Credit card-brand alliances to help marketers target offers

Credit card companies are becoming integrated partners in the marketing process, helping brands deliver targeted offers to consumers by using their customer databases. ?

Visa opened its global processing network in late April for marketers to send consumers offers based on their purchasing history after partnering with Gap Inc. on a pilot program late last year. Amy Carr, director of CRM strategy at Gap, said such a partnership is valuable because brands can leverage credit card companies’ shopping behavior data for customer acquisition. ?

“We wouldn’t know that Amy Carr is also a big Anthropologie shopper, Ann Taylor shopper, or any which brand,” she says. “It’s a good way for Gap to get access to that data in an aggregated form and be able to target people that we think would be a brand target.”?

The programs are helping brands focus on consumers more accurately by interest and financial status, said Scott Brennan, VP of global strategic partnerships at Hilton Hotels & Resorts. The company is one of more than 250 pilot partners in American Express Co.’s inSite program, which tips off members to discounts when they search the Web. ?

American Express also partnered with Levi Strauss & Co. and location-based mobile app developer Scvngr in May to deliver coupons through the LevelUp loyalty offers service. Consumers who link their American Express card to LevelUp receive coupons immediately after purchase at select Levi’s stores. ?

Partnerships between brands and credit card companies pose a threat to marketers who are not taking part, said industry experts. For instance, as Visa rolls out its program to partners in the dining, travel and entertainment and office supply sectors, companies that do not join might find their customers poached by competitors’ offers. Although participating brands may not directly target competitors’ customers, companies can not block transactions performed in their stores or on their e-commerce websites from triggering competitors’ offers. ?

David Wolf, VP of global marketing capabilities at American Express, said it does not have veto power over deals offered through its partnerships, but he said it is not opposed to approaching partners to modify offers for better value. “We certainly want it to be customized for our card member base, specifically to make sure those members are getting legitimately exclusive value,” he said.

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