For debit and credit card issuers, marketing has always been a pillar of business growth: attracting new customers, activating those who have become inactive, and finding incentives that increase business from active customers.
As has happened with so many elements of consumers’ lives, the fundamentals of their engagement with card accounts changed after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing issuers to adjust their marketing approaches.
In this episode of the PaymentsJournal podcast, Lesley DeCator, Managing Director of PaymentsEdge Marketing and Advisory Services at FIS, and Don Apgar, Director of Merchant Services Advisory Services at Mercator Advisory Group, discussed the current strategy environment. marketing, the importance of proper customer segmentation in campaigns, how the pandemic has affected the offer of incentives, the use of communication channels to more effectively reach current and potential customers, and extract actionable insights from response rates and thus generate a strong return on marketing investment.
As DeCator noted, the pandemic has certainly changed the spending environment — for example, debit and cardless transactions have increased, consumers have been shopping from home rather than in large groups at physical stores — but the underlying principles of marketing have proven enduring.
“The basics are the same,” she said. “We need consistent communication, a very strong call to action, compelling incentives and excellent cardholder service. The key to success is careful planning and fast execution. … And then you have to be able to pivot when situations change quickly, as they are likely to.
Build a solid marketing campaign
PaymentsEdge’s goal, DeCator said, is to tailor marketing campaigns to customers based on the following principles:
- strong messaging
- A strong mix of the creative side of the campaign with cardholder response
- Low costs for clients so they can get the most out of their marketing budgets
Here’s how those efforts stacked up against results for FIS customers not using PaymentsEdge’s advisory services for 2021 versus 2020 in terms of growth:
The numbers are striking: PaymentsEdge customer spend growth was 126% higher (23.31% vs. 10.31%), transaction growth was 23.7% higher, total active account growth was nearly 109% and total debit card growth was 177% higher.
While some issuers are going it alone with their marketing campaigns and doing a great job, DeCator said, others need help understanding the results generated by those campaigns and how to evaluate that information to refine their approaches. She describes the PaymentsEdge service as “cradle-to-grave” in this regard, with the company continually testing its campaigns and messaging for effectiveness and adjustments.
Apgar also noted the importance of preventing marketing spend from negatively affecting card issuers‘ return on investment.
“At the end of the day, if you’re spending a lot of money to get the results, you’re really adding a negative impact to ROI,” he said. “Keeping costs down, that low denominator, in the ROI equation is really important.”
The importance of segmentation
Segmenting a customer base for the subsequent delivery of marketing messages is essential, DeCator said, noting that his group tests new segments and incentive groups throughout the year, with thorough verification of a campaign beforehand. that it is not included in the calendar.
In throughput, targeting new inactives, long-term inactives, low users, and mid-level users, especially within 90 days, drives the highest response and ROI, he said. she declared.
For credit card wallets, a program that increases lines of credit can allow transactions and balances to grow — “You can’t charge extra expenses if your cardholders don’t have room” — and Regular acquisition, rate, and usage promotions, balance transfers, and skip-the-payment campaigns also prove effective.
Ultimately, it’s about data aggregation, Apgar said.
“If you don’t have a good way to track ROI, even if you’re successful, you really don’t know why or where to invest additional resources and what to double down on and what to roll back on,” he said. . .
Drive usage and loyalty with incentives
The pandemic has “absolutely changed” the approach to marketing to cardholders with incentives, DeCator said. The focus of campaigns has shifted from travel and dining restaurants to home shopping experiences such as Amazon, Apple, Google Play and Barnes & Noble, to name a few.
The pandemic has also brought about a change in image. Marketing showed consumers buying and receiving goods at home, on their porch, and relaxing and watching a movie or playing a game in the comfort of their own home. The diversity of images, always taken into account, was also a focus, she said.
There were also other effects.
“We had to change our baselines,” DeCator said, noting that the circumstances of the pandemic clouded whether or not a given card was useful to consumers. This forced his team to look further for historical data to guide decision-making.
“It was unheard of. We had a lot of success, but it’s not an exercise we look forward to repeating.
The pandemic, Apgar said, has shed light on the extent to which consumers are constantly evaluating their payment options. The ability to harness data on consumer choices and habits and market to them meaningfully is paramount.
“Consumers seek leadership from the brands they do business with,” he said.
Channeling the card’s marketing message
Here’s another change as a result of the pandemic: PaymentsEdge finds that in the post-COVID-19 environment, “most of our spam is in our [email] mailbox. »
The best marketing approach with small and medium-sized customers, she said, is one that starts with direct mail and continues with an email. For large issuers, email remains the most cost-effective way to reach customer segments.
As technology advances and new modes of communication emerge, it can be tempting, she said, to employ any means possible to get a card user’s attention, such as text messaging. . But there are privacy concerns, she said, and testing is continuing ahead of the official launch of those campaigns.
Saïd Apgar: “When you get too close to the consumer, it’s a bit Orwellian. It’s a fine line.