This year, InComm’s Partner Alliance chose the theme SPARK 2013 to ignite ideas and inventions in the industry through the power of sharing. Retail, brand and technology partners from across the globe attended the networking event at the Eden Roc hotel in Miami Beach to learn about the latest innovations and opportunities in prepaid cards and payment technologies.
In a welcome address, Brooks Smith, InComm President & CEO, addressed influential participants in the industry, including executives and managers from major retailers and restaurants, banks, card producers, and POS transaction providers.
“This year’s Partner Alliance theme, SPARK, will be woven throughout the event’s three-day agenda – as we will be sparking ideas and discussions among all attendees to further our goal of transforming the shopping experience for consumers,” said Smith.
Attendees were invited to hear from experts steeped in the business of retail, mobile, gaming, and social media and more. In an industry that is on fire, SPARK was an opportunity to collaborate on new innovations that drive the players forward.
LYFE GPR Card is Launched
Miami native Pitbull, entrepreneur and philanthropist, gave the keynote address centered on achieving success in America. Born Armando Christian Perez, he rose from humble beginnings as a first-generation Cuban American to one of the world’s top-selling musical artists and entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry. He introduced the LYFE GPR card, which represents the search for success and personal financial control.
Following was a general session, The 21st Century Retailer, profiling the customer of the future and winning through loyalty. Mike Walsh, CEO of Innovation research lab, “Tomorrow” talked to the audience about new tools and mindsets that retailers need to navigate the behavior patterns of a global generation born mobile.
A panel on social networking, The Power of Social Media in Business, led by Mike Fletcher, SVP Marketing and Sales, Giftango, an InComm Company, included: Tim Mischuk, president, MavenSocial, Samantha Willems, manager, brand marketing, Old Navy, Chris Stewart, senior digital strategist, Giftango, and Kevin Shepela, VP, business operations, Fandango. The focus was on the importance of social media as a powerful form of engagement for brands looking to reach audiences in a meaningful way.
Old Navy’s Willems talked about the brand’s captivating consumer to consumer campaign on Facebook, designed to engage five million fans by leveraging the power of fans to recruit their friends.
“Retailers often use contests to engage customers but many do not respond,” said Willems. “You have to provide something for everyone.” The social only offer drove significant traffic, launching 5 Million Likes on Facebook. The “Tell Some More People” video on Facebook drew in fans with a 30 percent coupon, using motivational language: “Coupon by the people, for the people.” Images of friends assembling in droves were compelling.
Fandango’s Shepela said that consumer to consumer communications is going to grow to connect brands with friends. Giftango’s Stewart said that Facebook saw 410 billion posts between Black Friday and Christmas. “Social networks are all leveraging gifting platforms,” he added. “The key is to find ways to fit them in your strategies this year.”
Phil Graves, EVP, InComm led Fireside Chats to focus on emerging services that go beyond the realm of retail shopping. Recent innovations such as mobile payments, toll and transit cards, on-line-to-offline commerce, and over-the-counter benefits disbursement, to name a few, have taken the prepaid industry beyond plastic cards to become a provider for payments on the road and on the web.
Michael Herold, VP Tolling & Transit, InComm, and panelists, Gena Evans, executive director, Georgia State Road & Tollway Authority, and Micah Bergdale, CEO and Co-founder, Bytemark, talked about exciting new transit products, such as NFC enabled smart cards, destined to be a new opportunity for retailers in their stores.
The future in transit holds the “Tap On” card, which will be read on NFC readers on buses, trains, trolleys, and subway. Riders will be able to reload at kiosks, online, retail stores, or on their mobile wallet. Transit agencies, which are upgrading infrastructure and equipment, are excited for retailers to take over the reload task at the retail level.
The challenge is bringing together the transit agencies with retailers. Evans is working effectively with InComm to implement Peach Pass, a new transponder the size of a band aid that is needed for cars to access certain toll roads in Georgia. “The Peach Pass Starter Kit is an opportunity for retailers to become a distribution channel,” said Evans. “We realize that retail distribution is not our expertise so we found InComm.”
The launch of the new Peach Pass requires extensive marketing to explain transponders to motorists and much of this can be done through local retail stores. Cash collections on toll roads are being phased out and Congress has mandated interoperability of toll road passes between states. InComm is working with Georgia transit partners and other state partners to achieve interoperability.
Bergdale, whose company powers ticketing for the NY Waterway ferry service, foresees a push for transit agencies to adopt NFC migration. “When it comes to mass transit, the future involves mobile devices,” said Bergdale. It is expected that Visa and MasterCard will move retailers toward the EMV standard and incorporate mobile.
GPR Cards, Big Shift Beyond the Unbanked
Enhancing the future of prepaid and payments, general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards make up a growing category that is now a viable option for mainstream consumers. Originally created for the unbanked and underbanked to take cash and digitize it, GPR now serves a larger consumer base that includes parents, employers, students and other groups that recognize it as a financial alternative to traditional checking accounts and credit cards.
An important session on GPR, led by Tim Richardson, VP of Business Development, Financial Services, InComm, involved the robust money management features that GPR solutions can provide consumers at a time when many are budget conscious. Richardson posed this question: “Is prepaid the new checking account?”
The trick is to make GPR cards understandable so that consumers are able to differentiate between card offerings. Workers who get paid in cash and don’t understand checking accounts understand prepaid cards. Older people and higher-income people are beginning to associate value with GPR. The younger generation likes GPR.
“Prepaid is still in its infancy,” said Richardson. “We are just scratching the surface.” GPR is appealing to people from different walks of life and different income brackets, but what about retention? GPR providers must interest consumers in direct deposit; that’s the Holy Grail for retention, Richardson said.
The challenge is to add value by molding a reward solution that satisfies the consumer at the POS. Other drivers of growth will be personalized cards, a simple reload option in-store and online, merchant rewards and savings targets, among other innovations.
“We are building a robust platform for MyVanilla and Lyfe GPR cards so merchants can add rewards,” Richardson said. “GPR is the fastest growing product line at InComm, driven off of loyalty.”
Many other informative and valuable sessions filled the three-day agenda, sparking ideas and partnerships. For more information about the gaming market, promotions, no contract wireless, POS technologies, and packaging innovations, contact Frank Squilla at InComm. •