We’re all familar with the adage that it’s more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain existing ones. That said it’s rare to see small to mid-sized eCommerce companies actually apply this logic to engage their customer base in a meaningful way.

Enter Smile.io (former Sweet Tooth Rewards), a white-labeled loyalty and rewards programs for online retailers. Since its launch in 2009 the platform has seen over 1,500 eCommerce owners integrate the technology with their storefronts.

While the platform is currently only available to merchants on the Magento platform, they’ve recently closed a round of seed funding meaning that we should see Sweet Tooth on more platforms in short order. I had a chance to catch up with Jay El-Kaake, Founder and CEO of Sweet Tooth Rewards, earlier in the week.  Here’s the interview-

Nii: Describe the Platform in 140 characters or less?

Jay: Sweet Tooth is plug & play loyalty software that allows eCommerce merchants to reward customers for purchasing & engaging with their store.

Nii: What led you and your team to building the platform?

Jay: Sweet Tooth started as an eCommerce web development agency. Many of our clients had the same problem; they were spending a significant portion of their budget on acquiring customers and weren’t able to retain and remarket to them. The eCommerce industry in general showed the same problem. We developed Sweet Tooth for a client and it has done so well that we now focus solely on eCommerce loyalty.

Jay El-Kaake of Sweet Tooth

Jay El-Kaake of Sweet Tooth

Nii: What’s the biggest mistake eCommerce merchants make when it comes to incentivizing return purchases from their customer base?

Jay: Brand differentiation: eCommerce merchants often don’t give customers a compelling reason to come back to them rather than their competition. eCommerce sites have huge issues surrounding product-price commoditization, shopper experience, and customer loyalty. Unless they have programs in place to mitigate these issues, their customer base will only be loyal to the first result on a search engine. The first mistake is believing that focusing solely on acquisition strategies such as SEO and SEM are a sustainable long term business strategy, rather than brand differentiation.

Nii: What kind of revenue lift have retailers seen by using Sweet Tooth’s platform to power their loyalty program, any examples you care to share?

Jay: Our merchants have reported an average sales lift of 15%. Revenue lift isn’t the only measurable improvements. We’ve just completed a 6 month comparative case study with one of our customers, Maggie’s Direct ( www.maggiesdirect.com )that showed some other great metrics: 52% increase in conversion rate, 372% increase in Facebook Likes, customer account creation rate increased 35%, and search engine results page increased 15% using a unique points-based blogger referral system.

Nii: What’s next for the Sweet Tooth Development Team?

Our next step is expansion. We want Sweet Tooth to be on as many eCommerce platforms as possible. Long term, we want Sweet Tooth to expand beyond eCommerce loyalty and into brick & mortar, mobile, point of sale, employee motivation and more.

Nii: How can a merchant get started with working with Sweet Tooth?

Jay: Simply visit our website and sign up for a monthly plan! We will even have a forever free edition that is perfect for smaller merchants or those that want to run a pilot program before they subscribe to a plan. Sweet Tooth uses a success-based pricing model, so you don’t have to pay until you see results from our software.

The Emerging eCommerce Technology Spotlight Series is a series of blog posts where we sit down and interview the founders and executives of exciting, emerging, and compelling technology and platform companies about how their technology can help propel ecommerce organizations to the next level.

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About the AuthorNii is COO of CPC Strategy, a shopping feed management agency and is responsible for day-to-day business operations and long-term financial, tactical and strategic planning for the company. He has been with CPC Strategy since January of 2007. Prior to working with CPC Strategy, Nii was a product manager at eBay working on algorithmic merchandising and reviews and guides. See all posts by this author here.