Fintech startup AirBux gives Cairns small businesses a loyalty boost with its digital currency app

AirBux Sean Smith

An Australian fintech startup is aiming to solve the “pain point” of loyalty program aggregation for small businesses through a trial of its AirBux Pay platform in Cairns.

AirBux is both a mobile application and a payment and loyalty system, allowing customers to sign up, register a credit card, and transact with a business. They then earn loyalty points in a digital currency called “AirBux” which can be accrued and spent at other Airbux-supported businesses.

The company has just completed a two-month trial of AirBux Pay in Cairns with around 20 local businesses. AirBux chief executive Sean Smith tells SmartCompany it has been well-received by both customers and businesses.

“The idea behind the Cairns launch was very much one of technical proof. We wanted to get feedback from merchants using the platform, which has been very positive so far,” Smith says.

Subhash Rai, owner and director of Cairns restaurant Outback Jacks, said in a statement the trial had brought a number of new customers to the business, especially tourists.

“All of our customers have responded very well to using AirBux, and they are frequently using it as well. Not only that, but we’ve found that they’re happy to download and subscribe to the app as a platform too,” Rai said.

Other businesses AirBux has partnered with for its initial trial include various retail businesses and some cruise and tour providers, with Smith noting the app is not just limited to retailers.

He says many Australian businesses have “fragmented and verticalised” loyalty systems, with each one being specific to a small number of stores. He’s hoping AirBux will “turn the model on its side” and let multiple customers transact at multiple stores, all while earning the digital AirBux currency.

“We wanted to make sure the whole system works with regular payments happening every week, and this success will let us look at multiple areas in the future,” Smith says.

The company is planning another trial of a new version of the AirBux platform next month.

AirBux and its parent company Mobecom have offices in both Singapore and South Africa and are eyeing off the regions as areas for potential expansion once they have the system ironed out Down Under, pinging locations such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane as potential areas for continued expansion at home.

While the term ‘digital currency’ might bring cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum to mind, AirBux’s digital currency does not reside on the blockchain, but Smith says it could be “absolutely feasible” to do so in the future.

“There’s a lot of value to be had in the cryptocurrency space, and while today we don’t have the facility to attach someone’s Bitcoin wallet to the app, in the future it’s absolutely feasible,” he says.

Looking towards the future expansion, Smith was unwilling to put a figure on the number of businesses the company want to get signed up in the next 12 months, but said “the more the merrier”.

“The concept of the product is value through liquidity, and that only works if we’re able to access merchants across a spread of goods in different baskets,” he says.

“The way we’re placing the model should be one of substance for merchants, with no long contracts or monthly fees. We want to ensure we’re the best of the breed in what we do and to do that we need to have a strong focus on partnerships, so watch this space.”

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