Retailers: Why You Should Have FOMO About Card Linked Offers

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Technology has permeated every aspect of customer loyalty, providing brand marketers with more tools to engage customers. Today, marketing programs are more comprehensive and measurable than ever, inclusive of apps, social media accounts, finely tuned promotions, influencer collabs, gift cards and more.

With increased channels comes an increased pressure to prove return on ad spend, which is now more difficult due to an overload of data but unclear metrics to demonstrate success. There’s an oft-overlooked opportunity to expand your brand’s reach: card-linked offers. Strategically, it’s a targeted acquisition and loyalty play with demonstrable ROI.

What is a card-linked offer? In general terms, it is a digital promotion that is activated by using a specific payment card, website or app to make the purchase. In other words, it is an offer from your brand that is distributed by third parties such as financial institutions or travel booking sites.

These offers are actually considered “rewards” that consumers automatically receive when they shop, just by linking their debit or credit cards to an app, website or loyalty program. For me, these offers appear as tiles in my banking app, providing options to click through to purchase from favored brands and then receive cash back, points, gift cards or credits in the currency of my choice.


Consumer Behavior Trends in 2024

Card-linked offers are not new, but it looks like their time has finally arrived because they strongly align with the latest consumer preferences. Let’s take a closer look at some of the topline trends that will matter most in 2024.

Price sensitivity makes consumers deal seekers. After a generally good holiday 2023 — NRF reports a record $964.4 billion was spent — consumers are still facing economic and labor market uncertainties. They may be willing to spend their hard-earned cash, but they want to get good value.

When it comes to card-linked offers, a recent survey reveals that significantly more consumers prefer “percent-off” cash-back discounts as opposed to “fixed dollar off” or buy-one-get-one (BOGO). In other words, cash back is perceived as offering a better value than, say, a BOGO.

Hyper-personalization is today’s personalization. Thanks to the AI explosion, many brands are discovering new ways to personalize at scale. But this type of personalization isn’t about using a customer’s preferred nickname; instead, it’s data-driven, using past purchases to generate targeted offers that are relevant to individual shoppers. Having accurate purchasing data is essential, and card-linked offers provide online and offline purchase details down to the penny. Leveraging this data, you can trust that your card-linked offers will be served up to only relevant and interested shoppers. This tactic can support brand goals like driving frequency, new customer acquisition, basket building or simply surprise and delight.

Relevance drives incremental purchases. You likely already appreciate that highly relevant offers create a sales lift. But recent SAP Emarsys research reveals that 40% of retailers are struggling to deliver relevant product recommendations. Why? Because they lack the right data that enables these promotions. With robust card-based purchasing data, promotion planning can get more granular, more timely and more effective.

Omnichannel is more omni than ever. Prognosticators have been predicting the death of brick-and-mortar for years, and we’ve certainly seen iconic brands shutter stores. But even COVID did not put the value of the in-store experience in mothballs: brick-and-mortar is still alive and well. Capital One Shopping Research reports that 85.1% of first-half 2023 total retail sales occurred in-store — down just 1.61% from the same period in 2022 — an indicator that shoppers are still hitting the bricks. And according to the Harvard Business Review, nearly three out of four retail consumers use multiple channels to shop, and they’re very likely to start with online research before walking in the door.

In this omnichannel ecosystem, a well-placed promotion can be the critical tipping point for a purchase. Value-seeking shoppers know all the tricks for finding coupons and promo codes, and 40% feel smart when they can find the best deals. Here’s where hyper-personalization and relevance come into play. Card-linked offers, appearing behind logins on apps and websites, deliver targeted offers that feel both exclusive and meaningful — a powerful combination. Also, shoppers can use card-linked offers online or in-store.

Incremental CLV Without Mass Market Expense

For retail marketers looking for new ways to create greater stickiness and engagement with their customers, card-linked offers are smart, cost effective, data-driven and attributable marketing tools. And one of the real advantages is that these promotions can reach millions of customers — but brands only “pay” for redeemed offers. Yes, there are often campaign setup fees, but those are typically minimal given the opportunity to meet customers where they are.

Plus, with data-driven tactics, measuring ROI is far easier than with many other types of marketing activities, giving executives the detailed reporting they crave. To maximize reach and impact, it is a balancing act of engaging consumers at scale while delivering value on their specific and individual terms.

And as a final thought, many brands are launching card-linked offers to be more agile and responsive to rapidly changing customer behaviors. These promotions don’t require long lead times, and the pay-for-performance cost structure makes it the perfect tool for testing and optimizing. During uncertain economic times with value-oriented consumer attitudes, flexible promotions like card-linked offers can give brands the competitive edge they need.

Ed Wogan is SVP and Chief Merchant Officer at Valuedynamx by Collison Group. Wogan leads the team responsible for scaling our network of content. His priorities also include expanding distribution and leveraging the value of the data we aggregate. This supports many of the unique strategic partnerships which he is responsible for building, as well as the Valuedynamx Marketplace. With a proven track record of success, Wogan has delivered growth and revenue in digital, print, media and data solutions. He has a passion for driving innovation with key merchant partners and has worked closely with retailers Kroger, CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, Ahold USA, Supervalu/UNFI, Albertsons, Target, 7 Eleven, and Sobeys, to name just a few.

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