Partnering with Merchants to Build Profitable Relationships

For banks to maintain market share — and profit margins — in an uncertain economic climate, marketers will have to “think outside the box.” Please pardon the use of a cliché; in this case, it happens to fit. Increasingly, banks must walk the fine line between profitability and not letting new or increased fees drive off good clients.

A good option to consider: partnering with merchants.

This can be done with joint promotions, in which clients receive a discount when making a purchase using your bank’s credit card, debit card, or check payment. Vendors and banks can focus the promotion on specific merchandise or a minimum purchase. In turn, bank and vendor can each communicate the promotion to their own respective clients. Doing so will drive traffic to the merchant, while increasing use of bank services.

In other words, just when you feared that card-based loyalty programs were becoming prohibitive or passé, merchants have begun stepping in to fill the void by partnering with their banks and third party providers. For example:

  • Online and regional financial institutions such as Ally Bank, Beneficial Bank and the South Carolina Federal Credit Union already offer discounts and promotions via customers’ online accounts.
  • American Express and Levis partnered to offer online coupons via smart phones, eliminating the need for coupons and other methods of delivering discounts.
  • During the Austin South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) Conference, American Express and Foursquare piloted a program in which users who registered an American Express card with Foursquare were eligible for merchant discounts.

For clients with smart phones, you can make the process even easier by including a QR (Quick Response) code. Users need only aim their phones to download anything — from an app, to a coupon, photograph, website, video, you name it.

Soon you’ll also be able to use NFC (Near Field Communication) apps like Google Wallet for smart phones, meaning all it will take is a quick swipe to access a promotion.

A good starting place for merchant partners is, of course, your bank’s existing business clients. It’s a great way to increase your and their revenues, not to mention a great way to retain valuable merchants as clients of your own.

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