Reap the Rewards of Understanding Your Credit Card Customer's Journeys With These Key Points

Blog Post
September 20, 2018
Whether co-branding your card or providing your own rewards, credit cards are an important growth tool for banks and credit unions to acquire new customers and offer existing ones continued value.

Thanks to advancements in technology and communication, it’s been a while since most of us came home to a mailbox filled with actual letters from friends and family. It was a good feeling that’s been replaced with the simple habit and general frustration of sorting through stacks of bills, coupons and credit card offers—their mundane envelopes literally creating a kind of white noise.

Credit cards are an important growth tool for banks and credit unions. They can help these financial institutions both acquire new customers and can serve as an extended offer to their existing customer base. But your customers with checking accounts and loans have to be aware of your credit card offer and the additional value it provides.

As a credit card issuer, how do you stand apart from the mass of offers that potential customers receive? How do you create a tone that cuts though the noise? 

Simple answer: credit card issuers have to better understand their customers and the journeys they go through when they may be in the market for a credit card.

Tailor Your Offers to the Customer Need

What we’re seeing in the marketplace for credit cards is that people are looking for a credit card that meets a specific want or need. It’s a highly competitive marketplace, and potential customers (if they are credit worthy) are getting hit with offers all the time. 

Having certain information about potential customers allows you to highlight the specific features of your card that are likely to resonate with your audience. Consider the following: 

What is the customer trying to achieve with the credit card? Is there a large purchase they need to make? Do they want to provide financial stability for a teenager going off to college? Are they looking to earn some money with a cash back reward? 

Where is the customer in their buyer's journey? They could be unaware they could benefit from a new card, comparing offers on NerdWallet or, or actively applying for credit, for example.

The answers to these questions allow you to provide the right messaging to each individual, breaking through the noise and catching their attention.

For example, you may have a segment of existing customers that have high school seniors heading off to college in the near future. They haven't yet considered that their child might need a credit card. Your message could be a piece that helps parents educate their teens about finances and how to use a credit card responsibly with a soft call to action inviting parents to learn more about adding a card to their account. In this case, the messaging introduces the need for a card and provides a way for them to then collect more information.

Tailor Your Card Incentives through Cobranding

It's also important to understand the role cobranding plays in the credit card market.

When cards are cobranded, a customer’s loyalty is more likely to lie with what the card is about, rather than the issuer. Chase, for example, offers several cards that cobrand with companies to offer incentives to customers. These are customers, like me, that may not have an affiliation with Chase, but they may have an affinity for Disney, Marriott or Hyatt, for example, and use the card to take advantage of the cobranded rewards program. 

As a card issuer, you could, for example, see that I stay at Marriott when I travel, and I fly on Southwest. You could also find that I shop at Ikea and Target, so you may want to approach me in my decision-making process with offers from cobranded cards based upon my interests.

On the flip side, we still see that cash is king. There are loads of people in the marketplace who are saying “I want the very best cash back program. I want a minimum of 1.5% cash back, and I want my card to offer promotions that are at 2% to 3% based on some sort of event going on in any given month.” 

There are also some new innovations in retail cobranded cards, which offer alluring incentives to customers:

  • PayPal Synchrony Mastercard: PayPal and Synchrony released the PayPal Mastercard at the end of 2017. The card links to the user’s PayPal account and generates points for PayPal online purchases.
  • Starbucks Chase Visa: Starbucks and Chase debuted the Starbucks Visa in February of 2018. Rather than a traditional points system, rewards take the form of “stars,” accounted for and useable on the cardholder’s Starbucks app.

Cobranding doesn’t always have to emphasize self-centered incentives. Millennials in particular are showing an affinity for social awareness and charitable focus that benefit from their purchases. For example, one might choose the World Wildlife Fund Mastercard because they know a portion of their spend is going to go back and support that cobranded cause.

It comes down to understanding your audience deeply enough to know what will be most relevant to their wants and needs—and developing incentive programs accordingly. 

Stand Out in a Full Mailbox (or Inbox)

Whether points, cashback, travel, retail or charitable causes, the ultimate goal of the card and for the issuer as well is to provide customers the value that specifically addresses their needs, with the right messaging and offers throughout the buyer's journey. 

If you tailor both your incentives and your offers to what is most relevant to your customers, you'll have no problem earning your audience's attention.