August 7, 2022

Advertising: Now Banks Take a Turn at Coupons

A company called BillShrink has worked with more than 2,000 banks to offer a new service — part loyalty card, part daily deal — called Statement Rewards. Under the program, online bank statements may include deals and discounts for bank customers based on their recent spending.

If, for example, a customer spent more than $100 at Starbucks in a month, Starbucks could offer a $5 coupon, complete with a small corporate logo, right under the statement’s listing for the last Starbucks purchase.

The same deals could appear on a smartphone so a customer walking near a Starbucks could see how close they were geographically — and financially — to getting a discount at the nearest store.

In the process, marketers gain access to preferred customers, while the banks and BillShrink get a small piece of each transaction. And the consumer now receives a bank statement, which most people regard as confidential and private, that is loaded with advertising.

The service comes at a time when marketers are increasingly moving to offer daily deals and loyalty programs to their customers and banks are reeling from legislation that has curbed fees they charge to consumers and retailers.

“The banking world is in a very tumultuous situation,” said Schwark Satyavolu, the co-founder and chief executive of BillShrink. “They need to do things that are consumer friendly, where the consumer actually gains when they make some revenue.”

BillShrink worked with Jack Henry Associates on the service, which will be introduced this week. In addition to the geo-location technology that allows deals to be sent to smartphone applications, marketers can also track customers’ purchases and set silver, gold and platinum reward levels that give bonuses for each level. They can also dangle future rewards in front of customers in exchange for a few more purchases at a retailer.

Customers will be able to use their debit cards to redeem their rewards, eliminating the need to carry multiple loyalty cards. “Your debit card or credit card becomes the master loyalty card,” Mr. Satyavolu said.

Despite the obvious marketing angle, the service may also help consumers think more favorably about the banks they do business with, said Deborah Wood, the general manager of marketing and industry research for Jack Henry Associates. “The consumer probably hasn’t looked at the bank as a way to save money,” Ms. Wood said.

The bank deals may appear intrusive to some users who are wary of aggressive marketing techniques, but users will be able to opt out of the service. Jack Gillis, the director of public affairs at the Consumer Federation of America, said the deals were indicative of a larger trend — the prevalence of advertising in our lives.

“Is there an advertising-free space we can live in?” Mr. Gillis asked. But given the ubiquitous nature of advertising, consumers have become increasingly accustomed to highly tailored ads. “If in fact you are purchasing things from a retail establishment, you are probably going to appreciate a discount,” Mr. Gillis said.

Daniel J. Kim, the founder and chief concept officer for Red Mango, a frozen yogurt company, said the company was considering using the Statement Rewards platform precisely because it allowed the company to offer deals based on how much customers spend and where they are located. “I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for personalization,” Mr. Kim said. “Before social media we just didn’t have access to this type of consumer.”

Jack Henry’s network of banks reaches nearly seven million customers in the United States and the range of banks included in the initial stage hold $7 million to $30 billion in assets. The average bank in the BillShrink program holds $500 million to $1 billion.

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