Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big Data Drives ‘Loyalty Trifecta’ for Banks

With their rewards programs no longer fueled by interchange income, banks are looking to ‘big data’ and mobile capabilities to build customer loyalty.BYJAMES MAROUS
Feb 28, 2012  |  0 Comments
In a post-Durbin Amendment environment, financial institutions (FIs) are faced with the challenge of changing the foundation of rewards programs that were previously funded by interchange income from both credit and debit cards. With debit interchange funding gone, banks still need to continue to find ways to improve bank loyalty and drive the desired debit and credit transactional and balance behavior. In addition, financial institutions need to better leverage “big data” and the mobile shopping phenomenon in the hopes that they can replace some of the revenue lost as a result of Reg E and the Durbin Amendment.
Optimally, the future of rewards and loyalty will allow banks and credit unions to take advantage of the “Loyalty Trifecta,” my term for bringing together the benefits of 1) transactional insight, 2) targeted offers/communication as well as 3) mobile marketing and payments.
These topics will be discussed at the upcoming BAI Payments Connect 2012 Conference & Expo in a panel discussion that I will moderate entitled “Rewards in a Mobile Banking Environment” with participation from Tom Beecher, CEO, Cartera Commerce Inc.; Rob Heiser, President and CEO, Segmint; Schwark Satyavolu, CEO, Truaxis; and Rod Witmond, senior vice president, Product Management & Marketing, Cardlytics Inc.
Prior to the conference, I posed the following questions to my co-panelists to assess their preliminary stance on these issues:
Q: What’s the current status of the banking rewards environment today and how can it be improved upon?
Beecher: The scope and strategies for banking rewards have changed dramatically in the past two years. Durbin has forced banks to re-imagine how loyalty programs are designed and funded. Also, the development of card-linked offers – where consumers earn cashback or points when using their bank’s payment card at participating merchants – has opened up new incremental revenue opportunities for banks. Finally, the growth of Groupon and deals in general has made consumers (and banks) much more aware of the power and importance of local merchants and online offers.
Witmond: Previously, U.S. banks brought offers to customers in a separate section of the bank website – often referred to as an “online mall.” Only a small percentage of their customers went there. It was not a loyalty solution. Various bank rewards solutions required the customer to enroll their card at a separate site and then hope they remembered to shop at a group of merchants providing lackluster discounts. Low engagement or difficult-to-use approaches won’t strengthen a retailer’s relationship with customers or move the needle on sales – for the merchant or the bank.
The banks’ business cases for the early generation, merchant-funded rewards programs promised significant earnings to the banks driven by large revenue shares. For the reasons stated above, retailers did not see these solutions as adding value to their current marketing mix and budgets did not shift. U.S. banks ended up with a big piece of a very small pie. New enhancements from loyalty vendors have refined the early approaches on several fronts.
Satyavolu: Most banking rewards in the past had four defining aspects: 1) they were mostly available on credit cards and less frequently on debit cards (due to being funded by interchange from merchants); 2) they were mostly one-size-fits-all (everybody gets the same extra points/cash-back on certain categories whether or not you shop there); 3) they were typically limited to cash-back or points back benefits; and 4) merchants were not involved in the creation of these benefits.
Heiser: The way FIs interact, engage and communicate is driven more and more by their customers’ technological lifestyles. While merchant-funded reward programs were one of the first to react to this shift, success today involves the application and technology adoption that is driven by transaction intellect − knowing and understanding the needs of customers.
Q: How can your own solution be leveraged in a mobile environment as opposed to an online banking or bricks and mortar environment?
Witmond: The Cardlytics solution is already leveraged in a mobile environment. We have bank solutions for SMS, mobile, and email in the marketplace. Additionally, we have ATM and social media solutions close to deployment. Most banks start with online banking because it provides the greatest exposure to the rewards platform. However, they quickly recognize the value of extending into mobile applications where they have complete control over the data and data fields. As such, they can drive mobile solutions at their own speed. Where a bank cannot deploy a mobile solution quickly, we offer a white-label mobile solution that can be deployed alongside or within an existing FI application.
Beecher: Mobile is an increasingly important channel for communicating with consumers -- particularly with the growth of in-store (national and local) offers. Cartera powers mobile apps that show consumers where they can use their payment card to redeem card-linked offers from nearby merchants. As Cartera partners roll out support for mobile wallets, this capability will become even more powerful by enabling consumers to find and redeem offers entirely via their smartphone.
Satyavolu: Truaxis’s StatementRewards product easily integrates with a FI’s existing mobile banking app to provide additional benefits to banking customers. Through the existing mobile app, bank customers will be able to view all of their rewards, both purchased and available, via the user dashboard. From this user dashboard, customers can instantly view, purchase and redeem rewards directly while they’re on the go.
Heiser: Segmint is not a merchant-funded rewards provider and, as such, our philosophy is grounded on generating loyalty through digital engagement with customers. Segmint is device-agnostic and can deliver across virtually any electronic medium. There is no doubt that opportunities exist within the mobile environment, but as with all mediums/channels, success revolves around the actual content delivery.
Q: What innovation do you see on the horizon around loyalty and reward platforms, both in banking and non-banking industries, in terms of leveraging social media?
Witmond: We have banks that have already designed how our solution can extend into social media and are deploying the same. The challenge with social media is that it is a “social experience” all about engaging on a person-to-person basis. That being the case, the extension of the core platform into social is only the first stage and the true challenge is in making the rewards solution one that engages on a person-to-person basis.
Beecher: Innovations in payments, big-data-driven marketing, and loyalty are all merging together to form what will ultimately be a new playbook for companies in these spaces and a new set of winners, including the new card-linked offers space. Mobile payments are seeing new non-banking entrants, all realizing that the incorporation of offers into the wallet is central to consumer adoption.
One of the new frontiers of leveraging big data with marketing is anonymous payment data, where new technologies and entrants are helping banks use transaction data that preserves privacy and provides real benefits to consumers. An example would be my purchase at McDonald’s alerting Burger King to make an offer to me. The entire funding model for bank loyalty programs is being turned on its head with merchants paying consumers through banks to shop with them rather than banks focused on taking money from merchants (through interchange) and then funding rewards themselves.
Satyavolu: The biggest innovation for these platforms will be the continued use of data to drive personalization and cut-costs. Both banking and non-banking industries are sitting on piles of data that they both don’t have the resources to utilize and if they did, they wouldn’t know where to begin. By working with third-party vendors like Truaxis, these companies will finally be able to utilize this data through innovative new techniques.
Analyzing transaction data from FIs is only the tip of the iceberg. As these platforms become more integrated across multiple channels and industries, companies will be able to understand and connect with their customers to provide them with the most value and ensure that each customer has a completely personalized experience that provides them with exactly what they need and want.
The data buried in social networks adds an interesting new twist to the personalization capabilities that are made possible, when you add them to the transaction data streams that FIs already have today. The concept of loyalty marketing will undergo a quantum shift in how it operates and who is in the key enabler seat for merchants, where FIs have a huge opportunity and upside to facilitate these interactions.
Heiser: Social media is a huge game changer for FIs and will become the “biggest bank branch” they operate. With nearly a billion active monthly users on Facebook, FIs must become socially actionable and interact with customers in their channel of choice. Last year Segmint introduced SegmintSocial, our social media technology solution that gives FIs the power to precisely identify their customers on the bank’s Facebook page, customize their experience and engage them in real-time, personalized dialogue.
Mr. Marous is senior director, marketing services, at San Antonio, Tex.-basedHarland Clarke Corp., and authors the Bank Marketing Strategy blog He can be reached at

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