, but it’s much easier if you use a simple digital solution like CandyBar.


Next in Queue: New CandyBar Cashier Experience

We’re excited to share an update to the core CandyBar experience.

Brand new interface and streamlined cashier workflow

Cashiers can now log in as a customer on the cashier page and give customers stamps and redeem rewards without the customer needing to log in.

The incoming requests page has been updated to focus on the customer being served, and show more details about them.

Next in queue

If your customers make the request from their personal phones, we now queue requests as they come in. Tapping ‘next in queue’ will take you to the next customer in line. If the customer made the request from the in-store tablet,  they’ll be logged off.

Customer identity

We’ve also added details about each customer, to help you understand more about their relationship with your business.

Stacked rewards and undo button

Multiple rewards now stack into a single card, making them simpler to redeem and see how many there are.

We’ve added multiple in-the-moment undo buttons, to help you make quick changes and fix mistakes.

History tab

We’ve also massively upgraded the history tab, allowing you to re-open recent customers at the tap of a button, or revoke accidental stamps or rewards.

How The Best Brick & Mortar Stores Build Customer Relationships And Loyalty

This is a post about learning from the best.

What do the top brands do that earn so much loyalty?

How do they win people over, over and over again?

1. Starbucks – warm, predictable atmosphere

Starbucks is well-known for many things. They don’t actually have the best coffee in the world – just good-enough coffee that’s consistent and reliable. You know to expect the same sort of experience and service from Starbucks around the world.

2. Subway – tasty bread smell

The thing that always gets me about Subway is the smell of the bread. There’s an outlet near where I work, and I have to walk past it every morning. Several times, I have ended up buying a Subway sandwich because the smell of the bread was just too enticing.

How could you be using smells to allure your customers?

3. Apple – premium experience

Apple stores are all about simplicity and elegance. There’s a lot of big open space, and everything is minimalist.

The effect is a focus on the products. If you look at the walls, the ‘decorations’ are all high-resolution pictures of the products in action.

How could you make your product the hero of your store?

4. Lululemon – social warmth

Lululemon is more about warmth, and socializing. They turn some of their stores into yoga studios after hours.

5. IKEA – fun, immersive experience

The magical thing about IKEA is that it creates this large, immersive experience for customers to navigate. You might go there wanting to buy a couple of things, but end up with an entire trolley’s worth. A lot of this is about seeing things in the context in which they might be used.

How can you create an experience and contextualize things for your customers?

Why Run Loyalty Programs? 3 Stats and Figures For Retailers To Know

Why should you bother with a loyalty program?

Is it really worth the trouble, when you have so much on your plate?

The answer is an emphatic yes, and here’s why:

1. It’s 6-7 times cheaper to persuade customers to return than to acquire new ones

customer retention vs customer acquisition costs
Image: Super Office

Loyalty programs can do several things at once, but the most important thing it does is incentivize repeat purchases.

It’s easier to persuade somebody to buy another cup of coffee from a store they liked than to try their luck somewhere else.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

If you’re running a small business, you likely don’t have a massive marketing budget to work with. You need to be efficient with how you spend your marketing dollars.

2. Customers are up to 80% more likely to shop at stores that have loyalty programs

According to a study by Technology Advice, customers are 82.4% more likely to shop at stores that have loyalty programs.

Likelihood of shopping at stores with loyalty programs
Image: Technology Advice

It probably boils down to consumer psychology. Customers always want to feel like they’re getting a good deal – so if they’re going to be getting coffee every day, and there are two equally good options to choose from, they’re going to choose the one with a loyalty program.

Considering the psychology of discounts, and things like the endowment effect, it’s quite probable that you might get more loyal customers by raising your prices and then giving a discount, than by lowering your prices wholesale!

The point here is to focus on the customer experience – you want to make sure that your customers feel good buying from you.

3. Loyal customers spend 33% more, and up to 10x more (!) over time

According to MarketingProfs (citing a study by Five Stars), loyal customers are less price conscious and are likelier to spend much more over time.

It makes sense – a person who likes your coffeeshop is likelier to buy that second or third drink, and a person who frequents your retail outlet regularly is likelier to pick up more things as she browses.

Image: Liquid Agency

A Forrester study ‘The Business Impact of Customer Experience” backs up this claim – loyal customers spend more than new customers.

Looking for a sleek, modern digital loyalty program that doesn’t require customers to signup or download anything? Try a free trial of CandyBar today!

6 Principles Of Customer Loyalty

We all know that loyal customers are better than non-returning customers.

But how do you earn customer loyalty?

What are the principles of customer loyalty?

1. Positioning – communicate your brand values clearly and strongly

This sounds good in the abstract, and it makes sense for giant companies like Apple and Harley-Davidson. But what if you’re just a small mom-and-pop store?

It’s still very important. A customer walking past your store should be able to tell, in an instant, what your business is “about”.

You might be selling ice cream, coffee, or even groceries. But what kind of grocery store is it?

Is it a place that’s cheaper than everywhere else? Does it have the best service? Does it have the most pleasant shopping experience? The most helpful staff?

You don’t need to be perfect in every area – and you shouldn’t try to be. Rather, you should figure out what exactly you’re about, and communicate that as effectively and consistently as you can.

You’ll earn loyalty from the specific type of customer who’s looking for your specific type of store. So be clear about what that is.

2. Trust – be consistent and reliable

Lots of people know that they can get better coffee somewhere other than Starbucks, and better food somewhere other than McDonald’s – and yet they patronize those places over and over again. Why? Because it’s consistent and reliable. You know that a Frappucino or a Big Mac is going to taste and cost pretty much the same, wherever in the world you buy it.

As consumers, we’re all overwhelmed with information every single day. We have too many decisions to make about too many things. And so we often satisfice by going with what we know is “good enough”.

One simple and effective way to reassure would-be patrons and earn their confidence is by having a return policy. If you’re an F&B outlet, this could come in the form of a “We’ll make your drink/dish again, no questions asked” policy.

3. Surprise – delight your customers whenever you get the chance

Everybody loves free stuff. And we love it even more when it’s unexpected.

(Of course, sometimes you’re going to get truly unreasonable customers. You don’t want those people to come back. Still, be firm and polite. In the Facebook era, every small business has a chance of being thrown into the media frenzy of international news because of a customer feedback issue.)

4. Treat them well when things go wrong

Lifelong customers can switch loyalties when something bad happens, and then the response is fudged. You do want to minimize the odds of bad things happening (especially catastrophically bad stuff like food safety, faulty products and so on). But you also need to know that something will inevitably go wrong, and some of your customers will be disappointed. One of your crew is going to spill a drink on a customer. You need to be prepared for this.

Make it up to them. Be sincere in your apology. Give them free stuff, and not a derisory amount (like a 10% coupon or something). It might seem costly in the moment, but the positive word-of-mouth you’ll get from this sort of thing is very worth it.

5. Keep your employees happy

Unless your brand is all about grumpy staff, you’ll want to keep your staff happy. They are the stewards of your brand.

Zappos is one of the famous examples of a brand that’s known to delight its own employees. Virgin is another.

“It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy.” – Richard Branson, to Inc

6. Build a community

Every great brand has a loyal following, and that following becomes a community.

Host little events in your business space, if you can. I’m particularly partial to live music. Lululemon turns some of its stores into yoga studios after hours.

11 Of The Best Cafes Around The World

By some estimates, there are over 15,000,000 cafes around the world.

Which are the best ones? We went to look them up.

Here are some of the most popular ones we’ve found.

1. La Caféothèque de Paris

Not just about atmosphere (which you can get everywhere in Paris, because it’s… Paris), La Caféothèque has an incredible collection of beans from all over the world.

2. Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni is Argentina’s oldest cafe, opened in 1858. The specialty is chocolate con churros, crunchy fried dough dipped into thick hot chocolate. And apparently they have live tango from time to time!

3. Cafe Central, Vienna

Cafe Central in Vienna is incredibly beautiful. It looks like a literal palace. It also has a lot of interesting history behind it, and it was frequented by all sorts of intellectuals throughout history – including Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Freud.

4. Sant’Eustachio il Caffe, Rome

A cosy, relaxed sort of atmosphere.

5. Winkel 43, Amsterdam

Apparently, they have the best apple pie in Amsterdam.

6. Kaffeine, London

Very modern.

7. Toma Cafe, Madrid

Toma Cafe Madrid

8. Caffe Vita, Seattle

It’s a cliché to describe Seattle as grungy, but that’s certainly what it looks like – in the best possible sense!

9. Analog Coffee, Calgary

Image: fratellocoffee.com
  • “Staff always friendly, decently priced, espresso and hand pour are good”
  • Excellent coffee and selection, friendly atmosphere and very cool atmosphere!”

10. The Coffee Academics, Hong Kong

Very warm and homey.

11.  LES, Moscow

Certainly interesting to see a coffeeshop with all the signage in Russian!

11 Of The Best Small Business Apps To Save You Time

If you’re running a small business in 2017 or later, you know that you need to get online. We covered some of the specifics in our post about small business marketing.

But there’s more that you can do to take advantage of online tools and resources to support your business.

Here are some of the best apps that can help you take your business to the next level, from real business owners in /r/smallbusiness:

1. For accounting: Quickbooks

Helps with accounting and managing money.

2. For bookings – Booker

Booker business app

3. To keep track of todo lists and general information – Trello

Trello business app

4. Also for tracking projects – Asana

Asana business app

5. Google Apps – for shared calendars and timesheets

6. QuoteWerks – make impressive-looking customized quotes and invoices

7. Dialpad – $20 a month for business lines to avoid mixing up work with your personal line

8. Mailchimp – for email newsletters and drip campaigns

9. Streak – CRM in your Gmail inbox

10. ShipStation

11. Candybar Loyalty (that’s us!)


Ever tried running a loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced or forgotten their cards.

That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern loyalty program app for small businesses. No download necessary.

Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co  today!