Cardholders are Now Powerholders

Engagement is the hot topic in the payment cards arena, and for good reason. With more competing products, earning schemes and tie-ins than ever before, success means equipping consumers with value at every step in their journeys. How?

  • 01

    Surprise: Engagement is more than offers and content. Issuers must tie card product design to the real needs and aspirations of real people, and promote heavily among the specific segments most likely to accept and activate.

  • 02

    In our view, it’s not about the card: It’s about the cardholder. Banks can create and operationalize real cardholder value by including rewards for cross-sell adoption, achieving defined DDA balance thresholds and tenure. Which all drive awareness and maintain visibility.

  • 03

    Remember that your teams are your card programs’ greatest advocates. Immersive training helps make clear the actual rewards value, ease of earning, bonus promotions, and redemption options – and equips employees to actively promote the benefits.

The Engagement Ecosphere

Insights for Issuers

zoomed in image of businessman hand holding a newspaper

How Issuers Of Any Size Can Seize The High Ground

Aided by the radical changes in marketing creation and consumption through the past decade, banks have more tools than ever to drive payment preference. Connecting with consumers in real time, with just the right message, has made the job easier for large and small issuers alike. Or maybe not.

Penetration, activation and usage remain the holy trinity of payment metrics. But as much as today’s digitally biased, socially charged environment has worked in issuers’ favor, it’s also proved a stumbling block. Competing cards with barely distinguishable features, often from the same bank, chase the same consumer. Media snacking habits defy detailed product explanations. Consumer opinions outweigh the promises of card marketers.


While smaller banks may think they’re outgunned in resources and scale by the major issuers, the fact is that banks of all sizes can find their competitive edge by partnering with a highly credentialed team – like RAZR – to navigate the landscape and uncover hidden opportunities.

Working with hundreds of FIs across the country, RAZR understands the dynamics of cardholder engagement: Capturing and sustaining consumer attention. Prompting cardholders to redeem, and realize the value of, their earned card benefits. Ushering consumers and banks into deeper, more profitable relationships. This is the work we do.

With robust analytics, highly configurable technology, and informed experience creation, RAZR helps banks who otherwise struggle to connect their rewards programs with diverse cardholder segments. And we understand the drivers of greater loyalty: In our client portfolio, we see active reward redeemers showing up to 10X the spend of non-redeemers.

Today’s over-saturated product arena, and the consumer demand for two-way relationships, now bring their own demands – for smart UX, nimble strategy and adaptable tech platforms.

And those dynamics – brought together in a unified engagement strategy – can help banks of any size sharpen their competitive edge. With incremental growth, stickier marketing moments, and enhanced profitability of their card portfolios.

Key Takeaway

  • Yes, the playing field among large and small FIs is more equal than ever. With sophisticated analytics, you can engage your cardholders more memorably, differentiate from the pack and accelerate both card usage and profitability.

1 Gallup
2 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Surveys of Consumer Payment Choice

Overcoming Self-Defeating Bank Habits

It’s a brutal truth: The greatest challenge to total relationship banking is often the bank itself. Legacy systems don’t connect. Siloed goals and objectives stand in conflict with one another. Product managers lack control over their own implementation schedules. Is it any wonder that cardholders are unloyalized?

Within large banks, allowing people and internal processes to seamlessly interact requires something between fundamental culture change and an act of Congress. Some familiar names are trying, and succeeding in isolated areas – and mid-tier FIs will find their size and steerability helpful in effecting this kind of transition.

But in the meantime, channel inconsistency and lack of cohesion can increase operating costs, heighten risk, and present cardholders with the picture of an uninspiring marketer. And the whole time, the opportunities for actively promoting a cohesive engagement strategy for other bank products go untapped.

Understanding the true value of a cardholder – and where to direct behavior – within complex bank matrices is how RAZR has built its business. And, too, its enviable reputation as trusted advisor to hundreds of FIs across the U.S.

Most often, our discovery process reveals opportunities to build a total banking relationship strategy on the cardholder experience. Cross-product visibility and accessibility, clearly positioned services and benefits, precise triggers – the card stands in prime position to deliver all of these.

Enter robust analytics, to establish the parameters of the strategy: What rewards are cardholders finding most compelling? What milestones and thresholds need they achieve? What specific cross-products will escalate LTV?

One cardholder, one view

“With a 360-degree look into each segment, we can help banks create and implement a total customer strategy,” says Ryan Fry, Lead Data Analyst at RAZR. “A single view of the cardholder is possible and within reach of any FI, even if they can’t operationalize it on their own. We’ve purpose-built our insight platforms to do just that.”

As a result, the effects of cross-product uptake become clear, and the profitability of specific behaviors is uncovered. “In some of RAZR’s largest portfolios, for example,” says Fry, “cash-back redeemers prove only half as valuable to the bank as travel redeemers. That’s a surprise to many of our clients.”

Banks needn’t look far for examples of how it’s being done well. Their credit union cousins usually have a keen customer understanding knit into their operations. And insurance marketers have matured in their ability to deepen relationships with customer recognition and bundled offerings.

Like much else in the world, cardholder behavior is more complex than it may at first seem, though banks needn’t add to that complexity. By understanding what their customers really want and aspire to – and what real value potential they represent – FIs can align their engagement strategies for maximum impact on usage, retention and profitability. And render themselves easier, and more attractive, to do business with.

In RAZR’s experience, that matters to the bank’s c-suite. It should matter to product managers, too.

Key Takeaway

  • Dare yourself to be relevant to cardholders. Consider what it would take to designate a single owner of the unified cardholder experience – to defy the fragmented, inconsistent moments that pass for today’s attempts at engagement.

3 Raddon Financial Group, National Consumer Research, 2015

The Forgotten Lesson of Loyalty

For as long, and as relentlessly, as issuers have chased the top position within cardholder wallets, you would think that all the components of a winning engagement strategy would be widely recognized, understood and embraced. Based on our experience, you’d probably be wrong.

A compelling value proposition, smart strategy, and a smooth cardholder experience each draw their share of attention and budget – and rightly so. No rewards card product truly succeeds, at least for long, without those fundamentals.

But for a cardholder engagement strategy to make a material difference in profitability, they won’t be enough. Today, FIs must broaden their strategic scope to include one other factor that can help ensure success – or, when overlooked, wreak disaster.

Network and data security has emerged as a make-or-break proposition – maybe the proposition – among issuers and cardholders alike. Rigorous testing protocols and high-compliant processes define the ultimate outcome in any marketing moment.

That’s no exaggeration. 9 of 10 public institution respondents, and nearly 8 of 10 in the private sector, admit data security to be their primary worry.5

And it means that the consequences of a hasty tech implementation – or of enlisting the wrong partner – are even more devastating than fraud and service disruption. It’s cardholder trust that suffers the hardest blow.

Keeping engagement, and relationships, intact

That’s why RAZR has full-time, on-premise data security staff to implement layer upon layer of protection for our client FIs. They provide and closely monitor a secure environment, keeping every engagement milestone intact – by monitoring technical operations, guarding data assets, and ensuring the highest levels of confidentiality.

In so doing, we protect the major moments of truth for cardholders all along the path from awareness through usage and advocacy. “Here’s a stunning fact: Nearly one in every three consumers discontinues a relationship with a company after the company suffers a data breach,” says Julie Denning, Head of Information Security at RAZR.6 ”That’s the kind of dis-engagement that can kill even the best strategy. And we’re built to prevent it.”

Within the hyper-digital consumer experience, there’s now a direct link between advanced security technologies and the hearts of cardholders – and on it rests everything from higher card utilization to consumer confidence and peace of mind. Issuers overlook or neglect it at their peril.

Key Takeaway

  • A well-equipped, highly-credentialed security partner can make for better engagement – even between card marketers and their internal teams – by empowering action fully aligned with, and actively supported by, enterprise stakeholders.

4 U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, May 2016
5 Cloud Industry Forum, 2016
6 The Aftermath of a Data Breach: Consumer Sentiment, Ponemon Institute LLC

Engagement Technology.
Engaging Design.

Engaging design. Engagement technology.

Toward the Ultimate Best Outcome Our Process

Key drivers assigned to each step mean our clients actually enjoy the process. Who knew?

01 Immerse

Collect, Observe and Converse. Stakeholder and customer interviews, content and competitor audits, heuristics and experience sessions: These and more are synthesized into clear benchmarks and a unified engagement vision.

02 Illuminate

Explore, Conceive and Arrange. Experience journeys, personas and initial solution concepts begin to take shape. With vigilance and fidelity to UX imperatives, content architecture, test findings and user flows.

03 Crystallize

Prototype, Trial and Adjust. Wide-ranging thinking takes firm shape in communication strategies, technical demos, experience maps and creative concepts. Specific engagement tech tools and amplifiers are identified with working archetypes now in hand.

04 Establish

Construct, Connect and Install. Business requirements, full infrastructure setup and final content inform media planning and production plans. With creative and technical specs for every step along the engagement solution path.

05 Assure

Qualify, Comply and Secure. The integrity of the engagement solution is validated with rigorous quality testing and maximum-security protocols. To equip stakeholders with comprehensive, ongoing monitoring and compliance plans.

06 Witness

Study, Measure and Report. In-depth performance assessments are captured in regular observation reports and solution monitoring. And as overall engagement dynamics evolve, ongoing analytics continue to inform timely, targeted action strategies.

07 Nurture

Identify, Improve and Expand. A solution-specific Nurture Report brings actionable, operationally feasible recommendations for updates and enhancements. To optimize the entire content, technology, media and experience engagement path.


Engagement Made Visible

RAZR creates better audience engagement. Capturing attention, creating bonds and nurturing relationships – this is the work we do. And our core focus in deploying visually and contextually inspiring experiences means we’re focused on great design. From the first brand encounter onwards.

  • Engagement Strategies
  • Logo + Identity
  • Email Design
  • Experience Planning
  • Web Design
  • Wayfinding
  • Brand Design
  • Brand Architecture
  • Digital Display
  • Concept Development
  • Print Collateral
  • SEO Integration
  • UX Design
  • App Design
  • Direct Mail Media


Engagement Made Possible

Led by user-centric strategy. Informed by robust analytics. Enabled by data-rich behavior engines. And made real in compelling experiences. This is our approach to smart technology – inspiring, empowering, easy-to-use tools to engage the audiences that drive our clients’ businesses.

icons representing security certifications including HIPAA Compliant, Tier 4 Data Center, SSAE 16 Type Two SOC 2 Audited, AWS Green Server Technology

  • Lifetime Marketing Platform™
  • Cardholder Profiles
  • Modules
  • Dataexchange™
  • Tracer™
  • Gearbox™
  • Controlcenter™
  • Tester™
  • Qlikview™
  • Designer™
  • Membersite™
  • REV™ Engagement Engine