Massage in a wallet can be token for granted

The Australian 29th January 2013

IS it possible to gift a friend a cup of coffee or massage by sending a token to their digital wallet?

What if you're a manager who would like to reward 10 staff with a free drink token for working long hours.

Or you're a retailer who knows the public is tiring of traditional point rewards which take years to offer a tangible benefit. You'd prefer giving smaller, immediate gifts. Australian firm PermissionCorp is patenting technology that lets corporations, retailers and friends do just that - deliver small gifts via the internet to the digital wallets of anyone who has an iPhone or Android device and has downloaded the Gift Token app.

The free app is up and running and available from iTunes and the Google Play store. It lets you buy tokens, send tokens, receive tokens and redeem them. It geo-selects nearby businesses that will accept, for instance, a coffee token, and offers a map of how to get there. You get your free coffee by pressing a redeem button on the app in the shop.

PermissionCorp, a player in the rewards market since 1999 through its RewardsCentral website, said its solid support among retailers and long-running web-based online shopping rewards platform meant it was well positioned to succeed with the digital wallet.

Director Jeff Glazer said PermissionCorp had about 120 companies associated with its traditional points rewards system. They included Harvey Norman, Deals Direct, Crown Plaza, InterContinental Hotels, Clinique and Estee Lauder.

PermissionCorp had formed a subsidiary ETOM (Electronic Tokens on Mobile) which engaged programmers and computer engineers to develop the system in-house.

The company had been in "stealth mode" about the project until now.

"We've put in for two patents and have done a lot of due diligence about who are the players in this space," Mr Glazer said. "A lot of people have got jaded with these (traditional) points systems, not just ours, but across the board.

"You've got to live to 150 before you get anything reasonable back, something physical. That brought us to our gift idea: coffee, sushi, salads, massages, bridge climbs."

Mr Glazer said foundation clients for the token system included Boost Juice/Retail Zoo, Hudsons Coffee and Mrs Fields/Cookie Man. Car-wash companies, pizza and snack retailers, fast-food outlets, and cruise and sightseeing companies were already on board. Charity organisations such as Beyondblue, Fred Hollows Foundation and Guide Dogs were also participating.

He said the token system charged a $1 commission when buying tokens. A purchase, for instance, of five coffee tokens costs $20: $3.80 per token and $1.

ETOM also had deals with retailers offering services below token cost.

He said ETOM had succeeded in implementing a digital token rewards system where larger corporations such as Google and Apple were still fighting for dominance in the digital wallet.

Retailers did not require special equipment to participate.

He said that participating managers could draw up a spreadsheet of employees to be given token rewards and submit them online as one transaction.

Tokens include transaction codes, time stamps and moving images designed to prevent hacking. Rewards are delivered by nominating the recipient's mobile phone number.

Entrepreneur Bob Cheng founded PermissionCorp in 1999. It has branches in Taiwan and New Zealand.