• Data-Driven Insight on Millennials for Credit Card Issuers

    by David Michaluk and Jim Auer | Apr 21, 2016

    Fact: Brands are obsessed with plugging into the Millennial generation. Despite this, it seems that many established companies still struggle with how to create a meaningful connection with this key audience–financial institutions included.

    As a result, I performed research around the relationship between Millennials and credit cards, to better understand behavior, attitudes and how Millennials select a card, hoping to develop insight that would help financial institutions build campaigns that resonate.

    The big takeaway is that credit card issuers seem to be unsure about how to engage Millennials in their products. As is often the case with what some would consider “bad news,” there is both danger and opportunity in this data: Danger for those companies that fail to change course and engage Millennials, and opportunity for those that can solve the conundrum.

    The stakes are huge.

    Many companies have realized their future is almost certainly tied to their ability to create a connection with this generation.  Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, now represent the largest segment of the population, one-quarter of all Americans. They’re the largest generation in US history, surpassing even the Baby Boomers. And now, they’re entering  their prime spending years.

     Do Millennials even want credit cards?

    For generations, American consumers fueled their spending with credit cards. It’s a system that works; although there are certainly instances of consumers overdoing it, utilizing credit to build a track record while moving into adulthood is a proven way to responsibly increase purchasing power. Credit has been a key component in the United States building the greatest standard of living the world has ever seen.

    However, research shows Millennials seem dubious about the power of credit and credit cards. This has partly to do with the economic landscape of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s when the economy was in decline and the national financial narrative was focused around the debt crisis. Not to mention the 6% increase year-over-year in student loan debt that took place between 2008 and 2012. Your average college graduate now owes approximately $29,400. Millennials have become increasingly weary of inflating their debt and spending money that they don’t have.

    Despite these apparent attitudes, there is likely an opportunity for credit card issuers to break through and secure a significant share of this still uncommitted cohort.

    Let’s dig deeper into our findings.

    Research findings

    We see the overall number of cards increase with age, 25% of Millennials do not even own a credit card, while almost 30% of those aged 34+ have 2 cards. 

    When asked about everyday preference, almost 60% of Millennials said they would use their debit card over a credit card if they possessed one, which presents a large marketing opportunity to change their minds.

    Of the credit cards in their wallet, both Millennials and non-Millennials reach for their Visa first.

    When asked where a credit card was obtained, over 70% of respondents said a bank.

    Millennials and non-Millennials were in agreement with the features they preferred when choosing a credit card: Rewards, APR, and Fees.

    When it comes to Rewards programs, both groups are focused on Cash Back, although it seems far more important to Millennials. 

    Connecting with Millennials

    It is clear that the credit line paradigm is shifting as this new generation enters its prime spending years without leaning as heavily on credit cards as previous generations have. The question is, how can the financial services industry reach this demographic? To answer this question requires examining the efforts of some of the most recognized and successful brands and their strategies to reach Millennials.

    Though not in the financial services industry, Uber has been innovative in its approach to marketing to this group. Millennials are not as interested in cars as they are convenience, so Uber capitalized on this trend and incorporated it into their core service. They offered the easiest way to find a ride from anywhere and a simple way to pay for it via a smartphone, having since become a global cultural phenomenon. Uber knew its target market, focused on convenience and offered a unique value proposition.

    Another example is Coca-Cola, whose approach incorporating sharing, identity, and personalization has resonated with Millennials. The soft-drink giant launched a campaign that printed 250 of the most popular names among teens and Millennials on 20-ounce bottles of Coke. The intended effect was to bond consumers to the brand by personalizing the product: intrigue, engage, and convert. In addition, a website was created to supplement this initiative with fun facts regarding the names on the bottles. The immediate result was a 2% increase in domestic sales and a wave of positive brand sentiments from consumers.


    To prevent the looming financial service industry pitfall that is low adoption of credit cards among Millennials, companies need to rethink their approach to traditional marketing of their products. Creating experiences in which consumers can participate, shareable content, aligning a brand with a cause, personalization, and convenience are essential to reaching this demographic.


    To collect credit and debit card usage data an online survey was conducted among users of all ages. One thousand responses were collected. The data from the Millennial group, ages 25 to 34, was then compared to the older age groups, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65+. From this data Trellist was able to answer two key questions: How many credit cards do you have, and what is the most important feature?

  • Making Web Content Accessible to People with Disabilities

    by Gavin Garrison | Apr 17, 2013

    making web content ADA compliant

    No one
    thinks twice when they see a wheelchair access ramp to a building. Stoplights have audible “walk” signals for the visually impaired. ATMs have braille type next to the keypads. The last presidential inauguration speech included a sign language interpreter following the president word for word. Virtually every television comes equipped with a closed-caption option. So what about making online content optimized for people with disabilities?

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to those with disabilities. Generally speaking, Section 508 requires agencies to give employees and members of the public who have disabilities access to information comparable to the access available to others. Nothing in Section 508 requires private web sites to comply, unless they are receiving federal funds or are under contract with a federal agency.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”) was modeled after the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, but it is a separate law with separate requirements. Title III of the ADA outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of “public accommodation.” Till now, courts have generally held that the ADA cannot be applied to activities on the Internet. That may change.

    While neither the ADA nor Section 508 currently requires that private companies optimize online content for people with disabilities, more and more companies are doing so voluntarily. Why? Here are a couple reasons for you to consider:

    Marketing and PR

    Treating all customers fairly isn’t just a nice thing to do — its message can carry a lot of PR weight, especially when your business is the first organization in your industry to voluntarily meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA and Section 508. Private entity compliance with ADA and Section 508 accessibility standards also provides a compelling PR opportunity to tell the public a human-interest story that both builds and strengthens customer relationships.


    What is considered a “public accommodation”? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interprets a “public accommodation” as a private entity that owns, operates, or leases restaurants, hotels, offices, stores, parks, schools, libraries, and other such places. The broader meaning for “public accommodation” is any place that has public access. The increasing move, especially in the financial industry, away from physical locations and towards e-commerce, particularly when coupled with marketing that touts the ease of online transactions and encouraging customers to increase their online interactions, means that this debate will only intensify.

    Compliance with the ADA and Section 508 isn’t easy. Making electronic information accessible to those with disabilities involves fine-tuning interactive information with specific best-practice design and coding methodologies that work hand-in-hand with content navigation tools for those individuals. Information needs to include coded recognition for screen readers, mouse-free adaptability, tagged page navigation, advanced scrolling…and a lot more. Achieving full compliance also involves carefully choreographing IT, web design, and web development for a unified, optimized output.

    Some companies have formed special teams to try to tackle optimizing content. But for most companies, this is a larger task than they can handle internally. Trellist works with companies, including leading financial institutions, to make their content ADA- and Section 508-compliant for a variety of reasons–PR, legal, or maybe they just feel like it’s the right thing to do.

    If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your content for people with disabilities, follow us on twitter @trellist , or connect with us via

  • Merchant Funded Rewards Programs Still Require Direct Response Fundamentals

    by Josh Kelso | Nov 15, 2011

    The purpose of a loyalty program is to…well, build customer loyalty. In today’s financial services marketplace, however, traditional bank-funded loyalty programs are rapidly losing their perceived benefit among participants.  As the value assigned to the points decreases, participants are looking elsewhere for better deals.  This defeats the purpose of the program.  As a result, more and more Financial Institutions (FIs) are moving away from self (bank) funded loyalty programs and toward merchant funded loyalty programs to offer more to participants. But the initial success of these programs will be difficult to repeat unless marketing managers return to the fundamentals of direct response marketing.

    Merchant funded loyalty programs are a growing loyalty strategy, enabling FIs to share the financial burden of loyalty program costs with merchants.  In essence, the merchant agrees to fund the points, cash back or discounts in exchange for marketing exposure to the loyalty program’s participants.  As a result, the FI is able to provide a highly attractive loyalty-building program, offering greater value to participants, while the merchant gains valuable marketing opportunities.

    These new programs are being adopted rapidly throughout the financial industry, and soon the impact of greater rewards will be lost as consumers are overwhelmed with competing offers from multiple vendors leveraging this new tactic. Merchant funded loyalty programs help cultivate mutually beneficial relationships between FIs and merchants.  However, to preserve their value with consumers, the programs need to be executed with emphasis on the fundamentals.

    Merchant funded rewards programs must be implemented with strong messaging tied to the brands and the consumer’s interests. Precise targeting and relentless A/B testing will ensure that the right message reaches the right audience at the right time. This creates the greatest value for FIs and merchants – as well as consumers who appreciate and are most likely to respond to offers with maximum relevance and personalization.

    Before consumer fatigue sets in, this powerful marketing tactic needs strong execution to see immediate results. At Trellist Marketing and Technology, we have been working with merchant funded rewards programs for years. Our experience has shown that the application of direct response fundamentals, strong creative execution, and relentless testing still have the greatest impact on program success.

  • Is the End of Breakage Near?

    by Josh Kelso | Mar 30, 2011

    Let’s face it – we’re all participating in some sort of loyalty program in our daily lives.  Some of us use our grocery store club card to get discounts or our Starbucks card, or our credit card for points for cash or free airline tickets.  Either way, loyalty programs like these compete for our attention and more importantly our behavior.

    The average US consumer is a member of eleven (11) loyalty programs and is active in about six (6).  With all these loyalty programs competing for our attention, program “hoops” members must jump through like “breakage” become increasing important with behavior decisions.  The following will deconstruct breakage and shed light on some loyalty programs that are siding with consumers and their choices.

    Breakage is the classic crutch of loyalty marketing financial models.  Attitudes towards breakage are shifting, both from perspective of the loyalty supplier community and consumers.

    Some might argue that breakage models are critical to managing the profitability of a loyalty program however breakage models only serve to create a vicious circle of ever decreasing value for both the consumer and business because consumers will not change their behavior if the value of the reward is being undermined.

    The most successful loyalty programs influence customer profitability by flexing the rate at which different consumers earn currency for different activities.  Rather than creating breakage models, enlightened loyalty program operators use knowledge about their customer’s behavior, their products and their margins in order to develop segment strategies that encourage consumers to behave more profitably using points as the incentive.  They know that if the value of their points are in anyway devalued they are unlikely to get the positive changes in consumer behavior they desire.  Successful loyalty program administrators create predictive customer financial models to decide which Customers, for what activities, how much and when points should be awarded.  

    Some brands are shifting their thoughts about breakage.  In fact, recent moves by large airline companies  and signal additional recognition that the accrued value in loyalty programs is not a ’shiny object” to tease consumers with, rather it is truly an alternate currency that people expect to have liquidity and be able to convert for value almost immediately – hence, almost no breakage. recently announced that it is teaming up with PayPal to allow its Aeroplan® miles, American Airlines AAdvantage Miles® and US Airways® Dividend Miles® to convert into cash in member’s PayPal account.

    Cash is still king and loyalty programs that make cash more accessible and immediate will effectively influence consumer behavior and drive more brand and product loyalty.

    The concept of leveraging PayPal’s technology and customer base to facilitate the fulfillment of a Cash redemption has promise and intrigue.  Another critical driver of success for this partnership will be the exchange rate set between the two currencies and the overall consumer perceived value.  This partnership has the potential to provide additional security and accelerate the overall process, both of which add value to the consumer and almost eliminate breakage.

    Trellist helps clients engage their customers in loyalty programs, to increase the value of these relationships.  We believe it’s good for the industry and for the consumer when brands encourage engagement rather than hoping for breakage.

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