Catalina Becomes Conduit for Points Providers

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A rush of online loyalty currency providers poured into the offline world last week. FreeRide.com, Goldpoints.com and Cybergold.com announced they will join MyPoints.com in supermarkets across the country through partnerships with Catalina Marketing Corp.


Catalina Marketing and its online subsidiary, SuperMarketsOnline Inc., give these programs access to more than 13,000 supermarkets and 160 million shoppers nationwide.


"Catalina's made it their business to be Switzerland," said Jordan Stanley, CEO of FreeRide.com, New York.


The fact that many competitors are reaching consumers through the same conduit is meaningless, said Stanley.


"A lot of competition goes on in the food business," he said. "I don't think anyone's points program will be the program of preference among consumers because eventually brands will line up with each program."


Kraft has already partnered with FreeRide, which began its supermarket program on March 8, making it the first to go live with Catalina merchants.


The program allows consumers to earn FreeRide points when they purchase a sponsor's products. When consumers purchase a Kraft product, for example, their online FreeRide wallets are automatically credited with points for the purchases.


Catalina provides a service to retailers by partnering with a range of online points providers, said David Rochon, CEO of SupermarketsOnline, Greenwich, CT.


"We think points are going to play a role in the whole concept of marketing and loyalty to consumers," he said. "If retailers have an interest in working with a specific points company, we can fulfill that."


Cybergold.com will create a co-branded site with SupermarketsOnline's ValuPage.com. Cybergold's nearly 5 million members will receive an instant online cash reward for visiting the site and then receive additional savings in the form of Web Bucks when they print out the Cybergold/ValuPage and present it at checkout. Web Bucks are a coupon that is printed at supermarket cash registers. The coupon provides additional offers for select products.


Goldpoints' initiative is expected to launch this summer. It will offer members rewards for shopping using ValuPage.com and Web Bucks.


While industry experts have stated that online points programs must make the move offline to grow their brands, Catalina is more than happy to accommodate these companies. "This has proven that ValuPage is the leading online advertising and promotion site in the consumer packaged goods and retail community," said Rochon.


Retailers are more than happy to oblige as well. They can partake in these promotions without making any cash investments. In the meantime, they can gain added sales from marketing efforts conducted by the various points providers, said Rochon. "We're creating revenue and value for the consumers and that value is being driven by [companies] that have nothing to do with retailers and packaged goods communities."


Netcentives announced March 8 that it has taken a different route to bring its currency offline. It made an acquisition of the Universal Value Network estimated to have cost $24.8 million. Netcentives will be able to reward consumers offline through UVN's technology which is currently the infrastructure behind United Airlines Mileage Plus Shopping and Delta SkyMiles. The technology uses payment card data to recognize and reward consumer purchasing behavior both on- and offline.


MyPoints.com announced earlier this month that it signed a deal to become Catalina's preferred awards provider. Among the facets of the agreement, ValuePage's Web Bucks will be able to be converted into MyPoints.com currency exclusively. The two companies will also launch a co-branded site.
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