If Yelp and Groupon had a baby, it would be a lot like Barkback. This new mobile app, which was developed in Santa Barbara, lets customers give private feedback to businesses in exchange for promotional offers, such as free tapas at Milk & Honey or ice cream at McConnell’s. In some cases, Barkbackers could even be rewarded with a free dinner for two at participating restaurants like Julienne.
Functioning like a “private Yelp,” according to Barkback’s Teddy Ho, the app launched in 2014 to provide a platform in which “all feedback goes directly to the owner, and it’s a two-way communication.” As opposed to Yelp’s public system, which is much maligned in the restaurant biz for a variety of reasons, Barkback lets a business owner resolve issues before they become a bigger problem.
“The owner can respond and build relationships with the customer that way,” Ho said. “It was really like a way for owners to get insights in a private and direct way and really help build their community of their users in a digital way.”
Barkback is now also offering a new loyalty program, which offers a digital alternative to that pesky paper punch card you always forget or lose. Simply queue up the digital punch card on your phone, show it to the merchant so they can put in a pin code, and you’re done.
“We basically made a digital version so the consumer never loses it,” Ho said. “It’s all in one place, in their app, and goes wherever they go.”
Thousands now use Barkback, which notched hundreds of loyalty punches in just the first week of use. Up next for Barkback is a feature that allows users to access rewards for sharing the app with friends or family.