Here’s another announcement that falls into the digital and real worlds collide category: Bing Card-Linked Offers. Bing isn’t the first to deliver this capability, AMEX did this with Foursquare a long time ago and others have too. But it solves a major point-of-sale redemption problem and removes friction for both merchants and consumers.
The new program is based on a partnership with Visa, Mastercard and payment processor First Data Corp. It’s currently only available in Seattle.
Users register a credit card, select offers they like (no pre-paying) and then later pay at the local merchant with the registered card. The value of the deal is credited to the card without any paper exchange. Merchants also get a great deal more control than in a conventional “daily deals” program.
Here’s Microsoft’s discussion of the benefits:
Card Linked offers help give merchants and advertisers the ability to deliver an “offer” or “deal” to consumers via their credit, debit or other payment card without the consumer having to use a paper coupon, voucher or promotion code on their mobile device. Bing Offers Card-Linked also gives advertisers:
- Broad reach: Card Linked offers will give merchants the ability to advertise across Microsoft’s online properties such as Outlook.com, Skype, Windows Phone 8 and Bing Apps that reach an audience of millions.
- Favorable economics: A CPA-model – gives advertisers much lower marketing fees.
- Better engagement: Advertisers can establish long-term consumer relationships and offer more relevant deals by understanding consumer interests.
- Controlled discounts: Ability to regulate promotions by limiting the risk of oversubscription of coupons or high consumer traffic within a narrow period.
- Frictionless redemption: At checkout, there is no need to change the point of sale (POS) system, no additional effort required to train staff in handling redemptions, and no need to wait for payments from deal promoters. Advertisers can use time and resources effectively to grow their business based on insightful Bing Offers reports.
Bing will also provide analytics that show merchants how many offers were redeemed in store. The program is currently populated by a range of SMBs and franchisees in the Seattle area. It could also become the basis of a more formal loyalty program in the future.
One question is: how much “education” is Microsoft doing about best practices — what will work and what won’t? (Lack of SMB understanding about how to structure deals was a major problem for the daily deals space in the past.) In a related vein, how much support are SMBs getting around offer creation and set up?
Notwithstanding those questions, this is yet another effort to connect the digital and real worlds, providing a direct link between digital ads and offline sales. It’s amazing to see so many things like this happening at the same time.