Omnichannel solutions are not a new topic in the affiliate marketing space, but at least one variety doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While it’s widely known that offers and coupons can greatly increase sales, revenue, average order value and even brand loyalty, it’s less understood that card-linking solutions can be a simple way for an advertiser to, not only garner all the benefits of traditional couponing, but create a process that is frictionless for all involved, whilst also gaining access to a great deal of useful consumer insight. 

CLO or Card-Linked Offers, for those less familiar with the concept, are quickly evolving to become their own standalone category in the partnership channel which marketers cannot afford to overlook. The concept is simple: consumers gain a friction-free solution to their growing need for streamlined rewards and discounts, and brands benefit from an increase in sales and encourage loyalty from customers.

More crucially, CLO partners grant access to transactional data, from both online and offline sources, that helps guide brands on trends in consumer behaviour, from which they can strategically align, not just their partner programs, but overall marketing strategy. 

So what is a card-linked offer?

Basically, it’s a digital reward that’s loaded directly onto a consumer’s credit or debit card. These are magically realised on the customer’s statement without an integration effort on the part of the retailer. There’s no cutting or printing coupons, no searching for a voucher code through various websites, no time-consuming mail-in rebates, and for the retailer, zero integration. They can also be delivered and promoted via apps-first journeys, creating a seamless experience for consumers already navigating these trusted touchpoints. 

Card Linked Offers were originally brought into the mainstream of the affiliate industry around a decade ago, with many publishers excited at the prospect of being rewarded for in-store sales. It was also an approach used historically by banks for their own loyalty schemes, offering rewards with a select few partnering retailers, think the original version of the now extensive AMEX rewards program, or co-branded credit cards offering rewards with one specific partnering brand.

But these versions of CLO were just the building blocks for what the category has now become. Loyalty card consolidation, payment wallets and app-based banking removed the barriers between siloed programs and, in response, new CLO partners have emerged that hold integrations across some of the world’s largest payment providers, such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express. These partners provide the means to securely connect a program directly to a customer’s payment card allowing them to deliver seamless, personalised offers based on transactional history. And it’s this which is the real game changer.

CLO is proving to be an invaluable method of rewarding customers for their loyalty without the need for brands to use discounting as their primary marketing message. And the scope of these programs are growing exponentially to not only be delivered through traditional banking means, but also mentioned also in the fintech, telco and airline industries.

The past year has only increased the price sensitivity of consumers and competition between brands has never been more fierce. The flexibility these programs can provide and the data-based insights they can allow, give brands the opportunity to make very targeted approaches that look to increase metrics such as average order value or long term value of consumers’ business. It also extends that original idea of connecting online and offline and is proving to provide much needed support for brands looking to ramp up their in-store sales as they reopen post lockdowns. 

What’s the catch? 

Are they going to give me data which is unvetted or is it going to be a lengthy procedure to create a program with them? Quite simply, the answer is no. These partners have been through rigorous data protection procedures so the advertisers they work with can connect with the confidence that the data provided is fully opted in and compliant.

Set up could not be easier either. In the case of Partnerize these are driven through API based integrations and a brand just needs to discuss their campaign objectives with CLO partners who can then align programs to meet these shared goals.

Currently Partnerize is working with CLO partners such as Airtime Rewards, Fidel and Reward but new CLO partners are emerging everyday and are generating exceptional results. Some Partnerize clients only launched with these partner types in the last year and already have them tracking alongside some of their largest and most successful affiliate publishers. 

One thing to be aware of however is that in order to deploy CLO programs, brands need to thoroughly consider their attribution processes. Unlike traditional affiliates, CLO partners process transactional data, which is actually a great benefit given the move towards a cookie-less future and eradication of traditional third-party tracking methods. However, it does raise the question around how this data can be processed and analysed against other partners or indeed channels to determine its influence and touchpoint stage in the consumer buying process.

Many brands are moving towards more complex attribution models and away from a last-click approach and thus will be able to embrace this partner type, but nonetheless it must be considered if you want to harness the full potential of CLO. 

CLO partners offer a great opportunity for brands looking to diversify their partner mix and create a more holistic go-forward strategy. They are future-proofing beyond the concerns of traditional affiliate journeys that use cookies to track ,and are a significant area of growth for smart marketers willing to invest the time in ensuring accurate attribution. The unrivalled data they garner is contributing to partnerships elevation to be considered a primary sales and marketing channel and we’re expecting them to become a mainstay in the partnership realm as they evolve further.

For more information about how Partnerize works with CLO partners or for any other questions please email or visit to find more great content around creating a well-balanced partner portfolio.

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