Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cardlytics: Merchant Funded Rewards for Debit and Prepaid

Red Herring, the business and innovation magazine, yesterday named Cardlytics among its 2010 Global Awards Winners.  Previous winners include Google, Skype, Netscape, Salesforce.com, YouTube and eBay.
Cardlytics is a deals intermediary that connects retailers and potential customers through their online bank.  Cardlytics leverages its proprietary technology to target offers according to customers’ actual card transaction data, enabling a more targeted marketing approach – a “market-of-one” approach, as Cardlytics refers to it.  The retailer is charged only when a customer actually acts on an offer and purchases the goods.
Cardlytics partners with banks and integrates its technology with the online banking platform. Cardlytics analyses customers’ transaction history and displays offers on their bank statements.  For interesting offers, customers simply click a button on the statement to activate the offer.  Once they complete the transaction, the discount is automatically transferred to their account, rather than the customer having to worry about coupons or promotion codes.  According to Cardlytics their campaigns consistently generate activation and conversion rates that are 20 – 50 times higher than other marketing channels.
So far, Cardlytics has implemented its programme with more than 100 banks, through which it reaches more than 30 million customers with offers from more than 100 merchants.  Unlike, other deal intermediaries, such as Groupon and Living Social, Cardlytics’ merchant partners are primarily national retailers, rather than local service providers.
However, the transformational aspect of Cardlytics is its impact on banks’ debit card programs.  Through Cardlytics, bank customers get a reward program for their debit cards.  Retailers attract new customers with a transaction-based marketing program with a pure pay-for-performance model.  Banks generate additional revenue from debit, an already low-revenue product, which has recently come under even more pressure from the Durban regulation.
Transaction-based marketing could have a fundamental impact on the revenue model of the payments market, which has historically relied heavily on discount revenue funded by merchants.  American Express is the primary example of a company that has pursued a premium discount rate strategy.  They justify this premium by giving merchants access to affluent cardholders who are more likely to spend with merchants that accept the card. 
However, under the discount rate model, merchants are asked to blindly trust that they will see incremental revenues and are generally not offered data to track the impact.  Transaction-based marketing turns this on its head, as merchants pay a much lower discount fee and a fully performance based marketing fee for incremental transactions. 
As Cardlytics and similar providers expand their networks of bank partners and extend their services to other parts of the payments industry, such as prepaid and credit, one could imagine that merchants would increasingly favour this model and shy away from traditional discount rates.  It is therefore no surprise that the payments networks have long tried to implement their own transaction-based marketing services and that industry observers and investors view the emerging market leaders with much interest.


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