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Every day, new technologies are being developed to make things faster, easier and more streamlined to enhance user experience. Digital discount programs, like the Belly Program, are continuing to grow in popularity as the demand for convenience in discounts and deals grows. Groupon, for example, has outperformed companies like Amazon.com and eBay. Another company, Linkable Networks, is also prevalent in the discount space, and is the only card-linked offer company with the ability to provide coupons and offers at the individual product level. They recently developed an app for Android and iPhone’s, and more recently, won The Red Herring Top 100 Award that recognizes innovative businesses. Tom Burgess, CEO of Linkables Networks, allowed me to take some time to ask him a few questions about the success of his business and where he sees it moving in the future.
Linkable Networks is Born
A discussion between co-founder Doug Spear and Tom Burgess sparked their initial thought process on a new model for loyalty programs in early 2010. Spear, an expert in banking innovation, recognized that changes in federal banking regulations would soon change the atmosphere of current merchant funded rewards programs used by banks to gauge consumer loyalty. With the help of Chip Correra -another co-founder and the company’s CTO - Linkable was launched. “Although our initial approach was bank centric, it quickly became obvious that we had created a new advertising solution and the banks were our enabling partners,” said Burgess. From there, focus was directed at helping retailers and manufacturers sell products by linking the promotional offers directly to consumer payment cards.
Significant beta testing was done throughout 2012, with two key items that needed to be fine-tuned; how to create a great customer experience and how to enable SKU-level offers. “There was no plug-and-play solution in the market,” said Burgess. “We had to build something from scratch and secure unique relationships with some of the largest banking companies in the world.” After two years of hard work, the official launch of the website was May 15, 2013. Spear also mentioned that the MyLinkables app isn’t the only revenue driver for his partners and him; most of their business is driven through their suite of API’s that allow any advertiser to turn their banner, mobile, magazine, radio, and even TV ads into a Linkable offer.
How Linkables Work
Using a “link, shop, save” approach, coupon redemption can be done easily by a click, scan, or text. The majority of Linkable offers are found online and through mobile, but that’s currently because the majority of their offer distribution is digital , in the click category. More offers will be rolled out in the print, radio and TV space as business evolves. Consumers link their offers to their registered credit cards, debit cards or even Paypal account prior to or in-store while shopping and savings are delivered post-purchase to your card or PayPal account. Some retailers and brands offer eGift cards or even iTunes credits instead of cash for redemption of their Linkable offers.
It seems the biggest concern with consumers and online business is security and privacy. “Linkable is PCI level 1 compliant, Trust E certified, and we operate a strict consumer disclosure and double opt-in model,” assured Burgess. Linkables has worked with over 150 merchants, both large and small, with a growing number of consumer packaged goods companies. Their SKU solution is currently only deployed in grocery, but they plan to enable SKU outside the grocery space into retail stores and restaurants.
Another bonus to using MyLinkables is the ability to link your savings to your utility bills through LyfePoints. Consumers can simply create an account with LyfePoints, link the savings by selecting that option for one or more registered cards, and receive the proper utility credit.
Linkable stands out from companies in a similar market because they are focused on enabling consumers to link both whole store and SKU level offers and incentives directly to their payment vehicles. Their platform is designed to make it very easy for advertisers to link-enable all advertising and are currently focused on digitizing advertising models of brands that consumers have used for years.
The Future of Linkables
Burgess believes print coupons will definitely be a thing of the past and he hopes to expand Linkable internationally, but explains that managing growth at such a young stage is a primary obstacle. “It is very attractive to expand globally, but it can pose a distraction if not carefully managed,” said Burgess. Post SKU rollout, new consumer settlement options, additional consumer features, and the introduction of a new product is in the future for this innovative company. “More on that as we roll things out,” he teases.