Let’s be honest, paying with a credit card is a pretty seamless experience. This is one of the reasons mobile payments have been slow to catch on. And, barring some serious innovation, the point-of-sale experience with a credit card is going to be difficult to beat.
But outside of the actual transaction, the credit card is well behind the times. The lack of innovation is in part due to the fact that offline payments remain largely untouched by the web. A host of contiguous services — everything from loyalty and offer redemption to hyperlocal marketing service whose pitch rests on the thesis that proximity and relevance drive sales — are essentially locked out. In recent months, we’ve begun to see existing major players like American Express, as well as a handful of startups, laying the groundwork for a programmable payment infrastructure that could spawn huge innovation and a massive opportunity for hyperlocal companies.
This morning, Swipely, a loyalty startup backed by Index Ventures and Greylock Partners among others, has launched a back-end solution to bring ecommerce tools to the offline store. The “Main Street Marketing Manager,” which has been running in a closed beta for the past year, enables local merchants to build loyalty and marketing programs on top of their existing credit and debit card processing systems. Merchants can onboard customers at the point-of-sale with an email address or online by uploading a company email list to the marketing manager, which will send out invitations to the subscribers.
“Many of the tools [that Swipley is offering] have been around in ecommerce for years,” the company’s CEO Angus Davis told Street Fight in an interview. “But for the most part, online technology is largely unavailable for offline merchants.”
At the point of sale, the software ties the loyalty program directly into the credit card transaction. Companies have been trying to crack the “loyalty card” nut for years and the “credit card-as-your-loyalty card” solution is the next logical fix.
Also included is an analytics dashboard, which allows merchants dig into their payment data with a good amount of sophistication. Credit card data can offer tremendous insight into customer base — and sales trends are a largely underleveraged opportunity for SMBs.
What’s most innovative is that the product enables merchants to run data-driven direct marketing programs through a company’s email list and Facebook page as well as embed interactive widgets on a company’s (or affiliates) website. Davis gives the example of a restaurant pushing an email to a customer who, spent fifty dollars each weekend for six months but has not come in for sometime, with an offer for twenty percent off a meal if they come in within the next week. The beauty is that the credit card data informs the message and process the redemption, essentially closing the purchase loop for existing customers.
A service like Swipely could be a fantastic acquisition target for Yelp, which has taken a lot of flak for the premium it charges for targeted ads. A loyalty service would not only provide newly-IPO’s firm a secondary use case for consumers, but would give Yelp the ability to tie campaigns to sales data – something which, has long been considered the holy grail of local marketing. Even though it would only be retention campaigns, local advertisers would likely jump at the chance.
Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.
Swipely founder Angus Davis will be joining us to discuss digital loyalty programs at Street Fight Summit West. Early Bird tickets are available now. Save $300 when you buy before April 9.