By ABBY BIESMAN
News & Features Editor
Wiya, an app that gives users reward points for spending money at local businesses was launched this month by Hopkins senior Adam Eckstein and alumnus Justin Kwong.
Eckstein spoke about the app, its development and the business.
“My partner Justin, who just recently graduated, actually came to me last year with the idea, and it’s evolved a ton since that inception,” Eckstein said. “Basically, the gist of it is that, with Wiya, we’re creating a connection between businesses and their customers, specifically local businesses. The goal is to add value to the customer experience.”
Wiya benefits customers through its rewards program and allows users to give feedback to those businesses.
To use the app, customers activate Bluetooth on their smartphones, which allows them to check into a specific food venue.
Twenty-five minutes after checking-in, customers can earn more points through providing ratings, writing public reviews and writing direct messages to the business about their experience.
The three numerical ratings for overall experience, service and quality are required but the review and direct message are not. Each form of feedback, including the required ratings, provides opportunities to earn more points.
Wiya performed a beta test for a few weeks in the spring. Eckstein said that the product has been refined with the help of the feedback they received from this test.
Eckstein and Kwong felt the Hopkins campus was a natural starting location, given the number of eateries on campus and in Charles Village. They spoke with business owners to try to get them to sign up for Wiya. The partner businesses highlighted different problems with their customer relationships, including problems retaining customers.
“As a whole, we aim to make small businesses more successful by identifying what they need most,” Eckstein wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Eckstein mentioned that some of these issues might be stagnant sales, lack of new or loyal customers or lack of an outlet for marketing and promotions. He said that Wiya can help these companies.
“With Wiya, they don’t just get reviews, but they get a way to speak with individual customers (through direct messaging), thus letting them build a more personal relationship, which is proven to build loyalty,” Eckstein wrote.
The rewards can also be used anywhere. For example, someone who goes to any of the campus eateries several times a week could easily gain enough points to go to Federal Hill or Hampden and get a free appetizer or discount at a restaurant they have not necessarily visited yet. There will be more Wiya affiliates in both Hampden and Federal Hill soon.
Kwong had been working on Wiya for a few months before he reached out to Eckstein.
“I definitely saw the potential right off the bat, and I was really excited to get involved,” Eckstein said.
Kwong, who graduated in 2015, has been working on the app full-time. Still a student, Eckstein is not working full-time on Wiya.
“I’ve just been really putting in as much time and effort as I can, and now that we’ve gotten it off the ground,” Eckstein said. “I think that because I’m on campus already… I’m probably going to be overseeing what’s going on on-campus, while Justin’s out ensuring that all the other locations around the city are getting enough attention and making sure that people are hearing about it outside of Hopkins.”
With the recent launch, Wiya is trying to get the word out about the company to expand it. They are currently trying to do some promotional events and to have some giveaways to make it exciting for potential users.
“It’s about making sure people have heard of Wiya and understand what it is and understand why it’s something they want,” Eckstein said. “I think it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s something worthwhile for the customer. It’s pretty effortless, it’s totally free and the benefits are there.”
Eckstein commented that Wiya’s point and reward model sets them apart from other apps related to customers and restaurants.
“None of them have this point model, which is that you keep the points, and you can use them anywhere,” Eckstein said.
Some students have been using the app already and have had positive experiences with it. Sophomore Conor Hehir commented on his experience.
“I downloaded Wiya last semester, around April,” Hehir wrote in an email to the The News-Letter. “I love that I can gather points from normal purchases I make nearly every day, and these points go towards getting free products.”
Sophomore Will Shefelman also commented on how he uses the app.
“I downloaded Wiya 3 days ago,” Shefelman wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “I have only used it twice — one time to earn points at CharMar and one time to earn points at Levering. My favorite thing about it is that the locations are all locations that I frequent around campus.”
Sophomore Neil McCarter has had positive experiences as well with Wiya.
“I downloaded Wiya last spring. I use it basically whenever I go to CharMar, Bamboo Cafe, or Levering, so two to four times a week,” McCarter wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The app can be downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play.