The name “Bing Offers Card-Linked” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but there are several aspect’s of Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Bing Offers local deals aggregation program that will appeal to both merchants and consumers. The move, along with the formation of the new CardLinx Association, puts Microsoft among the big league players in the local deals game.
Here’s a scenario: You’re online and findan offer for $10 off at a local restaurant. Instead of printing out or downloading the offer, you link the offer to one or more of your credit or debit cards — making it “card linked”. When you dine at that restaurant, the $10 is refunded back to your credit card, and you receive notification that the deal was processed.
No changes to the merchant’s POS system are needed; the waitstaff doesn’t need to be trained to handle the offer — or even know it exists. The consumer doesn’t need to pay upfront to get the offer. Merchants don’t pay upfront either; they are charged on a CPA basis and pay only when an offer is redeemed.
The program “connects the digital world with the physical world in a highly efficient manner. It’s so frictionless and easy for marketers to increase the lifetime value of a customer,” said Erik Jorgensen, GM local advertising for Microsft, by phone.
Card-linked offers will be promoted via advertising across Microsoft properties, including Outlook, Skype and Bing, Bing Apps and Windows Phone 8.
Partnerships With Key Players
To make Bing Offers Card-Linked scalable, Microsoft has partnered with First Data, Visa and Mastercard.
“We view Bing Offers Card-Linked as a way to unlock tremendous value for merchants by simplifying the redemption process,” said Dom Morea, senior vice president, advanced solutions and innovation at First Data in a statement. “Together we will help to revolutionize merchant marketing, advertising and offers.”
Leigh Amaro, senior business leader of offer platforms for MasterCard said of the new program, “MasterCard cardholders who sign up for Bing Offers will no longer need to clip coupons or remember promo codes when they use their card. Merchants will also benefit from greater engagement with their customers in a way that can — and is proven to — increase sales.”
The company is also a founding member of a newly formed non-profit group called the CardLinx Association. Other members include Bank of America, Discover, Facebook, First Data, Deem, Linkable Networks, Living Social, Cardspring, Cardlytics, Affinity Solutions and MasterCard. The group’s mission in part is to improve interoperability in the card-linked offers industry.
“The CardLinx Association brings together thought-leaders across a variety of important linked industries, allowing us to define a set of standards and services that will make it easier for consumers to shop and for merchants to sell their goods and services,” said Silvio Tavares, founding CEO of the CardLinx Association in a statement.
Tavares of the CardLinx Association said on that same phone call that there is enormous opportunity for existing card-linked offers, but the challenge is every time a merchant want to offer a deal, there isn’t a good standard of interoperability that links all the entities merchants need to use for their couponing and loyalty programs. The new association’s aim is to simplify and streamline the process for merchants. Sales can be syndicated to more efficiently add scale for the merchants if they choose.
Tom Burgess, founder and CEO of Linkable Networks, and a founding member of the CardLinx Association, said by phone, “Card-linked offers make it easy for retailers to promote all kinds of different deals.” Linkable Networks allows retailers to create an offers model that can be promoted on their own site, through their social networks and on sites like Bing Offers. Linkable Networks is among Microsoft’s third-party partners. Merchants can sign-up for Bing Offers Card-Linked through Bing Places as well as through sites like Linkable Networks.
Loyalty Programs Are In The Works
While the current focus of Bing Offers Card-Linked programs are to drive new customers to local businesses, the group is also focusing on ways to increase customer loyalty with the program. When asked how Card-Linked offers would impact the gift card market, Jorgensen says they are working with gift card providers to allow payback savings and offer redemptions to be placed back to a gift card. He says while heavy discounters will want to give cash back to consumers’ debit or credit cards, other merchants will find value in tying in their gift card and loyalty programs to Card-Linked promotions to increase repeat purchases and customer lifetime value.
Silvio Tavares of the CardLinx Association says the group is currently working on a loyalty program with a mall group. Consumers earn points using their Card-Linked credit card at the mall and retailers in the mall can then offer their own Card-Linked offers through the program.
Currently Bing Offers Card-Linked is in beta in Seattle only. Launch merchants include Pizza Hut, Mooyah Burgers and other small businesses in various verticals including spas, auto repair and retail stores in addition to restaurants. Microsoft expects to expand to other cities in the near future. Merchant sign-up is self-serve through Bing Places as well as through third-party sites like Tom Burgess’ Linkable Networks.