Saturday, December 31, 2011

Socially Responsible Enablement Technology

At one of my companies Atomic Tattoos we have actively engaged in Socially Responsible campaigns since 2003.  Specifically we created, launched and have maintained Toys for Tats and Tats for Tatas.  Both of these are socially responsible commercial campaigns that generate more benefit for the participants than the costs of the campaigns.  In fact, the commercial costs of these campaigns is actually less than the commercial value while producing extensive social and community value.  The problem over almost the last decade has been management of what was a primarily manual effort.  So, this year, 2011, we decided to introduce technology and business automation into the design and ended up creating what we now call a Socially Responsible Enablement Platform.

It would probably make sense to describe the Socially Responsible campaigns first otherwise none of this may make sense.

Toys for Tats Campaign

  • Customer donates a toy $5 value or greater.
  • Customer gets a $20 gift voucher that can be used on services $50 or greater from that day until Mar 31 the next year.
  • Customer can redeem the $20 gift voucher during check out.
  • Atomic has to pay commissions on a portion of this $20.
  • All toys are delivered to the Marine's Toys for Tots program.  We have raised tens of thousands of toys with this campaign.

Tats for Tatas Campaign
  • Customer donates $5 in exchange for a Tats for Tatas sticker.
  • Customer gets a $20 gift voucher that can be used on services $50 or greater in the month of November.
  • Customer can redeem the $20 gift voucher during check out.
  • Atomic has to pay commissions on a portion of this $20.
  • We have generated thousands of dollars which have been donated to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation

From 2003 until 2011 we managed these campaigns manually by giving customers printed paper gift certificates with no easy way to issue, redeem, track and manage the process.  While the issuing and redemption process was fairly simple at the point of sale and check out process the back office management, reconciliation and fraud detection and prevention was all manual and an incredible amount of man work.

The size of these campaigns has finally reached a point where it is not feasible to operate them manually and therefore we automated the issuing, redemption and even the reconciliation process for the first time this year.  Here are some highlights of how we did it.

  • First, there is no difference between a gift card, a gift certificate, a gift voucher, a discount voucher or a coupon.  They are all just stores and representations of a type of value.
  • Second, we leveraged the in-house gift card application we built and then expanded on it to allow one time issuance of card numbers, pre-loaded value, non-reloadability, auto-expiration and validity periods and a number of other super top-secret advancements!
  • Third, we used less expensive paper cards for the gift vouchers and bar code technology instead of gift card technology.
  • Fourth, we leveraged the existing interfaces and software applications the staff were familiar with so that the issuing and redemption process would be similar to operating the gift card platform.
  • Fifth, we integrated the entire concept into existing Social Networks like Facebook as well as embedded the system into it's own social networking system.  We did this because the consumer that donates and gets a voucher card must go and register and then activate each discount voucher card on the site. 
  • The whole system is built on a basic LAMP stack and all kinds of Open Source systems.

So, 2011 was the first year we operated on this software system and there were some adjustments and of course some complaints.  Some customers complained that they didn't want to or it was too difficult too or didn't understand how to register and activate the gift voucher cards they received in exchange for their donation.  Honestly, there weren't many.  There was a smaller percentage of customers that didn't think it was worth their time.  Either these types of customers aren't socially responsible, just don't care or make more money than their time is worth.  It only took a few minutes to donate the $5 or the Toy in either case and another few minutes for the retail associate to issue the gift voucher card and maybe a few minutes to register and activate their card.  So, strangely some customers didn't believe that a $5 donation toward breast cancer research and awareness or a $5 toy for a child in need is worth $20 in discounts and 10 minutes of their time.  Again, this was a very small percentage of customers.

I think the benefits are obvious and this is especially true considering it only took a couple of weeks of my free labor to expand the existing gift card platform to support this socially responsible campaign management platform.

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