Point. Shoot. Save.

Using QR code technology, LoyalTree is building an app for businesses to better understand their customers — and for customers to get more of what they want (like a free latte).

Got a torn, stained coffee loyalty card in your wallet — or maybe a dozen of ’em? Let’s face it: The trouble of carrying around all those punch-card slips was hardly worth the free double-skinny mocha.

“Why carry a bunch of cards when you can have the same exact thing … aggregated into one tool?” That’s how Jim Ambrose of Pittsburgh-based LoyalTree summarizes it — but if you compare LoyalTree to a card, he’ll cringe. The app is part loyalty card, sure. But it is also part market research, part reward and part membership benefits.

Say you and a friend sit down for lunch at Mercurio’s in Shadyside. You order a couple pizzas and something to drink. At the bottom of your receipt, there’s a QR code. You take out your phone, open the app, hit the scan button and it deposits 24 points into your account. Because Mercurio’s has a point-for-dollar system, the business can learn from what you actually buy instead of encouraging one type of purchase.

It’s all about harnessing the potential of the smartphone as a universal tool. Today’s greatest challenge is to think beyond the limitations of past platforms, and LoyalTree does this in more ways than one. It connects businesses to a network of people, but it also gives them “the freedom and the flexibility” to determine point values, rewards and discounts. And as the app feeds the information back, it becomes a way to learn what customers want.

“All we aim to do is establish a deeper connection between a business and its consumers,” Ambrose says.

But LoyalTree has also started to evolve the app toward cultural offerings — like Pittsburgh’s myriad museums, universities and sporting events. Ambrose and his team are looking at ways to encourage volunteer work through discounts, and they’re encouraging university students to visit local establishments.

You still might wonder, though: Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? These days, it’s app after app after app. Are all of these programs just complicating our lives in new ways?

Maybe some of them. But LoyalTree? It’s a small grace. The app is bringing customers — and information about their desires — to our local businesses. And at its simplest, LoyalTree is allowing us deeper enjoyment of that most-cherished, most-anticipated, most-splurged-upon eighth cup of coffee.

Categories: Community Feature