4 June 2012
10 Years ago I was a banker in the room with Wal*Mart and they asked “what justifies any card taking a percentage of my sales”? “What customer have you ever brought me”?
Will Card linked offers be the vehicle by which banks finally deliver value to retailers?
As I mentioned in my previous CLO Blog the average gross margin in Retail (globally) has gone from 4.2% in 2006 to 2.4% in 2010 (ref: IMAP’s Retail Industry Global Report 2010). Given this margin compression, and the fact that retailers spend very little of their own money on marketing, you can see why basket discounts are not widely used, but rather targeted. Given that this Wal*Mart incentive is for 5% cash back, it would seem to be somewhat unsustainable. Even worse.. it was given to every Bank of America Customer.
For this 5% cashback offer, Walmart receive no incremental spend, it was my wife’s normal trip to the grocery store. She didn’t even know I registered for this program.
Quiz time. Who funded the BAC WalMart offer?
3) Bank of America
Yes it is #3 according to my sources. Bank of America is funding almost half of the incentives in their program, and they are not alone. Retailers are not advertising in the CLO space because of issues associated with “lift”, “reach”, targeting and distribution (outlined in my previous blog). BAC is not alone, rumors are that almost 50% of all CLOs are actually funded by the participating banks or even the venture money received by the “platforms”. Wow.. I had no idea it was this bad.
My guess is that BAC will now have data to take to Wal*Mart and show what incremental spend they drove. Although 0 incremental spend for me, BAC will be able to show WMT that some consumers chose to switch their grocery purchase because of this 5% incentive. This will in turn lead to “targeting” of incentives to particular audiences and also lead PERHAPS to Wal*Mart participation. I think this is a very smart move by BAC, and they are 3+ years ahead of this on debit.. all of the other banks are chasing the credit side.
The downside is that the retailers know this is a VERY SLIPPERY SLOPE. Now that WMT participates.. the banks will go to the other grocers to switch them back.. and then these incentives will be an added cost of doing business for all who wish to influence highly elastic customers. The alternative is to target product level incentives to customer (item level) elasticities. This is what the retailers are planning to do outside of the CLO space, and why BAC will find few “takers” for this. Coupons.com is the leader in grocery space with Safeway and WMT, google is close behind with its recent Zave Networks acquisition and Inmar with recently purchase mdot.
Outside of grocery the same dynamic exists.. cards can indeed motivate a switching behavior with some customers.. but is this a Faustian bargain for retailers?
- Card Linked Offers have a very long way to go
- CLO Companies and the banks are paying for the incentives
- BAC is only bank active for CLO on debit
- … all of the other issues on value proposition mentioned in previous blog