Revolut takes a light touch to marketing for a tough U.S. launch

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Product diversification has boosted Revolut's valuation, and will make or break the company as it battles myriad competitors and a challenging geographic expansion.

London-based Revolut hopes to do this with minimal marketing, relying on the buzz that accompanied its original crowdfunding campaigns, its concierge service, and word of mouth among users.

“We’re not just in banking, we’re getting into other products,” said Nikolay Storonsky, CEO of Revolut, during TechCrunch's Disrupt San Francisco event.

Revolut offers a debit card that supports spending in more than 150 currencies without fees at a real-time exchange rate. Revolut recently partnered with Qiwi, a Russian point of sale and virtual payment network. Revolut will use the collaboration to access Qiwi's bank subsidiary via an API to provide payment services in Russia.
Revolut also hopes to attain banking licneses in Europe and the U.S., which would allow it to offer a wider range of interest bearing savings accounts and consumer credit in addition to its core payment product. Revolut has additionally added a metal card that provides cash back in cryptocurrency.

Originally geared toward higher end consumers, issuers are extending metal cards to a broader audience given the heavier cards' customer retention appeal. Revolut is adding crypto as an additional differentiator. "The metal card is a special product. Lots of cards have cash back schemes, but here you can get cash back in crypto,” Storonsky said.

This additions come as Revolut plans to expand into North America, with its launch expected in December.

To fuel this strategy, Revolut recently received a $250 million investment from DST Global, Index Ventures and Ribbit Capital, bringing its valuation to $1.7 billion. The company has pre-signed 60,000 consumers for its launch in North American, Storonsky said, adding the company has signed up these customers without a marketing campaign. It's a practice that's similar to its original crowdfunding campaigns in 2013, which did not have formal marketing.

“The initial crowdfund was tagged to buying a premium product; you had to do that to participate,” Storonsky said. “If someone invests as part of a crowdfunding campaign, they become an advocate, it’s a powerful marketing machine.”

Revolut's low key marketing approach, which relies on value adds such as a concierge service that books tickets and makes restaurant reservations as part of the card account. It also plans to support commission-free trading and other wealth management products.

"It's that concierge service that helps us," Storonsky said. "And we don't have physical branches to maintain."

The company faces a tough market, with competition in its core cross-border transfer space from TransferWise, Monzo, PayPal and a number of other companies.

TransferWise is integrating its its API with BPCE's mobile banking service to extend its bank reach, which includes BPCE subsidiaries in France. And Monzo received its banking license in 2017.

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