BCKSTGR.com allows users to earn rewards currency for engaging brands using social media, such as tweeting about or liking a brand on Facebook. The program soft launched with United MileagePlus on Nov. 1, 2012 and members have already earned a couple of hundred thousand miles. We spoke with Justin Jarvinen, Founder and CEO of BCKSTGR.com, about the new program.
Can you briefly explain how BCKSTGR works?
BCKSTGR is a pretty sophisticated technology that enables any brand or business to reward customer behavior, whether it’s purchasing a product or talking about it on social media or reading an email–the list of behaviors that are beneficial to a brand are limitless. We built this software platform that basically enables the brand to track specific behaviors and reward their customer with a branded virtual currency. The consumer who earns the currency can then use it to purchase or bid on these really high-value experiential rewards. It’s a white label software platform that enables us to work with any big brand, United being one of them. BCKSTGR.com is the United MileagePlus platform. Any company can create loyal customers at the exact moment they engage that brand with these very specific behaviors. We’ll deliver the entire platform. We’ll develop their website and help them define what consumer behaviors drive value back to the business. Our technology platform delivers data back to the brand and enables consumers to earn the currency from that brand in a digital wallet and then go shopping with it. The software enables any business to set up and manage their own virtual currency program.
How did you come up with the idea of BCKSTGR?
I was in the music business for about 10 years and developed another technology. I was at a charity event where an auction came up for a private concert with the Jonas Brothers that would take place in the highest bidder’s backyard. The bidding got down to two guys who were bidding back and forth and one guy won with a bid of over $100,000. Everyone in the room went crazy for this Jonas Brothers concert and I recognized at that moment that I knew people, my sister included, who found it difficult to even get tickets to the Jonas Brothers concert, let alone have a concert in their own backyard. The average everyday consumer isn’t sitting on $100,000. If I could create a new kind of currency that could be earned differently at a greater earn velocity, maybe I could enable everyday consumers to possibly get in on the bidding. I embarked on a two-year process of developing this business model, creating a virtual currency and all of the infrastructure and systems that would be required to manage the currency and business model and experiential rewards.
Other than earning miles, what are some of the experiential awards members can redeem for?
There are two sides to this platform. Businesses can award consumers for the activities they engage in and the other side is that the members who are earning miles or have miles already in their account can spend miles on experiences. Our focus is on offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences that money really can’t buy. We’re designing or curating all kinds of awesome experiences. Our plan is to have dozens of really cool experiences on the site at any given time, anything from having a celebrity chef come to your house and cook a meal for you and a bunch of your friends to learning how to drive a race car with a professional race car driver to exclusive red carpet VIP or backstage experiences with celebrities and artists. Part of the reason we launched this business is because we felt like experiential rewards are really going to change the way the loyalty industry has traditionally worked. By offering these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we feel like we can really make dreams come true for everyday people.
Do you expect some users to post about your brand partners to only earn the miles, not so much because they are a satisfied customer?
For starters, the brands and businesses who are creating campaigns on our platform have a variety of tools that give them the ability to control how people talk about their brand, how often and what they say. When a business creates a campaign and they select Facebook or what we call triggers–those specific moments in time when a reward is offered–they can specifically define what they want someone to say to receive the reward, how they want them to say it and what time. The brand has a lot of control over what the consumer has to do to receive miles. We feel we have mitigated the risk of people logging on and liking someone for the sake of miles versus liking someone because they actually like the brand. But we are young. It’s not a perfect system yet and that’s one of the areas that we’ll definitely be focused on evolving. We’re not interested in getting people to like something just for the sake of miles. BCKSTGR.com should be a strategic tool that businesses use to drive value back to their companies, whether it’s encouraging people to talk about a new product or to purchase a product or tell their friends or connections about what a great experience they had. We have a team dedicated to making sure this doesn’t become a platform where people are spamming and it has no use to brands.
What can BCKSTGR members expect in the first couple of years?
Now that we are live, the hard work begins and that is when we get to evolve the site. We have a huge list of things we will be introducing. On the experiential side, we have a handful of really cool, more high-priced experiences. We will be introducing more low cost but high value experiences that make it easier for members with a smaller amount of miles to earn. A couple of examples are the ability to download exclusive music playlists and you’ll be able to book tee times at private golf clubs. We’ll also be rolling out the ability to pool miles so you’ll be able to connect with friends and family to pool miles to bid on things, which is a top priority.