Will the Next Groupon-Killer Be Your Bank or Even a Hotel?

When it comes to companies willing to try and get into the daily deals space, there are very few exceptions.

Everybody wants in: The oddball start-up, substantial media companies like the New York Times, even AT&T and Amazon.

And it won’t stop there. No really, trust me, it won’t.

The next crop of companies that you may start getting offers from could include your bank, or even that hotel chain or airline you use most frequently.

This is through a nifty invention called card-linked offers, which honestly isn’t all that new at all. It works very similarly to how your credit card company offers you discounts on rental cars or hotel rooms. But now it’s becoming an ad network of sorts that can accept offers from all kinds and can take place with any brand.

I’ve written about this before, and to be sure, there’s no lack of venture-backed companies all hoping this is the next Groupon-killer. Some of the participants in the space include BillShrink, FreeMonee, Clovr Media, Offermatic and Cardlytics.

In this case, I talked to Lexington, Mass.-based Cartera Commerce.

The company, which has 165 employees and has raised $30 million, is announcing a partnership today with InterContinental Hotels Group to allow hotel guests to earn rewards points while doing everyday shopping.

If users link a credit card to IHG’s loyalty program and make purchases at participating retailers with that card, they will earn points that can be redeemed at such InterContinental Hotel brands as Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and Crowne Plaza.

The Aite Group estimates that by 2015, 460 million consumers will have signed up for incentive programs such as these, totaling about $1.7 billion in annual revenue for card issuers.

Tom Beecher, Cartera’s president and CEO, walks me through a PowerPoint presentation, comparing how it is better than Groupon’s business, and how it compares with Google.

On one side of the equation, he explains, there are the publishers, and on the other side there are advertisers and brands. That’s sort of like Google’s AdWords and AdSense.

In the same way, Cartera works with advertisers and also the banks, airlines, hotel chains, or other similar services that have access to the consumer. Some of its customers include Chase, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Best Buy and USAA.

Because consumers link a credit card to these offers, these are considered very well-targeted ads. Cartera is able to collect information at the aggregate level to find out about spending habits. Advertisers can selectively make offers to consumers who shop at their competitors, but not current customers who already visit regularly. That helps retailers acquire new customers and not just give discounts to already loyal patrons.

So far, Cartera says it has processed $1 billion in transactions on its platform, and is seeing conversion rates from 20 to 40 percent.

Even though these offers are not as well recognized as Groupon, they are typically easier to redeem.

The offers don’t need to be purchased in advance or printed out. Consumers automatically get the discount when they use the same credit card that received the offer. The offers can appear in a number of formats, from a Web site to an email or a line item within their bank statement.

Photo Credit: Images_of_Money.

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