Case Study Info

Loyalty Program Support Application

The Challenge

In November 2012 Softage is asked to take an existing, popular, and very successful customer loyalty program running in a major European city for several years, and extend it to online commerce. This involves the seamless integration of a loyalty program currently available only in shops in the city with a new internet-based service. Some of the businesses promoting the scheme would be present both online and in real stores spread throughout the city, and some in only one of those markets.

Solution Overview

The existing customer loyalty program is very simple: Customers accrue loyalty points at any one of over 500 retail and commercial outlets across the city, then use those points to buy goods or services either in the original store or at any of the others who were members of the scheme. When using the scheme they present the retailer or proprietor with a card, and the retailer scans the card through a specially supplied card reader. Details of the transaction are then transmitted back to the program’s head office, where it is collated and stored centrally.

Such is the popularity of the scheme with both customers and retailers that it is decided to expand it to transactions carried out over the internet. The project falls into four main parts.

The first part deals with the relationship between the customer and the business. These businesses range from the supplies of organic produce to travel agencies. The new system not only has to allow the customer to select a business, make a purchase, and then accrue the reward points on his or her card, but also to use those points to make purchases. In addition, it has to interact with the existing system so that the internet purchases and those made on the High Street are indistinguishable and interchangeable.

The second part concerns the application, screening, and registration of new businesses wanting to take part in the scheme. Some have a High Street presence and are already members of the scheme, but now wanted to extend their membership to e-commerce activity. Others are only e-commerce businesses with no High Street presence. Both types will have to be registered on the new system with equal weighting.

The third part of the system dealing with the back office and administrative functions required to make the system work. The fourth is the collection and storage of transaction records to ensure that the right number of points are credited to or debited from the right account.

Softage is able to design, develop, test, and roll out a system meeting all the client’s needs, ahead of the client’s required schedule, and on budget. The system is now been running successfully, and is proving very popular with customers and with retailers.

Main Features

Softage designs and builds a website maintaining the brand recognition for the scheme already built up on the High Street, with added functionality to move the scheme online. Our team of developers produces a module embedded in the website which checks the validity of the card and also an interface with the data arriving from the retailers and businesses.

A registration page is included, allowing prospective member businesses to register online. This involves, not only the submission of various pieces of information to the scheme’s administrators, but also uploading required documents and downloading contracts for signature. This area also contains the algorithm which determines the manner in which the customer’s reward points are gained by reference to the type and value of the good or services being bought.

Like the administration system, the data processor which receives, collates, and stores information about transactions received from individual transactions is also centrally based. Every transaction is converted into an Extensible Markup Language file which can be read either by computer or by a person. The file contains information on the value of the purchase, the time and place, and the card number of the customer. It is stored as a Yandex Markup language (YML) file, and, following collation, is married up with customer data to provide an authoritative statement of each individual account.

Tools & Technologies

Server changes are required to run the new online service fully integrated with the existing High Street version, and our team needs to draw on their deep understanding of many of Sun Microsystem’s products, particularly Java. The data itself is held in a MySQL database where the individual records are held as JavaScript Object Notation files which can be read either by the system or by a human operator. The choice of MySQL is driven by its excellent capacity to absorb growth. Mapping from Java to the database tables is achieved using Java Hibernate. The software architecture pattern is Spring Web MVC, and the system also employs iText to produce PDF documents in Java, and reCaptcha to prevent unauthorized access.