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COMMENTARY: Creating Loyalty, Engagement, and Influence Through Payments
January 5, 2017

By Talbott Roche

Several factors, including innovations in technology and ever-evolving consumer demands, have led to a profound increase in the number of ways and opportunities for brands to interact with their shoppers. Forward-thinking companies are looking to make the most of these touchpoints to create connections with consumers on every level.

Image Credit: Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc.
Roche: "The key to leveraging branded value and payments systems is going beyond just offering a branded payment solution."

Payment is one such touchpoint that can’t be removed or circumvented by the consumer during the shopping process. Here are some ways smart brands are leveraging their branded value and digital-payments systems to influence consumers’ choices, generate engagement, and create loyalty.

• Influencing Consumers’ Choices. No longer just a functional step in making a purchase, payments are now influencing consumers’ choices on where to shop, what to buy, and when. Retailers are capitalizing on consumers’ desire for convenience by using innovations in payments technology to connect with the 86.5 million Americans (42% of the adult population)—according to a study by Burson-Marsteller—who have used on-demand services as early in the purchasing process as possible.

For example, Amazon.com Inc. has converged shopping and payment technology for ultimate convenience with the Amazon Dash Button. Now consumers can quickly reorder household products with the tap of a Wi-Fi-enabled button placed in their homes. No wallets, signatures, computers or grocery trips necessary. With this level of accessibility and speed, Amazon becomes even more desirable for time-strapped customers.

• Generating Engagement. Consumers quickly shift from channel to channel to make purchasing decisions, while also shifting devices when they shop. Smart brands are connecting the payment mechanism with their brand to improve the shopper experience. According to a 2015 Pulse of the Online Shopper survey by UPS and comScore Inc., 40% of those surveyed who use retail apps rate having access to their shopping cart across all devices as an important feature.

Branded value and payments technologies—in mobile wallets, via e-gifts, on shoppers’ wrists or in the cloud—can create a unique path toward better customer engagement. Retailers are using omnichannel connectivity to create a cohesive, essentially interchangeable shopping experience that creates connections and engagement with their consumers.

One brand currently striding ahead with this approach is Jawbone, creator of a line of fitness-tracker wristbands. Jawbone is leveraging its position as a trusted consumer brand to offer payment-enabled products to deepen engagement with its customers. Now consumers who wear the wristbands daily to track their health metrics—amount of exercise, sleep, etc.—can simply tap them to make contactless payments on the go. Easy and value-added.

• Creating Loyalty. Loyalty programs and payments are converging, with many brands now allowing shoppers to use loyalty points to make purchases or incentivize additional spending through gift cards, store price-match guarantees, or special promotions. Select programs allow consumers to convert loyalty points into an e-gift and make a purchase on multiple devices.

Programs like Starbucks Corp.’s Starbucks Rewards also allow members to accumulate points through spending that can be used to buy Starbucks products online or in-store, toward free refills in-store, or to earn free food. As part of its larger branded value, Starbucks also provides convenient ways to order ahead and pay in-store with little hassle—all the while cementing the loyalty of its customers.

The key to leveraging branded value and payments systems is going beyond just offering a branded payment solution to creating one that actually makes life easier or adds real value for customers. When done right, branded value can create a bond between the consumer and their favorite brands resulting in loyalty, engagement, and ultimately more spending.

—Talbott Roche is chief executive officer and president of prepaid card and rewards and incentives services provider Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.

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