Q&A with Steve Van Fleet from Triple: Unlocking the Power of Card-Linked Offers

In today’s fast-paced financial landscape, customer retention and acquisition have become vital for the success of both financial institutions and the companies that support them. Amidst this competitive environment, triple emerges as one of the transformative forces in fintech and adtech helping businesses connect with their customers. 

Terry McMullen, Lead Consultant for Loyalty at Payments Consulting Network, recently caught up with Steve Van Fleet, Chief Product and Strategy Officer at triple, to talk about TripleTriplet generation card linking platform. 

triple, backed by PNC Bank, is a new player in the card-linked offers space in the USA, offering a platform which it described as “fintech meets adtech”. In a digital world where it is harder than ever to engage customers, TripleTriplet is a next-generation platform for financial institutions, financial services providers, brands, and retailers. 

In this exclusive interview, Steve shares his insights from over 40 years in payments and loyalty and talks about how triple is disrupting the card-linked offers ecosystem. 

TM: Hi Steve, can I start by asking you to explain in simple terms what triple does – what services it offers? 

SVF: Sure. Thanks, Terry. triple, as you noted, is built specifically to be that “next generation” platform for delivering merchant offers, and other value-added services, to financial services providers. It starts with card-linked offers but also includes capabilities such as pay with points at the POS and access to a variety of meaningful consumer discounts.  

With the many constraints faced by financial institutions, including regulatory requirements and scarcity of resources, they do not have the ability to provide the many points of integration and platform flexibility to deliver such services to meet the expectations of their customers. triple provides that flexible platform with one point of integration providing access to a growing number of services.                          

TM: Who are your target customers? 

SVF: Our primary objective is to empower financial services providers, including but not limited to financial institutions, with the tools to enhance their customer relationships through a diverse range of offerings.  

We have agreements with the top ten national banks, regional players, down to the smallest of credit unions, as well as a number of neo-banks. 

For smaller institutions we are focused on delivering through strategic partnerships we have crafted with the FI’s software and financial services providers, who operate the front end and backend components used for delivery of the services. 

TM: Who are triple’s main competitors and how do you differentiate?  

SVF: At one level we are competing for digital advertising dollars with the main digital ad services. Merchants only have so much advertising budget and we are working with the rest of the industry to secure as much as possible. The key differentiators there lie in the bank’s strong and trusted reputation, the ability to use first-party transaction data to target relevant ads precisely, and the capacity to show true attribution through actual tracking of views and follow-on purchases. 

Within the CLO (card-linked offers) space itself there are a few players who have been in the business for a decade or more that have had degrees of success. We differentiate ourselves from them by focusing more on our role as facilitators for the FI’s, being more of an open & flexible platform with connections into an industry-leading portfolio of offers, in contrast to operating as a closed loop program provider or data provider to merchants.  

There are a number of smaller providers as well, with our differentiation being that we were born inside an FI. This background ensures we are built to meet the rigors of FI regulations and privacy concerns. We have also achieved scale to the business through key clients from the outset. 

TM: What made you decide to launch triple at this particular moment?? 

SVF: The market is ripe for innovation. Like many tech-driven products and services, some of the older products, platforms, and business models often need upgrading to meet the demands of the ever-evolving market and technology. Card-linked Offers are at that stage. 

A number of factors contribute: 

  • Traditional large banks’ clear direction to update and invest in the digital experience and broaden the financial benefits they deliver. 
  • The continued introduction of neo-banks leaning heavily on the digital channel for differentiation. 
  • The expanding channels for sourcing merchant offer content. 
  •  Digital ad providers like Google and Facebook face increasing pressure to restrict their targeting abilities. 
  • The building out of the infrastructure to match merchant detailed basket data with FI purchase data to provide a whole new set of product-level offers. 
TM: Are there plans to expand beyond the U.S.? 

SVF: We have programs running, and multiple in the works, that provide cross-border card-linked offers—primarily for non-US travelers coming to the US. These conversations are leading naturally to additional discussions to expand beyond the US, but the primary focus is capturing a still quite open US market. 

TM: triple has recently announced SKU-level/product specific card-linked offers, which your blog describes as “unlocking a new ecosystem”. Can you expand on what you mean by this? 

SVF: Historically they have only been offered at the level of an entire purchase. Like 5% off an entire purchase. That was primarily because card purchase data at the FI level did not include details on what items were actually purchased. We are working with multiple partners to gather merchant level data, match it with an FI’s purchase-level data and thus be able to monitor, and reward for the items, or categories of items actually purchased. 

The early implementations have seen a high interest by consumer goods companies to use the FI channel to drive business through the delivery of offers and tracking of purchases for specific items. But beyond individual items, retailers, some who have traditionally been hesitant to use CLO as a channel due to margins on some items, have seen the opportunity to provide card-linked offers including or excluding categories of goods. Examples include a hardware store offering 5% off on everything except lumber, a convenience store offering 7% off on everything but fuel, or a grocery store providing a discount on store-branded items only. 

So, new budgets will open up as the rewards become more tightly targeted. Now that platforms like triple can add item-level detail to their data history and thus enhance offer targeting, the cardholder will reap huge benefits. 

TM: Card linking has traditionally been the domain of banks for their own issued cards, with banks as the publishers and brands and retailers as providers of the advertising content. Around 5 years ago, card payment networks launched card linking API’s, which enabled companies in non-bank sectors like retail, travel, and hospitality to become publishers. Is this an area of opportunity for triple? 

SVF: Yes, to a degree. As mentioned previously, our focus is on financial services providers, but we have a few clients and are in other conversations with companies, who are from the non-FI sector looking to gain access to our platform capabilities & large merchant offer content portfolio.  

TM: Banks and brands are often challenged around hyper-personalisation, delivering the right offer to the right customer in the right place at the right time. How can triple help banks and brands do a better job at personalisation? 

SVF: This has been a key focus of our technology investment in our platform from day 1. Having access to all of a cardholder’s purchase history, and now, as mentioned, an ever-expanding ability to view the actual items purchased, triple can determine the most relevant set of offers to be provided to a cardholder. It is an art form of sorts, as the platform will continually learn and get smarter about how to best deliver value to each cardholder. 

TM: What is the focus of the business for the next 12-24 months? 

SVF: triple is focused on having: 

  • Growth in scale, both in terms of the accessible cardholder reach, but also the expansion of the merchant offer content available.  
  • Continued investment in our targeting engine as more and more data flows in.  
  • The build-out and introduction of SKU-level and category-level offers.  
TM: And finally, what are the major trends impacting on triple’s growth over the next 3-5 years? 

SVF: I have covered much of this previously, the desire for FI’s to provide increasingly relevant value propositions to their clients, the expansion of available data and platform capabilities to better present the right offers at the right time to cardholders, and the continued pressure from innovators to broaden the customer experience for financial services, will all help drive significant benefits for all the participants—banks, merchants and consumers alike. 

As the landscape of consumer engagement undergoes a profound evolution, it is crucial for businesses and financial entities alike to embrace this transformative era and harness the immense potential it holds. triple hopes to help more realise this opportunity to capitalise on these game-changing shifts.  

Author: Terry McMullen, Consultant for Loyalty, Sydney, Payments Consulting Network 

Terry brings 38 years of expertise in financial services and merchant loyalty. He has a successful history of helping start-ups and large enterprises design, launch, and manage innovative loyalty solutions. Terry has worked with over 100 banks, card schemes, payment networks, merchants, and shopping malls worldwide, both as a consultant and as CEO of various loyalty service providers. 


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