Card-Linked Marketing

May 24, 2022 | 10 min read

Card-Linked Marketing Card-linked offers

The Pros & Cons of Card-Linked Marketing

Card-linked marketing can be a blessing for merchants. Of course, it can also be a curse, depending on who you ask.

Those targeted by card-linked offers might not be too happy about the concept. Some might consider it a form of marketing intrusion, and resent the perceived loss of privacy. Still, when leveraged effectively, card-linked marketing can be a very useful tool in your arsenal to attract and retain customers.

This article will take a close look at CLM. We’ll explore what it is, how it works, and how effective it is. Join us as we weigh the pros and cons, and see if CLM is the right approach for your business.

What is Card-Linked Marketing?

Card-Linked Marketing

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Card-linked marketing is a method of delivering targeted ads to consumers via their online bank statements. These digital offers are uploaded straight to their credit or debit account and can be used automatically at checkout.

A card-linked marketing strategy lets you send digital offers to consumers along with their online bank statements. Any offer that catches the bank customer’s eye is instantly attached to that person’s payment card. Then, if the buyer decides to buy, they're automatically credited for the promotion at checkout. No coupon codes or vouchers are necessary.

Card-linked marketing is:

Card-Linked Marketing

Opt-In

There is less reason to worry about turning off customers who don’t want to receive offers.

Card-Linked Marketing

Backed By Data

Promotions are provided based on actual purchase history, meaning they’re more relevant.

Card-Linked Marketing

Cost-Effective

CLM brings the customers to you. There’s less need to attract them with ads, coupons, or email offers.

Card-Linked Marketing

Easy to Track

CLM produces precise feedback to gauge the effectiveness of each campaign.


So, CLM offers some impressive benefits. To clarify what all of this means, though, let’s dive into how it actually works.

How Does Credit-Linked Marketing Work?

Essentially, banks utilize card-linked offers through their own savings or promo platforms from within a user’s banking app or mobile wallet. The information the banks have access to is then shared with their partner to cultivate individual deals and discounts targeted toward that particular user. These offers are based on spending habits per demographic or monitored group.

For example, let’s say a bank customer logs into their mobile banking platform. The customer gets provided with offers and deals sorted by relevant purchases they have already made. If the consumer wishes to activate the offer, they simply make their selection. Then, a discount will be applied and credited to them at the month’s end.

While major banks and financial institutions are getting into the CLM swing, they are not alone. Third-party processors like PayPal, Stripe, and Venmo also invest in multi-tiered marketing offers like these.

But, now that we understand what card-linked marketing is and how it applies to marketing, let’s dig into its effectiveness.

How Effective is CLM?

When examining the utility of card-linked marketing, the first thing to consider is its overall reach. According to a 2020 survey by The Digital Commerce Alliance:

41%|of those surveyed indicated card-linked marketing as the most useful tech for their businesses.

22%|of marketing leaders prefer card-linked marketing as an ad channel. Social media marketing at followed at 23%.

50%|of new merchants who adopted card-linked marketing reported a growth rate of more than 30%.

Customers who were driven indoors during the pandemic still love to shop in brick-and-mortar shops…they just do it a little differently now.

According to Business Wire, 53% of consumers prefer to browse in-store before purchasing online. 68% want to see and touch items before they’re delivered. This makes a marketing strategy based solely on online acquisition an uphill battle.

Card-linked marketing can be an effective bridge between the online shopping boom and traditional brick-and-mortar commerce. With CLM, you no longer need to hand out paper coupons or offers, but you also don’t need to shift all of your focus to online acquisition. CLM supports both simultaneously.

New technologies. New opportunities. New threats.

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The “Pros” of Card-Linked Marketing

There are many benefits to card-linked marketing. As consumer behavior runs the gamut between online commerce and walk-in shops, the drive to diversify is undoubtedly a priority for the modern merchant.

To expand on the pros for a moment:

Aggregation of Information

Digital commerce expanded exponentially during the pandemic. As we mentioned above, though, people still love to shop in-store. Via CLM, the purchasing habits and information that relate to individual consumers can be retargeted to provide them with interactive coupons and item-specific promos as a reward.

For example, let’s say a consumer shops at their favorite grocery store every week and buys the same things. The grocer could use the information stores in their purchase history to offer deals and discounts that might otherwise have gone unused. This is a “win-win” scenario; the seller gets rid of excess inventory, while buyers get a great deal.

Better Segmentation & Targeting

Speaking of retargeting—to properly identify your audience in the first place, you have to accurately separate them into qualifying segments. This process is called segmentation, and is only possible with accurate data directly from the source.

You’re better able to better focus on segmented groups for each campaign if you have this crucial historical transaction data in hand. These might include transaction insights, location, frequency, and volume, to name a few metrics.

Improved Customer Experience

Let’s be real: your customers are the reason you go that extra mile. Diversifying and improving the customer journey is the entire point.

You never want your marketing efforts to feel forced or intrusive. But, you also have to balance a “mile-high” view of industry data against metrics from each consumer to determine trends, predict individual spending habits, and see how they spend money. It’s a difficult balance. Card-linked marketing gives you a way to provide customers with what they want, how they want it, and when they need it most, all with minimal intrusiveness, though.

Rather than bombard consumers with coupons and continued email campaigns that feel very impersonal and invasive, retargeting via card-linked offers can subtly acknowledge a consumer's preferences and empower them to make purchases from a better-informed standpoint.

Improved Consumer Relations

By tracking offline purchases and streamlining segmentation and targeting, you can paint a more accurate picture of the customers you mean to connect with.

CLM lets you take a digital snapshot of the consumer’s digital wallet, in which your own ads are placed. This allows better performance tracking, which can help you improve your ads. You’ll find what works and what doesn’t work, and determine what your customer likes and doesn’t.

Of course, card-linked marketing is not a guaranteed hit. You’ll need to carefully analyze your results and examine how well offers are delivered to the customer to get the most out of CLM. Otherwise, you can very easily fall victim to poor targeting.

The “Cons” of Card-Linked Marketing

Nothing is ever one-sided, especially when it comes to commerce. As productive as credit card-linked marketing is, it’s not universally beloved. Many consumers feel the practice is a shade too personal for their liking. Others find card-linked ads confusing.

Remember: CLM is intended as a targeted marketing tactic. It doesn’t work if it doesn’t communicate effectively.

Targeting refers to more than simply identifying a customer. While you might have the right buyer, you may have the wrong place or time. This inability to predict relevance, especially when combined with excessively-long redemption windows, is a key shortcoming of card-linked marketing.

Addressing these concerns demands sophisticated predictive analytics to get the right offer in front of potential customers at the right time.

Otherwise, you might face negative consequences:

Customer Disengagement

A previously-loyal customer might be annoyed by repeated irrelevant offers. Additionally, if consumers are merely browsing items randomly, they might find the ads intrusive or downright aggressive.

On this score, it’s imperative that you pick and choose battles wisely. If click rates drop, this should not be an incentive for further bombardment. Instead, this information should push you to study individual variables carefully and readjust.

Negative ROI

The point of marketing is to capture new customers. For example, you would be wasting money by investing in CLM tactics on a shopper who already intends to make a purchase. You’d also be wasting money showing ads to someone who has no intent to buy.

This actually presents a lower risk as compared to standard online advertising strategies. However, it’s still something to keep in mind.

Fraud Can Corrupt Data

Accurate customer data and records are vital to the success of card-linked marketing. Fraud can corrupt that data, making it more challenging to accurately understand customer trends and behaviors.

This is especially true for friendly fraud, from a merchant’s perspective. Friendly fraud is a passive fraud attack hidden behind a false criminal fraud claim. You’re dealing with an additional level of misleading transaction data if a customer makes a purchase, then claims that purchase was unauthorized and files a chargeback.

General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation—or GDPR—is a sweeping policy change that went into effect in May 2018. The GDPR guarantees European consumers have a “right to be forgotten” under EU law. This means a person can demand that businesses destroy all records and data regarding their personal history.

GDPR impacts the effectiveness of card-linked offers because CLM relies on careful analysis of customer data. If a customer requests that their information be destroyed, you no longer have access to the data you need, and CLM becomes impossible.

At this stage in the game, you should be thinking about multi-tiered marketing solutions. As digital commerce expands and becomes a mobile powerhouse, brick-and-mortar retailers are advised to cross-promote with card-linked offers as soon as possible.

No new idea comes without a downside. However, omnichannel approaches to marketing are simply too beneficial to ignore. The trick is to implement wisely and, as always, keep an eye on your bottom line.

CLM is a Valuable Tool…if Used Properly

As you can see, the “pros” of card-linked marketing far outweigh the “cons.” Still, you’ll need to engage in this practice strategically, regardless. This means targeting customers, managing data effectively, and ensuring that scams like friendly fraud don’t corrupt your customer insights.

That last part can be a significant sticking point for merchants. It’s nearly impossible for the average merchant to distinguish between a criminal fraud attack and friendly fraud. You can’t target customers with the necessary level of precision without that insight. As a result, your CLM strategy can’t be as airtight as you need it to be.

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