Get rewards for purchases at Ypsi businesses with this new app created by U-M students

Three University of Michigan (U-M) students are working with Ypsilanti businesses to develop a loyalty app for customers shopping in downtown Ypsi. The free Campfire Loyalty app hopes to connect businesses, from restaurants to art galleries, and drive more business into downtown Ypsi.

The app development team consists of U-M freshmen Jordan Kapala and Troy Shen and graduate student Bernard Yap, who found that local businesses trying to implement loyalty programs were still facing challenges maintaining a steady flow of customers. Shen says he was inspired to start the process of developing a broad, easy-to-use loyalty system after a conversation with a waitress at a local restaurant.

“Before COVID, this place was always packed, and now it just isn’t,” Shen recalls. “The waitress was telling us how they were trying to start a loyalty program, but it wasn’t working, and she was confused why.”

“The loyalty programs that are offered by different businesses don’t really work for us as college students,” Kapala says. “We got to talking and figured that we wanted to make one that we would actually use.”

The three students decided to bring their idea to life in Ypsilanti, approaching a number of small businesses throughout the downtown area to see if they were interested in being listed in the Campfire Loyalty app. The app allows customers to earn points, based on their purchases, that they can redeem for coupons and discounts at all stores participating in the app. They hope that the app will be appealing to local college students, and they say business owners were excited about the idea of further fostering community between Ypsi’s small businesses.

“When we came to Ypsi for the first time to talk with businesses, people were really receptive and that boosted our confidence,” Yap says. “We hope that Campfire can help them engage customers more, as well as further market their businesses.”

The app currently supports nine businesses, including restaurants like Issa’s Pizza and Gora’s Grill, bookstores like Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center and David’s Books, and shops like Infinitee’s Customs and the Deep End Cafe and Gallery. The Campfire team is in talks with other businesses about joining the program.

“Several businesses want more customers. They want their brands to be more inviting, and they want to have that stronger business community among them and their neighbors,” Kapala says. “If you’re going to be there for the next 10 years, why wouldn’t you want that community to be more connected?”

The app is currently only open to Ypsilanti businesses, but the Campfire team hopes to expand to other cities in the future. Yap says the app will likely change over time.

“We want to start small,” Yap says. “We want to make the product the best it can be before we expand to other areas.”

To learn more about Campfire Loyalty or download the app, visit campfireloyalty.com or find the app on the App Store for iPhone or Google Play Store for Android. 

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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