The days of customer loyalty punch cards and keychains are numbered. Babir Sultan, creator of Royal Loyal, is bringing customer loyalty programs into the digital age. Through a mobile app, Royal Loyal makes it possible for loyal customers to get royal treatment at their favorite locally owned convenience stores and gas stations.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Babir and discuss his experience as a member of SparkLabKC's Class of 2015, what’s new with Royal Loyal, and his plans for the future of the company.
Royalty for Loyalty
Before applying to SparkLabKC, Babir developed his idea for a loyalty program app as part of UMKC's Entrepreneurship Scholars Program. At that early stage, he hadn't yet decided what he would name the end product. He laid out his idea to a classroom of about 30 people and recalls,
“One student, I will never forget his quote, he said, 'Tell them to get royalty treatment for being a loyal customer’, and I thought, 'that sounds pretty cool!' So Royal Loyal it is.”
Babir's interest in customer loyalty programs began several years ago as the owner of a few independent gas stations. He noticed that something was lacking, and that something was not only a lack of customer interest in their savings possibilities, but also a lack of appreciation for the customers themselves. He knew that if he could provide a more accessible customer appreciation platform, his customers would have a reason to be more loyal to his stores. He says,
“I’ve owned four gas stations myself and one thing I noticed is a lot of the locally owned and operated convenience stores don’t have the budget like [other major companies] to advertise on the radio and in newspapers on a weekly basis. I thought there had to be a solution and when I started looking at what we were currently doing, we were giving out punch cards, which is such old technology. A lot of the customers didn’t like having them around and would throw them away. But they won’t throw away a cell-phone — so why not make a mobile platform that would allow them to offer loyalty?”
Royal Loyal was born out of this thought process.
The SparkLabKC Effect
Babir came to SparkLabKC knowing that his product worked on a very small scale, but he remembers asking himself, “Where do we go from here?” He had yet to line up any investors and was seeking assistance in scaling up his mobile platform.
During his time in the accelerator, he found the push that he was looking for. He states,
“One great aspect was meeting the mentors. The other huge value was your fellow students. When you get stuck on a design or are having trouble hiring, you can turn to them and they would say, ‘have you done this?’ and it would solve my problem right away.”
Having access to these resources helped Royal Loyal to develop at a much quicker pace and taught Babir many of the ins and outs of business that he wasn’t fully aware of before. “It was an interesting ride”, he shares and continues on to say that the support that SparkLabKC provided for him was ongoing. Even though he knew he could accomplish things on his own, he saw the value in asking questions to move his company forward.
During his time at SparkLabKC he began his work with epay, the world’s top prepaid payment processor. His mentors advised him on how to structure the relationship for long-term success. He notes that because of SparkLabKC, he is doing things that he “would never have done in his life” had he not gone through the accelerator program. Royal Loyal is currently available for Apple and Android platforms and its user numbers continue to grow.
What’s Next for Royal Loyal?
Royal Loyal has recently entered into a mutually beneficial partnership with epay, as reported in Silicon Prairie, and Babir is currently looking for the most efficient way to serve epay’s customers. With 12,000 independently owned convenience stores connected to epay, the opportunities for Royal Loyal are immense. As Babir says,
“This is a great opportunity and I want to take full advantage of this relationship with epay euronet. We hope, out of 12,000 locations, that even if 5,000 sign up, and that’s being hopeful, [Royal Loyal] will turn into a multi-million dollar company.”
This is the first major accomplishment for Royal Loyal, and I have no doubt that the good news will keep coming. SparkLabKC predicts great things to come for Babir and Royal Loyal as they continue to forge connections and gain clients. When it comes to strengthening the connection between consumers and their favorite convenience stores, we agree that loyalty should equal royalty.