How and why card-linked offers are poised to boost the earning potential of businesses across the nation.
The Daily Deals (Re)Model
It’s no secret. Consumers and merchants alike have lost their enthusiasm for Daily Deals a la Groupon, Living Social, and a million other copy-cat e-coupon peddlers. To the discerning eyes of the general public, once the novelty of getting “half-off French cuisine” wore off, many of these email-based platforms began looking suspiciously similar to spam. On the merchant side, the initial promise of daily deals either never materialized, or manifested itself in a new set of insurmountable challenges – such as an incredibly lopsided merchant agreement which gobbled up most of a local merchant’s profits while saddling them with all the risks.
Even worse, many establishments who did manage to run a successful deal campaign through the e-coupon platform soon found that the deal-seeking crowds immediately disappeared after the deals ran their course. As it turns out, cut-rate price promotions don’t engender loyalty at all. This effectively left partnering merchants back at square one, or for an unlucky few, utterly ruined financially.
The daily deals financial model is, in its current configuration, probably not business-friendly. More accurately, it is just a remodel, a re-skinning of the age-old practice of showering consumers with coupons – hardly the lauded cure for the marketing woes of a business.
The Card-linked Offers Model
In lieu of these revelations, what is a business to do? In truth, there is no silver bullet fix for low customer engagement, faltering consumer loyalty, or lack of general enthusiasm. Ultimately, the ideal solution is to build a better product, improve customer service, and design a superior customer experience. Groupon and its many imitators failed to add value on all three critical fronts, relying exclusively instead on aggressive price slashing.
Card-linked offers, in contrast, take the idea of ecommerce integration a step in the right direction. The real strength of card-linked systems, and Groupon’s greatest failure, lay in its potential as an engagement tool.
In Groupon’s case, when it came down to it, it was still all about hawking coupons. The only difference was that the act of salesmanship received a technology-appropriate upgrade in the form of a slick website and a well-developed email-farming apparatus. The cultivation of actual customer loyalty was left unaddressed.
Card-linked systems aim to dig much deeper and develop what some call a sustainable business ecosystem, within which consumers, local merchants, and financial institutions all mutually benefit.
The benefits for financial institutions and banks are obvious – more card usage. But, both consumers and merchants also benefit greatly within a card-linked ecosystem. Consumers skip the need to print and cut out coupon promotions and mail-in-rebates, and receive rewards as an easy-to-decipher percentage of their total spending.
No confusion about stacking deals. No worrying about expiration dates. No hassles.
Better yet, deals are individually targeted and directly linked to a credit or debit card, drastically reducing unwanted email inbox filler and frantic check-out counter searching for lost coupons. Merchants benefit from the expanded reach offered by credit card companies. More importantly, pairing promotions directly with specific credit cards effectively allows merchants to “borrow” consumer loyalty from the card providers.
Merchants also gain easy-to-parse, and highly valuable, consumer purchasing histories, which can help inform increasingly effective and individualized promotions consumers will actually act on. All this is to say that card-linked systems are poised to become an entirely new integrated engagement platform, rather than just the reformulation of an old strategy.
For businesses, this could be a transformative development that has the potential to tie all the disparate pieces of conventional marketing practice into simple, unified architecture. As card-linked offers gain wider acceptance, they will eventually become as commonplace as punch cards and membership cards are today. By leveraging a host of equalizing technologies, such as social media and card-linked offers, retailers and business outfits stand a real chance of competing on a wider scale than ever before.