Key takeaways from this blog
- Card-linked offers (CLO) provide a unique opportunity for brands to reward consumers directly through their credit or debit cards.
- For brands looking to gain exposure and conversions, CLO partners connect you to large audiences.
- CLO partnerships provide access to valuable consumer behavior data, enabling personalized targeting for eCommerce brands and improving strategic decision-making.
- Impact.com provides a secure platform for users to upload attribution data, addressing the challenges of manual processes.
- Agencies can collaborate with CLO partners to understand their value and formulate strategic campaigns.
The affiliate initiative of card-linked offers (CLO) is growing swiftly thanks to the ability to engage in-market customers. These offers allow brands and publishers to reward consumers directly to their credit or debit card accounts for purchasing certain products and services.
The reams of consumer behavior data CLO partners receive from the linked financial institution enable hyper-efficient, personalized targeting that provides nearly immediate results for eCommerce brands. This data doesn’t run through affiliate networks and platforms, which muddies attribution and creates additional challenges and manual processes for brands and agencies to wade through.
impact.com users can now take advantage of a feature (currently in beta) to securely upload the attribution data into the platform. If you want to join the CLO beta and test this exciting new feature, please contact your CSM or file a ticket in-app.
Scott Gold of impact.com discussed the promises and challenges of this new offer type with Director of Partnership Development Megan Neri of DMi Partners.
Scott: Can you share your background and experience with affiliates and partnerships?
Megan: I’ve been in the affiliate space for a decade now. I have touched several parts of this channel, from publisher development to business development and even account management. Because of this, I understand what both partners and brands want and need to run successful programs.
Currently, I am the Director of Partnership Development at DMi Partners. I lead a team of individuals, supporting them in building partner relationships and strategy to hit our clients’ goals. A big part of my job as a manager is building growth and fulfillment in my team members’ overarching roles and careers at DMi.
S: We’re here today to talk about card-linked offers. Can you tell our audience a bit more about CLO and how it works?
M: Of course. CLO stands for card-linked offers, and these partners function exactly as they are named. A consumer can link their credit card to a specific brand offer to redeem incentives such as cash or points back.
For consumers, these incentives are extra-appealing since they generally will get their cash back instantly, whereas some traditional loyalty partners have a holding period. So, the adoption rate for consumers is high, and it’s growing as more companies invest in marketing around these campaigns.
S: How did DMi start to get involved in the CLO vertical?
M: As with any new vertical, we took a research-heavy approach. Since CLO partners are not traditional affiliates in several areas, we really wanted to make sure we were subject matter experts so we could
- educate our brands so they understand the ins and outs.
- really strategize with these partners to ensure we are driving ultimate performance for our brands.
There were already a few CLO partners in the space, so we started working more closely with them to understand how they operate and what value they can bring to our brands. There were also some very new-to-the-space partners who were learning just as we were.
We spent a lot of time with these partners, trading insights so we could understand what they need to be successful, and they could learn what our agency and our brands need to be successful. From there, we started launching strategic campaigns where it made sense, and we continue to do so today.
S: What type of brands are typically involved, and who are some of the main players in the space?
M: Any brand can launch a CLO campaign, but not every CLO partner will be a good match for every brand. Each CLO partner has different audiences, restrictions, nuances, costs, etc. So, our goal is to work closely with our brands and partners and then match them based on the brand’s goals and the partner’s ability to reach said goals.
A few key players and close partners of ours in this space are Cardlytics, Amex, Drop, Figg, Collinson, and Rakuten CLO.
S: How does CLO fit into the larger picture of partnerships and affiliate marketing?
M: CLO partners offer another way to reach a massive audience for brands looking to gain exposure and conversions in exchange for an incentive.
Consumers are looking to their credit card companies to provide them with new and exciting perks. CLO partners both fuel the magic behind the scenes and collect data so brands can continue making strategic go-forward decisions.
It’s a relationship between the brand, agency, partner, and banks to ensure we are collectively delivering what consumers are looking for while ensuring positive results for all other parties.
S: What are some of CLO’s differentiators and unique strengths within the affiliate landscape?
M: One of the biggest differentiators and unique strengths is the data that CLO partners have access to. Because they work with financial institutions, they are privy to consumer behavior data that a lot of traditional affiliates are not.
We’re able to work with these partners to use this data to strategically target at a much more granular level. Some CLO partners also offer a suite of post-campaign reporting that allows brands to gain insight into the campaign and get rich data to improve their overall business.
Additionally, CLO partners are constantly adding new banks and publishers to their roster, allowing brands to continue to scale. CLO partners have a massive audience reach. It’s worth noting that if a brand has a specific reservation with a bank or publisher, CLO partners have the ability to blacklist.
S: What are some reasons behind its recent growth?
M: CLO partners aren’t new to the world, but they are to the affiliate world. Over the pandemic, like many other partners, CLO saw the value of the affiliate model and started to really invest in figuring out how to carve a spot in the affiliate landscape.
These partners also produce significant results fast, which is incredibly attractive to marketers. They can creep into a brand’s top three partners list rather quickly because of how fast they are able to scale.
S: How is it currently performing for brands, and how is performance typically measured?
M: Generally, when a brand launches a CLO campaign, we see performance ramp up quickly. Again, we have the ability to target consumers who we know have an affinity for a specific product or service with a compelling offer. We can also see the amount of consumers who have added a promotion but may not have purchased yet, giving us insight into intent.
Incrementality is certainly important. Typically, we run incrementality testing with these partners and then measure success based on what revenue was deemed incremental. From there, we analyze a range of metrics, including:
- new-to-file consumers
- share of wallet
- promotions added (which can be considered a click)
- market share analysis
- customer journey
Depending on the partner, we can get really granular with data and KPIs.
S: What kind of partners do you need to maximize growth from CLO?
M: Just as the affiliate channel isn’t “set it and forget it,” CLO partners are not “set it and forget it.” We believe that the best partners regularly work on strategies to hit KPIs and solve brand and channel challenges.
It’s not enough to just launch a campaign and then keep it running as is. At DMi, we believe we should tap into what makes these partners unique and use those strengths to make smart decisions for our brands.
S: Can you tell us more about what DMi is currently doing with CLO?
M: We are using the data! CLO partners have robust consumer behavior data, including where they have or have not shopped, how much they typically spend in different verticals, and much more. We are using this data to:
- capture new customers
- gain market share from competitors
- engage with lapsed customers
- quantify lifetime value of a consumer
- increase incremental revenue
After a campaign concludes, we go through robust reporting to showcase the value delivered. From there, we work with partners and brands on a go-forward strategy and continued investment.
S: How has impact.com played a role in this?
M: A pain point area for these types of partnerships is the reporting piece. Since CLO partnerships are off-network, they send us reporting on a specific cadence, and then we have to upload it manually.
Manual uploads and adjustments aren’t sustainable for an agency that represents so many brands. impact.com can set CLO partners up on a specific insertion order, enabling them to get reporting sent to the impact.com dashboard via API. Not only does this help with reviewing reporting regularly, but it also streamlines processing reversals or other transaction changes.
impact.com’s contracting also helps set up terms and conditions quickly and seamlessly. This, in turn, gets us up and running with CLO campaigns in a much more efficient time frame. This is especially important for brands and agencies as we are constantly trying to hit performance goals. Any way we can remove barriers to launch is a huge win.
Additionally, since we are able to contract CLO partners through impact.com, we can tag them and apply bonuses to them through the platform. This helps our team and brands ensure payment cadences are smooth and partners are paid on time.
S: Do any specific success stories come to mind?
M: Yes – several, actually, but one in particular sticks out. We work with a large women’s clothing and apparel brand that was looking to capture market share from its competitors and drive more new-to-file customers to site.
After some research, we suggested partnering with a large CLO partner who we knew had robust data and analytics and who could deliver results. The CLO partner launched the campaign serving a compelling offer to the audience of the brand’s competitors.
Of those offers, 85 percent converted through our brand over their competitors! It was an incredibly successful campaign.
S: What kind of brands should be looking to get involved with CLO?
M: There isn’t a specific brand or vertical that I would steer away from CLO partners. I think it’s more a question of what CLO partner will be the best fit for this brand based on a combination of factors. The first step is understanding how these partners operate and what challenge we are trying to solve. From there, we can determine the best fit and run a test campaign.
S: Are your clients using CLO to drive sales in-store or online — or both?
M: Definitely both! CLO partners can drive performance both online and in-store. CLO partners can target consumers with an offer in a specific location, generating more traffic to that store. Of course, as we know, getting consumers in front of the actual physical product can be extra compelling and can help increase AOV.
S: What might these brands need to know before getting on board?
M: First, get excited about the potential of these partnerships. Second, there are some nuances to discuss to make sure all parties are aligned.
The biggest callout is understanding that CLO partners do not track like traditional affiliates, so things like attribution can be challenging. Each partner has methods to help brands understand their concerns. They genuinely want to ensure brands are comfortable before launching any campaign.
S: Where do you see CLO going moving forward?
M: CLO partners are real powerhouses if leveraged strategically. I think CLO partners are still working on planting their roots in the space. I don’t think they are going away any time soon, but I do think they are working through some challenges from being non-traditional.
Once they overcome those, I think we will have a surge of brands that are ready to launch. These partners are already bringing their A-game for brands that are working with them, and they are eager to tackle new challenges as they arise so everyone gets impactful value from the partnership.