Simply offering the best reward or rebate isn't always the best way to sell in a multichannel world, and Wallaby is tweaking its recommendation technology to match the most advantageous card to a particular moment and location in time.
"We started on the basis of rewards," said Matthew Goldman, CEO and one of Wallaby's cofounders. "But for something like a washer and dryer, having 45 days to pay rather than 21 may be more important than points."
Wallaby's bread and butter has long been a free app that sifts through hundreds of cards to tell consumers which of his or her cards has the best marketing perks, called the "best card." It has traditionally based that recommendation on data such as limited time offers, type of transactions and the best nearby store or restaurant for redemption. The company has recently explored wearable technology and other connected devices to get even closer to the point in which a consumer chooses to buy and pay.
Through an update of its algorithm and geolocation technology, Wallaby is adding what it calls "recipes," which can change what a consumer considers his or her best perk. This factor is informed by a combination of rewards and cash-flow maximization, or payment terms such as the amount of interest.
"It could turn out that what you thought was your best card could be the wrong card for rewards at a certain retailer," Goldman said. "We will tell consumers what the savings could have been with another card option."
An additional feature includes tracking—recent spending on home furnishings, for example, can be tracked alongside monthly spend on different cards. Suspicious activity is also examined as a security measure.
"You could always see some transactions, but now the consumer know where he or she has been spending money, where there are duplicate patterns and where they may be underusing some cards," Goldman said.
Wallaby does not charge fees to consumers. It's paid by the issuers, though it says its algorithms are uninfluenced by that revenue stream. The updates are available for iOS now, with an Android version coming soon, Goldman said.
Given the availability of this new technology, the challenge for issuers and retailers is to recognize mobile technology gives consumers more tools to control their shopping experience. That creates pressure to pair rewards with other experiences, such as marketing that matches prior purchases,to present offers or budgeting tools, or enabling mobile shopping with in-store payments.
At last week's Mobile Payments Conference in Chicago, payment and retail experts agreed that the more consumers use mobile devices and technology as part of shopping, the less effective traditional marketing such as straightforward discounts or cash back offers will be, because the consumer will start the experience with a more detailed idea of what he or she wants, and a preference for payment mode and terms.
"I talked about Wallaby back in 2013 as an example of why maintaining any card at the top of a digital wallet is going to be even more difficult than in the physical wallet," said Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent, adding that there is a school of thought in payments that say being the first card registered in a digital wallet is what matters, since that card is the default card and stays that way until something goes wrong. Consumers won't likely change their default Amazon or iTunes cards that often, Bareisis said.
"At the same time, it's easier for Wallaby and the actual card issuers to get in front of the consumers right at the time of purchase and try to influence their decision over which card to use," Bareisis said. "The success of such propositions will be determined by how well they are able to demonstrate the additional value the customer can gain by using a card other than their default choice."