Design Of The Times

Scoring Points

Giving customers an incentive to buy, buy, buy.

Nothing is quite so tempting--in fact, downright irresistible--as the opportunity to get free goodies. It's human nature. But even as folks keep clipping box tops and sending away for the latest free gadget, a customer rewards program for the electronic age looks to score points.

Launched last year, Gold Points Plus is the offspring of Minneapolis-based Carlson Companies Inc., the parent corporation of T.G.I. Friday's and Radisson Hotels, among other businesses. Gold Points Plus enables consumers to earn points through shopping purchases via a handy, credit-card-sized card. Points can be traded in for everything from stereos to exercise equipment, or put toward travel expenditures. "Customer reaction has been wonderful," says Curtis L. Carlson, founder and CEO of Carlson Companies. "They all love it."

Debuting in Minnesota, Gold Points Plus is expected to branch out to additional locations by the middle of this year--with a national rollout to be completed within three years. Although grocery stores are the main target, other types of businesses are participating in the program as well. Might this form of digital trading stamps herald a new era in customer incentives? Think of it this way: By instituting a rewards program, you can reward not only your customers--but yourself.

Contact Sources

Aztec Tents & Events, 540 Hawaii Ave., Torrance, CA 90503, (800) 258-7368

Carlson Companies Inc., http://www.carlson.com

Hallmark Cards Inc., http://www.hallmark.com

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Design Of The Times.

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