AWS Startups Blog

Living to Love Local: Matt Doka of Fivestars on Boosting Small Businesses with Amazon RDS

If we’ve learned one thing so far in 2020, it’s that we’re all connected. Now more than ever, we rely on our friends, neighbors, and communities to support each other during times of global and local uncertainty. The recent economic fallout has been devastating for many, and small businesses have been among the hardest hit. “When you’re a small business owner, you’re doing everything you can just to keep the operation afloat, and you’re wearing a hundred hats. On top of that, you typically have only enough cash to cover one or two months of expenses,” emphasizes Matt Doka, the cofounder and CTO of Fivestars, the leading CRM, loyalty, and payments platform for small businesses.

Matt Doka, CTO & Co-founder

Matt Doka, CTO & Co-founder

Doka and his team understand that maintaining customer relationships is crucial, especially for small businesses, which often operate on slim margins and lack the bandwidth to build technology and marketing solutions from scratch. He explains that “the mission of Fivestars is to fight for local businesses and communities by turning transactions into relationships. So, we work with small, local merchants to help them build a customer database, connect with their communities, and connect with their customers.”

Small businesses rely on their local communities; it’s no secret that pulling in new customers is expensive, and that upping customer retention can drastically increase a business’s profits. However, as Doka points out, “For small coffee shops and restaurants and boutique retailers, they’re not going to go buy a service from Salesforce and then talk to a bunch of marketing software providers to hook it all up. They need a solution that’s out of the box.” And this is where Fivestars steps in: they do it all in one.

Fivestars combines point-of-sale operations with customizable loyalty and digital marketing programs to help small businesses build and maintain relationships with their customers. Focusing on scalable, user-friendly technology, Fivestars provides solutions that are tailor-made for the ins and outs of local operations, including seamless integration on both the customer side and the business side. “When you check out online, all your data is there: you’re opting in, you’re applying coupons. Everything happens in this very integrated checkout experience. We make a coffee shop ‘checkout’ as seamless and as rich as an Amazon checkout.”

After several years of impressive growth, Fivestars now boasts 14,000 small businesses, 60 million consumers with Fivestars identities, and big plans for continued expansion. For this, they thank Amazon RDS. According to Doka, the company started out as “just a CRM and loyalty platform. We hadn’t built the marketing automation on top of it yet or the marketing suite.” As Fivestars began to grow, they realized they needed a database solution “backed by a ton of power and scale” to free up their energy so that they could “focus on building best-in-class marketing software” for their clients. Of all their options, they chose Amazon RDS based on its comprehensive services, price point, and ease of integration with other tools. “It saved us a lot of developer time to manage, so we could focus on things like insights or building new product features,” says Doka.

One such product feature is customized digital marketing. Given the rapidly shifting consumer landscape, keeping in touch with customers is essential. Fivestars links sales operations with communications to simplify the process for everyone involved. Since adopting RDS, Fivestars “has been able to launch all sorts of products that help local merchants reach their customers as effectively as Starbucks can via their mobile app. Fivestars empowers small business owners to connect with their customers to drive growth,” explains Doka.

Fivestars also now provides a payment platform that is linked to their CRM, which can help small businesses turn even more “transactions into relationships.” “I think over the next five years we will have leveled the playing field against the big corporates with massive IT budgets like Starbucks or Walmart,” Doka says. Adopting Amazon RDS has allowed Fivestars to “become one of the largest fintechs in the US by consumer count,” he continues.

Amazon RDS has also supported Fivestars through recent events. “One of the things that we love about working with AWS is that the team is very customer centric, and really came together to support us during these times,” Doka says. “AWS has been so helpful in trying to get us additional savings during this season too.”

“Our company lives to love local,” Doka continues, “and I think particularly now, our product helps companies reach their customers as businesses are allowed to re-open, bringing customers back in at impressive rates. Our goal is to help small businesses survive so they can continue providing amazing and unique services to their local communities.”

Doka’s advice for consumers in the coming months? “Keep shopping at small businesses. Love local, shop small.”