Category: Marketing Systems

Buy from ISOs

If you have read my blogs, you will notice a bias towards real time card linked promotions and loyalty versus delayed card linked promotions.  As a refresher, delayed card linked promotions put the rewards back on the credit card statement or in some form of cash back or airline points model. That is very 1990s.  The future of card linked offers I believe is real time, which enables the consumer to enroll right at the point of sale, receive real time text or email acknowledgment of points earned, and significantly, automatically redeem the reward back at the same merchant where the points were earned.

For delayed card linked offers, assuming a sale can be made to the merchant to market with delayed card linked offers, enabling the merchant to accept delayed card linked offers is not hard.  All that has to happen is that the merchant needs to sign a contract authorizing his merchant credit card bank to share the data with the matching company, which then shares matches with the marketing company. This means any company can really do this.  The barrier to entry is pretty small.  The benefit to the merchant is smaller still as addressed in my previous blogs.

For real time card linked offers and loyalty, the barrier to entry is much higher.  Real time is harder to implement because it’s integrated into the credit card terminal or the point of sale system (“POS”).  The terminal or point of sale system must do three things.  First, it must redirect the transaction amount to a gateway, which then relays the transaction data back into the data stream.  Second the terminal or POS must be able to allow for registration at the point of sale. And third it must be able to print out the receipt showing points earned or reward redeemed.  If the POS is involved, it has to account for the redeemed offer or reward discount.

There are two channels or industries that make sense for reselling real time card linked; the merchant acquiring independent sales organizations (“ISO”) sales channel and POS companies.  Terminal companies use the ISO sales channel to resell their product as do many POS companies.  Larger POS companies have their own direct sales teams and network of resellers.  Marketing companies are not going to be able to resell real time card linked promotions and loyalty because of the integration requirements described above. This is good for the ISO industry mired in commodity pricing, and looking for the next big thing.

ISOs today are looking for products to compete with the likes of Belly, Level Up, and other loyalty companies that do not touch the payment stream.  As discussed in previous blogs, Real time Card Linked loyalty and promotions require no additional steps to earn points or redeem rewards. Simply pay with the enrolled credit or debit card, and loyalty happens.

The ISO is the perfect party to resell real time card linked promotions and loyalty to the merchant.  2014 is going to be the year of the real time card linked promotions and loyalty.  Stay tuned.

The Makings of an Industry: Card-Linked Offers – Part II

The History of Card-Linked Offers

Card-linked offers may seem like a relatively new development – a breakthrough very much still in the making – and it is. But the industry as we understand it today, is also the slow maturity of more than two decades of market testing and iteration. In the second part of our two-part series, we explore the early history of card-linked offers, the delayed card-linked systems from which they arose, and delve into why real-time card-linked offers have garnered the attention and active support of industry giants ranging from Microsoft to Bank of America.

Hello World 1.0: Delayed Cards

In 1981, American Airlines launched their highly successful AAdvantage frequent flyer loyalty program. This groundbreaking foray into loyalty marketing opened up a whole new era of proprietary card-based and points-based rewards initiatives. While literally miles ahead of the humble punchcard, rewards cards still suffered from many of the drawbacks of a static system.

A decade later, credit card companies began experimenting with the integration of rewards directly into their consumer cards. Typically, card companies offered points that consumers could then convert into cash back on their credit statements, or other financial rewards. This system is still popular today, and consumers eagerly play along.

Today, there are in excess of 176 million credit holders in the United States alone. Of that number, 60 percent have a rewards card. Unfortunately for merchants, these delayed-offer systems can become prohibitively unwieldy when applied to the customer loyalty space.

Real-Time Advantage vs. Delayed

One of the key advantages real-time card-linked offers enjoy over delayed-rewards systems (think points), is the manner in which points are redeemed, and the corresponding effect on customer loyalty. With delayed card-linked offers, consumers essentially receive cash back, typically in the form of points, as a percentage of total spending. This financial windfall can then be spent virtually anywhere – thus completely negating any incentive to revisit the original store from which the reward was initially earned. No return visit, no repeat purchase.

In a real-time card-linked offer system, the rewards in question are applied instantly at the point of sale, and more importantly, at the original merchant. This just makes a lot of business sense since, after all, the whole point of merchant participation in card-linked initiatives is to cultivate consumer loyalty. In a real-time, open card-linked ecosystem, as opposed to a proprietary, delayed one, individual local merchants become the primary point of a rewards transaction, putting the establishment at the top of consumers’ minds, and more importantly, on top of their money as well.

Better yet, as one integrated, open system, the new approach to card-linked offers does not lock merchants, and consumers alike, into specific sites, publishers, applications, or card types.

That means everyone wins.

Card issuers continue to drive card usage with an expanded ecosystem of rewards options, consumers get their discounts immediately as opposed to at the end of each month, and merchants get more consumers to return to their establishments.

The History of Card-Linked Offers

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Card-linked Offers Are Here!

As we have seen, real-time consolidated card-linked offers are the natural next step in this highly iterative process of technological integration and innovation in the offers space. Further more, consumers have proven again and again that they will not be limited – whether by a proprietary rewards system, a lack of technological integration, or any other artificial barrier merchants or financial institutions choose to employ.

Consumers will continue to seek, demand, and ultimately acquire freedom and flexibility in the way they make purchases. Businesses and local merchants who can offer the easiest way for customers to get what they want when they want, will continue to nurture a considerable advantage over their peers and competitors. Microsoft, Facebook, and many other leaders in a variety of markets certainly think so, and see card-linked offers as the best way to do so.

We believe that card linked offers will play a key role in delivering on this promise… – The CardLinx Association

If you would like to learn more about a loyalty marketing strategy please provide some information below:

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The Power of Card-Linked Offers

Benefits of Card-Linked Systems | Jeff Mankoff

Can card-linked offers co-exist with daily deals?

It doesn’t seem like too long ago when the Daily Deals typhoon, led by the meteoric rise of Groupon, was sweeping the nation. Google offered ownership of $6 billion, but Mason and the other investors turned that down. On November 5, 2011, Groupon went public, with a market cap around $6 billion. Groupon’s market cap today is still around $6 billion. Not bad. But it sure has not taken off. Why not?

Groupon had no real business model. The problem with Groupon is that it is a one time deal, and is done. Groupon will deliver Groupon customers to a merchant, but not the customer’s email address.

After redeeming the Groupon, the Groupon customer is on to the next Groupon. No customer has been acquired. No customer loyalty has been created.

Daily deals in many cases are not good for merchants, with one caveat. If a daily deal actually enrolls a customer into that merchant’s loyalty program, then it is a good deal for the merchant. But with paper Groupon certificates, that never happened.

First, A Card-Linked Program

Card-Linked Offers can augment a card-linked loyalty program and actually enroll a customer into a card-linked loyalty program. But before this can happen, the merchant first needs a card-linked loyalty program.

A merchant who wants to start a loyalty program must appreciate the Pareto rule, the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the merchant’s business comes from existing customers. Therefore a merchant first needs to enroll its own customers. The best way to do that is at the point of sale. At vPromos we are seeing great success with loyalty enrollment of the customer’s credit card at the POS. It is easy.

Augmenting Enrollment with Card-Linked Offers

Once the merchant has a card-linked loyalty program up and running, having enrolled its own customers, augmenting enrollment with card-linked offers makes perfect sense.

Here is how it would work. When a consumer goes online to buy a special offer at Groupon for example, that customer’s ID, email, and credit card number token will be shared with the loyalty company for that merchant. When the consumer is ready to redeem the card-linked offer at that merchant, he simply pays the way he normally does, with the same credit card used to purchase the special offer. The POS prints out the special offer discount right at the POS, followed by an instant email thanking the consumer for redeeming the offer, and, most importantly, welcoming the consumer to the merchant’s loyalty program. Now, every time that customer pays with that credit card, he earns points or punches towards that merchant’s reward program.

Loyalty Program and Ongoing Engagement Will Do The Rest

This is huge for merchants. This means marketing dollars invested online can be used to not only get a customer in the door, but potentially acquire that customer for life. Once the merchant has the email address, it can engage the customer and get him back to the store. The loyalty program and ongoing engagement will do the rest.

But what will the Groupons of the world think of this model? The reason they don’t share the email today is that the merchant has to come back for more. If the customer is acquired by the merchant, the media company, Groupon in this case, may run out of customers to deliver the merchant.

The Future is Happening Now

The offers space is evolving, and it appears that card-linked offers are the way of the future. Except that the future is happening now.

My next blog will talk about Real time card-linked offers vs. Not real time. The difference is huge.

For businesses looking for a way to implement real-time offers to their best customers vPromos can help.


Card-Linked Offers: The Future of Deals

Card-Linked Offers | Jeff Mankoff

How Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Discover, Mastercard, and other banking and technology heavyweights are getting together to change the way we do discounts.

On October 7th the scions of Silicon Valley and the big bulls on Wall Street got together at this year’s Money2020 Expo to announce The CardLinx Association, a new, cross-industry group aimed at promoting card-linked offers. What’s particularly interesting is the seemingly diverse litany of brand name companies involved in the venture – Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, and MasterCard just to name a few – and the coherence of their concerted effort to push what could, quite possibly, do away with coupon clippings and punch cards for good.

Good For Consumers, Great For Businesses

The way we do business is changing. The emergence of online promotions in particular, along with the rise of mobile computing and the proliferation of smartphones, have fundamentally shifted the way consumers interact with, engage with, and make purchases from most vendors. At the same time, traditional means of promoting business are failing.

The ocean of conventional promotional materials (i.e. paper coupons, mail-in rebates, etc.), most of which are tossed in the trash, have become an enormous burden on time-pressed consumers. In other words, the archaic nature of many “offers” programs is physically limiting growth in a rapidly digitizing society. CardLinx referred to these limiting factors as a form of “friction” preventing the easy acquisition and redemption of relevant offers. For the average consumer, time and convenience is the new currency.

Traditionally, the act of driving consumer action, promoting customer loyalty, and collecting personal information for behavioral clues are handled as three separate processes. From a business’s perspective, this often means that the establishment in question would have to implement independent advertising campaigns, loyalty programs, and data farming apparatuses – all expensive, all with their own support requirements, and all completely disconnected from one another.

Card-linked offers promise to do all three with a single simple, integrated system.

Users simply sign up, purchase a digital coupon, which is then linked directly to their debit or credit card, and make a qualified purchase at a participating business. The discount is directly applied to their statement in real-time at the point of sale. No printing coupons. No swiping loyalty credentials. No waiting for the rebate to take effect. No hassles for both sides. Better yet, by parsing personal purchase history, vendors can craft deals relevant to each individual and deliver them directly.

Consumers get the exact deals they want, when they want them. Businesses get a unified architecture for promoting customer loyalty and delivering promotions. That’s a win-win.

Best Next Thing

Location-based, real-time offers were not a part of the retail experience just a few years ago. Yet, as consumers continue to demand, and ultimately acquire, more and more flexibility and agency in the way they approach the buying process, the drive towards this type of marketing innovation will only continue. The truth is, card-linked offers could be the best next disruptive technology to fundamentally change the way we buy and sell.

Businesses with the ability to adapt these market-shaping technologies stand a very good chance of better serving their customers, differentiating themselves from the competition, and gaining a critical key market advantage. LivingSocial certainly seems to think so. The much lauded online purveyor of daily deals, which has taken a beating in recent times, is a key CardLinx founding member and is betting that card-linked offers are indeed the way of the future.

For businesses looking for a way to implement real-time offers to their best customers vPromos can help.