Bank of America’s card-linked offers program, BankAmeriDeals, offers customers cash back when they purchase from any of 4,000 partnering retail merchants. Cash-back discount deals are surfaced to customers right in the Online Banking environment, based on their past purchase history.
Powered by purchase data platform Cardlytics, Bank of America, to date, has issued about $17 million in savings to customers. Although card-linked offers are not new, the benefit to advertisers is still a grey area. Bank of America was among several companies including Microsoft and Linkable Networks to forge an interoperable network focused on enhancing local commerce and card-linked offers.
As founder of BankAmeriDeals, Jason Blackhurst, SVP of Emerging Capabilities, Consumer Banking, Digital at Bank of America, spoke with AdExchanger further about card-linked offers, loyalty and the new CardLinx Association.
How did you develop BankAmeriDeals?
BankAmeriDeals came about in 2009 when we really started conceptualizing how we could bridge the gap in what we saw as an ability to communicate with our merchants in a meaningful way, but at the same time honor our privacy commitment to our consumer. We knew there was a lot of value in that transaction data, but the real stickler was, ‘How do you honor that privacy and come up with a system that works for all parties?’
We looked at a bunch of companies and ended up partnering with Cardlytics, and we launched that program in a beta phase for our employees, if you will. We started testing how we could bring a meaningful experience to the consumer. When I would approach a merchant, a merchant would say to me, ‘Hey, this would be a great idea, why don’t you send me your data and I’ll target that data accordingly based on what I know about my customers that shop in my store?’
For obvious privacy reasons, we turned that concept on its ear, linked up with Cardlytics, and basically said, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Merchant, please tell me what it is you’re trying to accomplish. What is it you want to target? I’ll run that targeting algorithm, but in my four walls, so therefore my data stays safe within my infrastructure’ and we would run that content against their guidelines, if you will. In the end, we’d give [them] aggregated reporting not only on what happened during that offer but what happened after that offer, what behavioral patterns there were, but keeping it all on an aggregated level so that individual privacy concerns are basically nullified by the fact that it’s just aggregated information.
Bank of America has firsthand access to transaction data. Could you ever enable price-drop alerts or more advanced targeting for advertisers?
It’s really kind of out of bounds for us. We would never sell our data wholesale like that. We think it's our job to act as the gatekeepers of that data. The customers have entrusted us with that and we know we score high on trust and we’re not willing to compromise that in any way.
What are you seeing as far as mobile adoption?
By a percentage basis, we’re definitely seeing a higher uptick on the mobile side and that’s to be expected. We always knew that this was really going to become very effective in a mobile environment when somebody…can peruse those offers in their downtime or waiting for a cup of coffee.
We knew we could get customers interested in discounts and delivering that in a simplified format that doesn’t require you to make a photocopy of something or hand your phone over or interrupt that point of sale experience -- or really disclose in any way, shape or form that you’re using an offer. It's what we refer to as ‘the first date phenomenon,’ where if you took a Groupon offer out, for instance, during a first date, you might not get a second date after that. Our experience is all card-linked and therefore, that experience doesn’t occur. Nobody knows you’re using that offer except yourself and us, Bank of America. Not a merchant.
Describe your role with the card-linked standards body of sorts, The CardLinx Association.
We announced it at the Money2020 conference [in October] because of our commitment to an open-offers network. This is a system that not only needs to work for the consumer, but it’s also got to work for the merchant and all of the parties involved. Our commitment is to that open offers network. We’re not seeking content just for Bank of America. We actually go out and seek content for the network itself. When we’re out forging that content, we expect that content to be available to anyone who can fulfill that merchant’s need for targeting and redemption. I think that’s where the difference lies between us and a LivingSocial or a Microsoft.
Each entity has its own niche. Sometimes you get offered something that you’ve never seen before and other times, you want offers that are really core to what you do. That’s where the financial institutions come in, [with] our access to that transaction data. We actually know where you’re shopping so we can get relevant offers in front of you and it’s not just the fact that you happen to be searching for coffee shops in Seattle. Youre going to get a lot of returns. We actually know that you like to drink coffee and that you weren’t just searching because you’re trying to meet somebody there.
How do you define “loyalty?” Are BankAmeriDeals customers more loyal?
At BankAmeriDeals we know if somebody clicked on an offer, whether they were on their mobile or their laptop or iPad. We’re capable of understanding, when they clicked on it, when they shopped, how much the purchase was for. We’re able to discern that data into digestible information for the merchant about what happened. So much advertising to date has been based around, ‘Put a bunch of content out into the streams, be it magazines, newspaper, radio and you’ll net a certain amount of fish and it’ll come back in.’ With card-linked offers, you can actually tailor it for loyalty and for acquisition. We think the channel is beautifully served via loyalty because we can show you it had the loyalty impact you’re looking for. You made an offer to somebody and, ‘Did it actually make them shop one more time within their lifecycle or did it not actually change their behavior and you might have to change that offer opportunity?’ Well, for that merchant, it only occurs when they have success. There is no fee for just putting something out in the channel unless the consumer uses it.
What’s the benefit to Bank of America?
I think the core value proposition is it allows us to simultaneously deepen our relationship with our consumer and with our wholesale merchant. When you look at the business case on this, it really is designed to be a win-win-win, meaning the merchants win because we’re driving more people or more volume through the front door and they get to define how they capture that—whether they give 5, 10, 15, 20% off.
For the consumer, obviously, we hope that we’ve built a simplified way of getting offers that doesn’t require you to search 50 different websites and cut out five different coupons and carry all that stuff around with you in your purse or wallet. Then, for the bank, we benefit because deepening relationships with both of those clients is what our goal is and that’s clearly what our CEO talks about when he talks about how we’re better connected.