Join the Club With Your Own Card
Most of us are probably members of a loyalty program -- probably several. It's obvious, given the plastic paraphernalia that riddles our wallets and keychains. Loyalty marketing platform provider Chockstone announced today that it aims to lighten our load with its new technology, SingleSwipe. Customer information can be tied to individual credit or debit cards and trigger reward benefits right at the point of sale.
Individual store cards have become a commodity, says Jeff Lipp, chief executive officer of Chockstone. What matters isn't the card, he says, but the personal information that can be obtained in order to better target and deliver rewards that will nurture the relationship with a loyal customer. Unfortunately, cards are so abundant that customers either neglect to carry them or forgo the possible benefits to avoid the burden of carrying another card. Many loyalty-card sponsors already acknowledge the consumer apathy, offering instant look-up with identifiers such as phone numbers and email addresses. Moreover, some cashiers have been known to swipe unregistered cards in order to give the customer the discount for the current purchase -- a laudable attempt at salvaging a positive customer experience, but one that sacrifices the valuable information loyalty cards are meant to provide. SingleSwipe, though, is attempting to put to rest the nuisance factor of multiple cards and allow for payment and reward access all in one step.
"With some programs," says George Peabody, director of Mercator Advisory Group's Emerging Technology Advisory Service, "you keep giving them the card, and it's unclear how the reward points ever show up again." Customers have a hard time keeping track of their points, he adds -- a company that makes reward redemption easier will likely reap the most benefit.
Loyalty programs, in other words, are only effective if they manage to attach customer information with each purchase, empower the merchant to drive future purchases, and provide value to the consumer. "Loyalty's going to get more and more specific to the individual user, and it's going to show up in real time," Peabody says. As programs become more sophisticated, mere point collection will soon be obsolete as programs make it easier for the consumer to get value immediately.
Chockstone has tried to expedite the process for merchants to adopt the SingleSwipe solution by integrating its technology with point-of-sale systems such as those sold by Radiant Systems and Micros Systems. Another value proposition Chockstone has set itself up for is the ability to work with card issuers, says Adil Moussa, an analyst at financial services consulting firm Aite Group -- a capability that was not possible before. SingleSwipe abides by the standard rules and regulations of the Payment Card Industry (PCI), according to Chockstone -- so customers can use any branded card for SingleSwipe, including American Express, Discover, MasterCard, or Visa, provided the store in question already accepts that card.
Card issuers will gain from offering more functionality to cardholders, and merchants will be able to access a significantly more robust set of information on their customers, enabling more-advanced customer segmentation. Suddenly empowered to identify more purchasing trends, companies will have the tools necessary to adapt their practices as well as change consumer behaviors, Moussa says.
Individual store cards may not fall completely out of fashion, Peabody says, but now the differentiator will be how companies drive value. Moussa recalls one woman he encountered who carried a stack of individual cards bound together by a rubber band, willing to spend the time at every point of sale to sort through her bundle of cards in order to collect every point. Most consumers, however, aren't as dedicated, he says, and are likely to respond positively to Chockstone's offering. "You're basically carrying a card for every single store you visit -- bookstore, coffee shop, grocery store," he laments. "It becomes cumbersome."
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