Merchant Onboarding for Card-Linked Offers

 In Card-Linked Offers, Financial APIs

Every Card-Linked Offer platform knows: onboarding a new merchant is painful. You and your new partner – the merchant – are at the mercy of your vendors that have to set up the new connections. The endless wait increases friction in a process that, on its own, isn’t smooth.

But why does it take so long to onboard a new merchant on a CLO platform? In this post we will be answering this question with a thorough explanation of the process. In short though, it takes several months if you’re using traditional payment networks to do it. If you’re using a financial API like Pentadata’s TransactionzTM, however, the process can be almost instantaneous.

The Benefits of Card-Linked Offers

Most of us are familiar with the concept of a customer loyalty program – you make purchases at a specific location and earn rewards there over time. A classic example of this is the Starbucks Rewards program, where customers earn points for each purchase they make that can then be used toward a free beverage after a certain amount of points has accumulated. Loyalty programs showcase the idea that the more you buy both in quantity and frequency, the more quickly you can cash in on your rewards. Thousands of loyalty programs exist across thousands of companies, most of them historically requiring consumers to enter their phone number or scan their loyalty member card in order to earn and receive their rewards. 

Card-linked offers are almost identical in concept, except instead of requiring the consumer to enter their phone number or scan a separate card, the rewards are activated simply through using a specific credit or debit card at participating locations that have opted in to the offer. It’s a much easier way to earn points and rewards since it doesn’t require any extra steps while you’re making a purchase. Some card-linked offers require the customer to willfully opt-in while others are automatically activated as soon as the offer goes live; but either way, the customer’s conscious involvement isn’t required when they’re in the act of making a purchase. 

Card-linked offers are increasing in their prevalence and popularity. They can be a highly effective marketing technique for merchants who want to attract and keep new customers. Generally it’s the merchant itself that covers the cost of these offers – they’re willing to give a deal to someone who is committed to regularly purchasing from them. Quite literally, they reward a customer’s loyalty to them. 

Companies can run their own card-linked offers (CLOs) if they want, or another option is to partner with a CLO app or platform that provides rewards across a much more diverse spectrum. However a company chooses to participate, a connection that’s different from the payment connection needs to be established between a company/merchant and the offer itself.

The Problem With Traditional Payment Networks

Historically speaking, card-linked offers had to be set up through traditional payment networks just like regular transactions were. The payment networks acted as a middle man between merchants and their customers’ financial institutions as well as the CLO platform. The transaction flow would look like this:

This flowchart describe the API data flow for CLO

Let’s consider this flow with an example: a cashback program like Ibotta or Thanks Again. In order for a program like those to create CLOs with businesses, in the past they had to go through the payment network to set up each offer, and they had to go through the process with every single business included in their program. Not surprisingly, that process is a very long and tedious one, potentially lasting months in the back-and-forth. This method – until recently the only method of establishing the necessary connections for CLOs – requires the luxury of being able to wait a very long time since it can easily take up to three months to actually get the offer up and running with new merchants.

Fast Merchant Onboarding CLO

Having to use the payment network as the middle man for onboarding merchants for CLOs is both expensive and time-consuming. This is where Pentadata’s financial APIs come in. Instead of using the methods of traditional payment networks, Pentadata’s APIs offer a significantly faster and less expensive option for CLOs. Because our APIs are integrated directly to the source, onboarding merchants doesn’t require the back-and-forth negotiation of traditional payment networks. Pentadata’s onboarding process is literally two steps that can be completed within minutes. That’s all it takes to get the rewards started.

As a CLO app or platform, you can be up and running within minutes – instead of months – with Pentadata’s TransactionzTM. Not only is it exponentially faster; it’s also less expensive and gives you data that will help your company become even better. You can sign up and try it for free in the sandbox by going to our website.

Recent Posts
Dataflow chart for card-linked offersCLO Open Banking API integration