Credit Card Marketing: Fix It Before You Lose It
Credit card marketing is changing this year—in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic. While 2019 saw credit card programs lead banking industry profits and consumers searching for the best travel rewards cards, 2020 is seeing consumers look for credit card rewards they can use immediately—and they’re finding those offers on platforms like Instagram where they’re spending more time.
Whether you’re looking to rescue your marketing from all the changes 2020 has brought, or you need to redirect your campaigns to continue to be relevant, there are still some great opportunities to be found.
Let’s deal with compliance first, and then move on to some specific strategies for marketing.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Compliance
Compliance is a massive challenge in credit card marketing. Ulla Saleh for BrandVerity puts it this way: “Every word published—by the issuer, by a partner, by an affiliate, or even by a consumer—creates an opportunity for risk.” In other words… no pressure, but your marketing has to be tracked, updated, and tracked some more!
Fortunately, Saleh gives us some excellent strategies for maintaining compliance. First of all, set up a system to regularly monitor and review every webpage that has a credit card offer. Check that all the links used for card offers are current and accurate so you don’t run into problems with consumers clicking on a link that takes them to an old offer—or even a different card.
Whenever promotional relationships change, make sure that publishers change their content, or remove links when necessary. Next on your compliance list is to check that credit score restrictions are still in place so you’re marketing cards to the right consumers.
Saleh notes that expired offers can create some challenges, and recommends all editorial content includes “a clear and conspicuous date so that older blog posts can be kept in context” and then make sure affiliate links are removed when offers expire or are redirected to a page stating the offer is no longer valid. Disclosures about expired offers should be located close to the offer. Using an automatic web compliance tool to check pages can help with the important task of checking for all pages promoting a card offer. This type of tool can be set to identify the most critical violations and help you prioritize top risks.
Set up a good system to track work, communications, and updates and keep a record of everything you do. Remember that content may look different on mobile versions, so you may need to check these separately. It’s a big job, but it becomes easier when you’ve developed a system that you and your team can follow.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Rewards that Matter
While there are still credit card users focusing on collecting travel rewards for some point in the future, new users are typically looking for something they can cash in on now. According to Steve Cocheo of The Financial Brand, some companies are using the COVID-19 pandemic to “build market share through decisive and quick action.” Take a look at this ad funnel that SoFi placed on Instagram:
This is a great example of agile marketing that connects with the viewer’s current at-home spending habits and concerns about personal cash flow. Another example is American Express, who adjusted their Membership Rewards program so cardholders could pay with points to get discounts at Amazon and receive double points on orders from Grubhub and Seamless for the remainder of 2020.
Back in 2017 and 2018, cash back was the most popular reward for new credit cards, as this graph clearly shows.
Those who weren’t looking for a credit card were most swayed by a rewards program, and more people were happier with a great rewards program than a no-fee credit card. It’s difficult to say which option is more compelling in 2020, but we suspect an immediate reward (like the one in the SoFi Money ad above) along with an introductory offer or no-fee card is a good choice. A/B testing on a personalized audience will give valuable insights for rescuing a campaign or fine-tuning your offers.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Affiliates
As lockdown orders are extended or reinstated and people continue to face uncertain financial and employment futures, they’ll spend more time searching for ways to both save money and make their dollars stretch further. Spending marketing dollars for placement on credit card comparison sites like NerdWallet, Bankrate, and The Points Guy may be a good investment, especially when you have offers that appeal to consumer’s increasing focus on frugality and value.
Using affiliates and collaborative partnerships require more maintenance for marketers, as we’ve noted in the compliance section, but they may be the best place to rescue a credit card marketing campaign or start one off on the right foot. When you do this, you’re putting your card directly in front of consumers willing to take action to better manage their finances, save money, or build rewards that matter to them.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Data and Financial Planning
In the fall of 2019, Barri Segal wrote for CreditCards.com that card companies offering personal finance management tools may gain a competitive advantage. We think this is a trend that endures in 2020. Tools that offer things like color-coding purchase categories help consumers keep track of where they’re spending their money and managing their budgets.
These tools can also help consumers who are wary of banks or debt to learn how to keep track of their debt and establish credit history. Millennials, Gen Z, and college students can be more wary of adding to their debt load. Give them credit card options and tools that help them retain control over their finances and keep their spending organized.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Personalization
If personalization 101 includes sending mail-outs with customer’s first names and great introductory interest rates, then higher-level personalization is life stage-specific and targeted marketing on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
And let’s not forget targeted interests when it comes to credit card marketing: sports fans, stay-at-home parents, and small business owners all have different needs that can be identified and targeted through marketing campaigns.
One credit card feature that almost every consumer is looking for now is contactless payments. Mastercard conducted a survey in April 2020 and found that “Globally nearly half of respondents (46 percent) have swapped out their top-of-wallet card for one that offers contactless – this proportion climbs to 52 percent among those under 35 years old.”
Not only is contactless payment believed to be safer from a germ/virus perspective, it’s also faster (up to 10 times) than other payment methods which allows customers to exit checkout lines faster—another very strong selling point during a pandemic. Even for purchases under $25 (typically cash payments), contactless is taking over. We’re also seeing contactless payment limits being raised, further endearing consumers to this new method of payment.
Once you know what your target audience values most (convenience, speed of transactions, less contact with public surfaces), you can personalize your campaigns to meet customers where they’re at in a campaign that highlights contactless payments.
While younger consumers (including Millennials and Gen Z) are more debt-averse and prefer debit cards to credit cards, the right marketing can focus on a credit card that aligns with their financial goals. The Financial Brand reports that almost half of consumers will choose to use different payment methods for different purchases. These consumers may consider switching to a main credit card that offers rewards for the number of purchases made in a month, rather than the dollar value of those purchases. Knowing your consumer will help you market to what they want and will benefit from.
Another great credit card marketing tool is reminders sent via SMS or mobile app with reminders about how to maximize credit card rewards for existing customers. The majority of credit card users say they don’t understand their rewards program. Timely, easy-to-understand tips and reminders are a good way to build loyalty and financial literacy for customers.
Geography plays an important part in successful rewards program marketing. Consumers living in areas where rideshare services and fast food delivery aren’t offered won’t be interested in a campaign with such rewards, but they may value cash back on gasoline and grocery purchases. Consumers in urban areas will be more likely to respond to incentives and discounts on things like Uber and DoorDash.
Credit Card Marketing Rescue: Mobile Applications
In the same way that online bank account openings need to be mobile-friendly, credit card issuers need to allow for applications using mobile devices. Provide clear instructions, drop-down menus, and a design that guides applicants to successful completion.
According to a MediaPost article by Ray Schultz, in Feb 2019 a Mintel Comperemedia survey found that 33% of credit card applications were made with mobile phones. At the time, 20% of all credit card applications were the result of a direct mail offer (a slight decrease from 2018). If increased use of online and mobile services in 2020 is any indication, mobile credit card offers and applications have grown significantly along with a likely decrease in direct mail campaigns.
A credit card marketing fix or rescue requires attention to compliance, personalization including considerations for age, geography, and financial goals, and providing simple, easy-to-complete mobile application options.