Wisely Expands Mission to Help Businesses Serve Their Best Customers

As I was driving through the Poconos on my way home from a holiday vacation last week, I flipped on NPR just in time to hear a Marketplace report on Wisely, the Ann Arbor-based startup that is on a new mission to cultivate relationships between customers and merchants.

Wisely has been through a few iterations already. A few years ago, the company started out as Glyph in Detroit, and focused on helping users maximize their reward cards. Then, when we checked in with CEO Mike Vichich in December 2013, Wisely had relaunched with a new name, a new home base, and a new focus on helping people find places to eat and shop based on spending patterns.

Today’s Wisely has pivoted again, but with perhaps the most promising idea so far: It wants to turn the Groupon model essentially on its head. “We have found that the top 10 percent of customers are responsible for 50 percent of sales, and the top 20 percent are responsible for 85 percent of sales,” Vichich explains. Wisely is after retailers who will pay to court these big spenders through special offers or access, and thereby transform those top customers into salespeople who broadcast their satisfaction widely through word-of-mouth. “It’s not about discounts, but experiences,” he says.

Wisely’s app still helps users figure out where to go based on where they spend money. But now it also helps business owners interact more intimately with their best customers.

For instance, say a restaurant manager is in the back working on the schedule when she gets a notification from Wisely’s app that a loyal customer has just entered the building. The manager would then drop what she’s doing to greet the patrons and perhaps offer them a free dessert, or to extend happy hour prices for them. “The restaurant knows when an important customer is in the house, and it’s probably worth going over and making sure the customer has a great time,” Vichich says.

Wisely plans to make money by charging merchants a flat monthly fee. But is that sustainable? Will merchants continue to pay, or will Wisely eventually exhaust the pool of available merchants it can tap to become customers?

Vichich is brimming with optimism. “When we pitch our value proposition to merchants, we explain that we’re the antithesis of Groupon-style discounting,” he says. “Most Groupon users don’t convert to repeat customers. Our app is all about relationships, not transactional discounts. We’ll help businesses provide better service to their best customers.”

Vichich says 30 Ann Arbor merchants have already signed up for Wisely, and in 2015, the company plans to expand to markets outside of the city or even the state. In the mean time, Wisely is practicing what it preaches by focusing on its existing customers and smoothing out the app’s functionality. It’s also preparing to hire more developers and salespeople.

And as for that Marketplace report, it was a good one. The clip isn’t currently available online, but we’ve reached out to Marketplace to request the audio file to embed in this article. We’ll update the story if we receive it.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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