Discover Financial Services continues to tweak its online credit card marketing strategy in order to offer more-customized card offers based on consumers’ wide-ranging preferences, the company’s vice president in charge of acquiring new customers told a group of marketing executives last week.

Customization of credit card designs and terms is not new, but determining the right number of choices to show prospective customers without overwhelming them can be a tricky balancing act, Anas Osman told attendees last week at the Colloquy Loyalty Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We are seeing that customers are remarkably knowledgeable about credit products,” Osman said, noting some customers want to see a long list of choices, while others want the company to quickly steer them to one preapproved offer. “There are research junkies who will research details (of new card offers) heavily and others are looking for a specific product,” and the company must satisfy both types, he said.

Discover also has learned that presenting prospective customers online with three choices at each juncture during the card-selection process works best, Osman said.

“We try to follow a few basic rules, asking three questions that require three steps” during the process of selecting a card, he said.

Discover retooled its site in the past couple of years as the “vast majority” of new credit card customer signups moved to the Web from direct mail, and the company realized its previous approach of touting a few specific offers to everyone no longer was the most-effective way to win new customers, Osman said.

“Under our old model, we would tell the customer what was right (in a credit card offer). … But now we set the price and terms that are acceptable to us and let the customer choose” his own card, he said.

Discover last February launched “CardBuilder,” its latest online tool that enables customers to mix and match credit card features, including a “choose your terms” option so customers may pick from among various preapproved offers based on the interest rate and rewards programs they prefer (see story).

Cardbuilder presents prospective customers with a Web page where they may enter information about their credit status, spending and payment habits. Then it asks them to decide how many offers they want presented.

Discover also is using Twitter and Facebook to gather ideas about its products and how best to market them, Osman said.

“On Facebook today we have people asking questions (about our products), and before we even get a chance to reply, other customers are answering them,” he said, noting Discover continues to incorporate what it is learning from social media into its marketing strategy.

“A year from customers will go on our site to build a card, and the site will look nothing like it looks today,” Osman said. “We’re going to optimize our data for personalization and let customers do the work–let their voices speak–in order to amplify our brand.”

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