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Do you know your customers? Oh sure, you probably know how much they spent with you last year, but what about how much they spent with your competitors, or with other industry disruptors vying for your market share? Dani Cushion knows. She is the Chief Marketing Officer at Cardlytics, a native advertising platform in banks’ digital channels, with purchase insights that can identify opportunities, target real people within their bank, and measure the actual sales impact of each ad. She spoke with us about the importance of a singular customer view, how brands can learn from their customers, and why every major decision doesn’t need to feel so monumental.

Dani Cushion

Chief Marketing Officer, Cardlytics

How was Cardlytics founded?

We are an 11-year-old company that was founded by two banking executives who were working for Capital One and saw a few interesting things happening in the ecosystem. First, there was a large push in digital banking. All of a sudden, banks had access to large amounts of purchasing data but weren’t doing anything with it. Second, the banks were looking at loyalty and rewards programs as cost centers. Our two founders, Scott Grimes and Lynne Laube, thought that if someone could glue together all the purchase data across the U.S. and apply some advanced analytics to make it useful, they could solve some pretty big problems.

Today, we talk about ourselves as a purchase intelligence platform, and what we do is run cash-back rewards programs through the biggest banks in the U.S. and UK. Stated simply, we run native advertising in banks’ digital channels, all based on our analysis of purchase data. Because we bring an advertiser-funded model to the banks, it’s no longer a cost center. We see a little more than $2.8 trillion in spend per year, globally, and can apply our insights to show our marketing clients how and where consumers are spending, which ultimately helps them better identify opportunity and grow market share.

Is data security a big concern?

Our two founders were former bankers and have an incredible respect for how important it is to protect consumer data. Cardlytics was built with rigorous controls from the very beginning to ensure privacy is protected. We never receive PII (personally identifiable information) from our partner banks. By aggregating and analyzing the data we do receive, we’re able to provide value to marketers, banks, and their mutual customers without jeopardizing consumer privacy.

by understanding the purchase trends of your customer, you can ensure you’re present in the channel where they prefer to shop.

So, can a brand purchase your data to use on their own?

No, we do not sell the data. We are able to aggregate and analyze it for marketers because we’re providing real rewards back to the bank’s customers. In fact, we’ve provided more than $350 million in cash-back rewards to consumers to date. To access our insights, you would need to run advertising through our platform, which is a positive thing in itself because it is incredibly effective at driving incremental sales. On average, we deliver a 30:1 return on ad spend for marketers, which is approximately 5:1 incremental.

How are you impacting the omnichannel customer experience? 

We help brands leverage purchase intelligence to make their customer experience better. For example, we know through our insights that omnichannel shoppers, those who purchase both in-store and online, are more valuable. I think the initial thought was that one channel would be cannibalizing the other, but it turns out that’s not the case. Though it varies by vertical, it turns out that omnichannel shoppers spend about 82 percent more than those who shop only in-store or only online with a brand. In terms of providing value to our marketing clients, we can show them that difference and can show where else they are buying. This helps our clients retool their marketing and operational strategies and ultimately increase revenues, particularly since we can directly reach those specific customer segments with relevant cash-back offers through our native ad platform.

Can these insights work in any industry?

Having a holistic view of your customers’ spending behavior—a whole-wallet view—is important for any company to have, regardless of industry. When people think about restaurants, for instance, they may not think much about channels beyond the physical restaurant. But many of our restaurant clients have used our analysis of where people spend money on food to inform their business models. One major fast casual restaurant chain works with us to identify headroom and to spot consumer spending trends. Today, more than 30 percent of their sales come from online purchases, which would have been almost unheard of five to ten years ago. If you think about food options today, you can go to a restaurant, you can have it delivered, you can call ahead and pick it up, you can order a meal kit, you can pick up a meal kit, or you can go to the grocery store. So, it’s a lot more complex than just eating out or staying in, and by understanding the purchase trends of your customer, you can ensure you’re present in the channel where they prefer to shop. As a restaurant, you’re competing for share of stomach, and by leveraging our insights, you have a full singular view of your customer, allowing you to make the best strategic decisions to capture the most share.

It’s important to know your customer.

Getting to a single view of your customer is crucially important, so having a sound CRM is mandatory. Lots of companies used to work in silos where the eCommerce team didn’t talk to the mobile team who didn’t talk to the store team. It’s impossible to know your customer that way and impossible to provide an omnichannel customer experience that resonates if your own teams and systems aren’t speaking to each other.

At Cardlytics, we use what we call “purchasegraphics,” rather than demographics, to inform where the best opportunities lie for a marketer. By that, I mean that we analyze past purchase behavior to identify which customer segments hold the most value for marketers. We believe there’s no better predictor of what a person will buy in the future than what they’ve bought in the past. These insights help our marketing clients understand a full picture of where their customers and prospects are spending money, and together we develop a strategy that will drive incrementality. For banks’ customers, this also means the ads they receive in their bank channels are relevant and valuable.

What’s some advice you’d give yourself 10 years ago?

Life is not something that happens to you. When you’re young, every decision feels paramount and permanent, and it causes so much stress. It feels like if you make the wrong choice you’ll never recover. But if you don’t like something you can always change. If you make a decision, put everything you have into it and make it so. Just do what you think is right and follow your heart.

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