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  • Lloyd Lee

How Card Marketers Can Capitalize on Reopening

As the country begins reopening, it begs the question for card marketers, “What do we do now?” While there are many great unknowns, it is probably naïve to assume everything will go back to business-as-usual and that your card portfolio hasn’t inherently changed. We are encouraging all clients to look at Covid-19, and especially reopening, as a great opportunity. And competitors, who are agile and analytically-driven, will capitalize. Here are just four thought-starters on the steps you can take now:

1. Analyze the data for clues

Analyzing your data is the most important step to take immediately. This goes beyond your day-to-day “campaign dashboard” view. Here are just two examples of the types of analyses you can conduct:

Take a close look at the profile of new card holders. One of the dynamics we are seeing in our clients’ data is that they are starting to acquire new members that are different than historical profiles. Even small shifts in profile may be a clue that a larger opportunity is opening up for you. For example, we have one client that has noticed that, since shelter-in-place, some younger prospects (Millennials) are beginning to sign up. This is inspiring them to explore this target and create strategies to test if this segment is real for them.

Dive deep into spend behavior. A detailed analysis of spend across your portfolio since lockdown may be very revealing. We suggest starting with your high spenders as they are most valuable and you may see significant behavior shifts. For example, changes from/to certain MCCs will give you a real-world view of how card holders are changing their relationship with you. The move to certain MCCs may give you clues to open the door to greater spend among other segments as well as improve your acquisition efforts.

2. Talk to card holders

We find that card marketers rarely conduct research among their card holders and prospects. But if there was ever a time to do so, now is it. Simple one-on-ones via video conferencing will be valuable. In particular, we recommend conducting the above data analyses to gather clues and develop theories for future opportunity. Then talk to them!

You should take the opportunity to think big. If data and theories imply significant changes to your product platform and benefits, this would be a great time to see what they think.

3. Examine the entire lifecycle

Ideally, you’ve conducted the two steps above. Armed with that insight, you can conduct a tactical review of the card holder lifecycle. At minimum, we recommend an audit of all touchpoints to ensure you are not tone-deaf in light of what is happening. We’ve analyzed journeys for clients and seen automated communications that have not been touched for years. These were out-of-date by any measure and inappropriate in today’s environment. We understand that certain touchpoints, such as the card carrier, will be harder to change quickly than others, such as emails. You should be analyzing all touchpoints and make business decisions based on the value of making optimizations now.

When reviewing the cycle, here are few thoughts to keep in mind:

Acquisition: Based on the analysis in steps 1 & 2, you will more than likely want to at least optimize your messaging in acquisition. But your analysis and resulting theories may cause you to explore new segments, channels, and positioning.

Usage: In the battle for share-of-wallet, reopening may create a great opportunity for you to improve your position that did not exist before. Again, a data analysis and talking to card holders will give you clues here.

Inactive: It is always a difficult challenge to resuscitate inactives. It may require a great world change for these efforts to become successful. Covid-19 may be that change. Double back to inactive efforts and test to see if you can make progress where you could not before.

4. Mind your 4Ps

While going through the above steps, it is important to keep in mind the big picture with a long-term lens. Pundits believe there will be intermittent lockdowns through 2022 and beyond. And there’s no doubt we’ll feel the impact of Covid-19 for years to come.

We like to use the “4Ps” to remind of us the big picture.

Product: Inherent changes in your target and their behavior may require an inherent pivot in your product platform. Or it may cause a shift in the strategies you use to migrate/upgrade members to other cards.

Place: Permanent shifts in consumer daily lives and patterns may mean a change in where you acquire new card holders. For example, if you’ve relied on physical retail locations in the past, you will need to have a “must-win” attitude about optimizing your best online presence.

Positioning: A long-term change in how members interact with you will require you to adapt how you talk about your card. The positioning you’ve used for years will require at least some optimization if not a dramatic change. Consider if a re-positioning initiative is right for you.

Promotion: Consumer media preferences will be changed forever. This will impact your marketing strategy in significant ways. As an example, the long-term implications on direct mail response rates is yet to be determined. How digital media marketplaces will evolve is yet to be seen. Suffice it to say, it will be critical to watch these trends on a near daily basis, be agile, and be open minded to the fact that what did or did not work in the past may be very different in the future.

Summary – Act now!

Everything covered in this post is really intended just to be food for thought. Of course, every portfolio is unique and will require its own set of actions. But one thing is for sure, Covid-19 has created permanent change for card marketers. You cannot assume we will go back to business-as-usual. We recommend you think of reopening and the world beyond it as opportunity! And those that act now will win in the future.


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