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Money20/20: Blackhawk’s Roche on Harnessing Brand Power


Payments are moving up the value stream and becoming an engagement platform, moving beyond the transfer and settlement of funds to more deeply connect a consumer and brand. In this environment, payment providers—including those in the gifting and rewards verticals—can leverage the popularity of other brands to improve their own value and stand out from the pack. Those were among the main takeaways from a Money20/20 keynote from Talbott Roche, president and CEO, Blackhawk Network.

“Businesses today are trying to rise above the din. There’s so much [marketing] activity and stimulus for consumers—particularly connected consumers,” Roche noted. “And one of the ways you can break through is to leverage brands that already have equity with the consumer.” As an example, Roche cited the case of someone using a credit card to accumulate points that can be converted instantly to an e-gift for a popular brand, such as Nike or Apple. Making the transformation of points into value seamless is vital, she said. “That way, a consumer doesn’t have to wait to get something in the mail. They can use it right away,” she said. “Feeling rewarded on the spot is much more meaningful that delayed gratification.”

The rise of mobile has paved the way for easier and faster transfer of points to value, Roche added—especially among millennials, who use an average of four connected devices a day, and want to  receive and redeem points via those devices. “There’s an expectation that you should be able to redeem value immediately [via a phone],” Roche said, noting that millennials largely are willing to exchange personal information and data for rewards that they find valuable—providing an added benefit for brands and payment providers, who can in turn leverage that data for their own uses.

The seamless transfer of rewards points into spendable funds turns gifting products into a de facto alternative currency—with motivation and loyalty built in, she suggested. Even startups can benefit from partnering with existing brands. Such is the case with Blackhawk partner Upside Travel—currently in beta—which provides branded gift card rewards to employees to reward savings on corporate travel expenses.

For brands, the benefit of partnering with payments providers comes from increased traffic and consumer engagement—and highly engaged consumers spend up to 90 percent more with a brand, Roche observed. “When people care about a brand, they visit more, spend more, and are more likely to recommend that brand to friends.”

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