Viewpoint: Digital vs. Plastic: Death Match or Perfect Marriage?
By John DeCastro, DineEquity
In 5 years plastic cards will be dead!
A bold prediction for sure and likely one you’ve heard in any of a dozen payment mixers you’ve attended over the last year. Whether the topic is credit cards, loyalty cards or (near and dear to my heart) gift cards, the conversation tends to infer growth for one at the expense of the other.
I think most of us realize consumer preferences are evolving, but there is a place in the product portfolio for both.
Much like my grungy plaid-print recliner and my wife’s horrid collection of Matisse prints both managed to find space when we moved into our first house, plastic and digital solutions can be part of a perfect marriage.
For our brands the plan for managing this union follows a simple, perhaps obvious, formula:
- Start with the consumer. A number of great studies can help you understand not only the preference of a consumer, but the preference by need. If it is a gift, who is it for? The recipient and the closeness of the relationship can influence format preference. What is the intent of the gift? Is the goal to appear super-thoughtful or is it more of a “Hey, I was thinking about you” mini-gifting opportunity?
- Create a product map to match consumer needs. Knowing the use cases will help you determine how to make your brand relevant. In turn, that will likely not only help you determine the role of plastic and digital, but could also impact everything from the denomination/value to card designs.
- Understand the “value-adds.” In many cases, the gift card is the gift. Understanding when a gift card is just part of the gift can be critical. In the plastic world that can mean adding gift bags, greeting cards or trinkets. In the digital world it can mean adding shared content or an entertaining or heartfelt “experience.”
- Manage the shopping experience. In traditional retail the product needs to stand out from a crowded display and somehow manage to answer the giver’s need. A digital shopping environment must be efficient yet provide a broad selection to trigger a purchase—or future purchase.
- Close the loop with a great redemption experience. This is where digital needs to catch up to plastic. Merchants leading the pack in digital sales tend to have solved for redemption. If your cashiers are writing down 19 digits and manually keying them into a register, you’re likely limiting the potential of your digital products. Whether your solution is cloud- or scan-based or “swipe-less,” you’ll need to make a technology investment … or like my beloved recliner, you may find your brand is out of style.
John DeCastro is director of gift cards for DineEquity, the parent company of Applebee’s and IHOP restaurants. This article originally appeared in the Fall issue of Pay Magazine.
In Viewpoints, payments professionals share their perspectives on the industry. Paybefore’s goal is to present many points of view to offer readers new insights and information. The opinions expressed in Viewpoints are not necessarily those of Paybefore.