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Posted on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Ann Arbor-developed Flocktag customer loyalty program quickly growing one year after launch

By Kellie Woodhouse


Registering for a FlockTag account is completed by entering personal information into a tablet computer at the purchase location.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

This article has been corrected to reflect that Flocktag has generated nearly $100,000 in revenue for participating businesses.

Nearly 100,000 users throughout 100 locations generating an estimated $100,000 in additional revenue: That's the success of FlockTag, a customer loyalty program launched in Ann Arbor in a year ago.

Since its initial launch, Flocktag has spread to six locations —all college towns— and further honed its approach to an intelligent loyalty program, says co-founder David Lin.

"It's been pretty well received," Lin said. Lin spoke at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Ann Arbor Wednesday morning.

Flocktag has doubled the 45,000 card holders participating in the program in September. The loyalty program also has added another 30 businesses —including the new R.U.B. BBQ Pub off Packard— to its repertoire since September.

When the program initially launched last year it included a modest three restaurants in Ann Arbor: Bubble Island, Espresso Royale and BTB Burrito.


A customer scans their Flocktag card.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

The program ties loyalty programs of participating restaurants and coffee shops to one system, so customers toss their multiple paper punch cards for one durable plastic card. That card not only tracks your loyalty points, but it also tracks your spending habits so businesses can send you deals specific to your preferences or location.

Say, for example, you frequent restaurants near U-M's central campus. In that case, you're more likely to get a coupon for the R.U.B. BBQ Pub texted to your phone than if you frequented an Espresso Royale on north campus.

"We're mapping out where people are going. What do people like," said Lin, who is a graduate of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at U-M. "Vendors give out specific deals to specific kinds of customers and customers get deals that they actually like.

"It's not like your email folder where you're getting spam," he continued.

Lin estimates that of Flocktag's 100,000 users, over one-fifth are from Ann Arbor.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Interesting, I did not even realize that this card for use at multiple businesses. Espresso Royale made me get one in lieu of the punch card and I thought it was only for their business.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

So now it is $100,000 in "incremental" business, not $100,000,000. Or $1 per member. Or just over $1,000 per business. How does this make dollar sense for a business? Did you interview any businesses and ask them for numbers? Did Flocktag show how they determined what was incremental? Or, did Flocktag contact you to get some PR out there to improve their social media visibility, and yours? What has changed since the first article?


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

I wonder what the businesses names are that take the flock card? It'd be nice to know. I tried to google that to no avail. And for future reference if someone had the forethought to keep an updated list, it would be genius!


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

From the website FAQ: " Q: How can I find participating FlockTAG businesses? A: There is a great interactive map in the iPhone or Andorid FlockTAG app . No smartphone? No worries. Soon you be able to register at and check there as well. Or, you can always send us an email and we'll be happy to share the growing list of businesses in your town. "

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

I would like to see businesses give discounts to locals.

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

I just signed up for a FlockTag last week! I've only used it at Espresso Royale so far, but love the idea of being able to use the same card at other stores. Seems like quite a few stores on South U. take the card.

Ben Freed

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

I wrote about FlockTag earlier this year and got a card a few weeks later. It's been nice not to have to worry about all of the various loyalty cards. The near field communication aspect means I don't even have to fish through my wallet for it. Would like to see them promote more deals and specials from their vendors though.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

I've been a FlockTag card-holder for quite a while now. Love the concept. Why carry around punch cards for every business you go to when you can have just one card? It's easy and fast. When I have a reward available at, say, ERC the cashier lets me know. It's great that they're adding more businesses too. Now to get places like Plum Market and Kroger on board...

Kyle Mattson

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Has anyone used Flock yet? I've seen it at a number of shops around town but the thought of carrying around another card just seems more work that its worth, but interested to hear from others who have signed up...


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

I use it quite regularly. While yes, I have to carry the card with me, it's only one card for many businesses so it actually eliminated quite a few cards in my wallet. I'm really happy to read about their success and wish them the best!


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

yeah, for Belly it's kind of clever. There's no NFC either. A QR code appears on your phone, which the ipad at the register reads and then it gets logged. It's at local food places and grocery stores in the Chicago area. I don't know if it's spread elsewhere.

Mark Evans

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

I use it and I think it is a pretty nice idea, but the adoption seems pretty limited so far. I've really only used it at Espresso Royale and one time at BTB. I know they plan to add the ability to use phone only (no card), but iPhones don't support NFC yet so there isn't "waving your phone" with an iPhone which is a problem. I really like the concept of giving a leg up to local businesses using a program like this.


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.

Yeah, I've used it. The card thing is a bit annoying especially after I noticed my friends in Chicago all using the "Belly" phone-based app. Simply wave your phone at the register and get points/rewards similar to Flock. Seems like it would be easy for flock to do though..


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

Glad to see a startup succeeding, but this doesn't make any sense. "Nearly 100,000 users throughout 100 locations generating an estimated $100 million dollars in additional revenue" Kellie, did you take a calculator to this? It's beyond unlikely. First, to generate $100 million dollars the 100,000 users would have to generate AVERAGE sales of $1,000. That seems unlikely by itself. Add in that more than 1/2 of them joined in the past few months and it's even more unlikely. A loyalty program is designed to keep customers loyal, to keep them from going elsewhere. The "additional" or "incremental" revenue would be measured against a control group of customers that didn't belong to see what was incremental. 33 businesses across $100 million is $3 million in incremental business from this program per business. Really? I wouldn't believe $3 million per business in total business. In another article I read on them, they had 75 business under contract in September with 55 operating. Maybe it is 33 just in Ann Arbor? Something is very wrong with these numbers.

Kellie Woodhouse

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

Thanks for pointing this out. Unfortunately I made a transcription error, leading to the misinformation. The actual amount of extra revenue is estimated at $100K, not $100M. I apologize for the error. We are noting a correction in the article.

Lets Get Real

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

I agree - if this were the case, As a vendor, I'd be onboard in a heartbeat. But being the skeptic I am, I think to believe this little card will bring me millions $ in business is questionable - and - it commoditizes each business - pitting one against another competing on price/specials. Selling for less doesn't change either fixed or variable costs. Unlike the Federal Government, the bills must still be paid and if you sell for less, and the magrin is reduced, where does the money come from to pay the bills? Most likely from profit, so now you can't pay your personal bills because there is nothing left over for salary. I'll wait and watch on this one.