BOCA RATON, Fla.-RewardsNOW is partnering with Zavee to offer what the companies claim is a new type of merchant-funded program tailored to the needs of community financial institutions and local merchants.

The program offers a number of features that benefit small businesses, such as flexible offers and the ability to join in 15 minutes. But what may be the most attractive aspect for local retailers, explained Ron Stack, COO of Zavee, is the social media component that allows merchants to easily advertise their deals on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and to gain feedback from consumers on the deals they use via the same forums.

"Social media is vital to these offers from local merchants," said Stack. "It is an inexpensive and easy way for merchants to increase their reach and marketing effectiveness, especially word of mouth. Think about the marketing tools local merchants have historically had available to them-coupons and punch cards. Things like that are not terribly effective and don't have a great deal of reach. To get reach they have to advertise, and that is expensive and is not interactive."

Stack said local merchants like the platform's process for broadcasting deals. He said merchants log onto the Offer Manager tool on the online portal, choose their offer type and create it, then they send it out, and the tool automatically posts the deal on social media sites.

"It's seamless for the retailers," said Stack. "They say they like this aspect because they know they need to leverage social media, and would eventually do it because it will soon be table stakes, but they just don't have the time or resources to do it themselves today."

Other advantages for local merchants, according to Stack, are the easy onboarding, where the financial institution can speak with a merchant about becoming part of the network and then let them know that through a simple online sign-up process they can be part of the network in 15 minutes. He added the platform offers merchants more than 20 different types of rewards to choose from.

"It gives merchants much more control over the type of rewards they choose, for example, they don't have to stick with just a redemption model, or just a coupon. It's not one size fits all and allows the merchant to create offers that are more relevant to their own business objectives and the needs of consumers who use their services."


More Control

Steve VanFleet, COO of RewardsNOW, Dover, N.H., said his company chose to partner with Zavee to create a program that had greater appeal to local merchants and smaller FIs. "We are involved in the merchant-funded world, but our clientele tends to be smaller credit unions and community banks. We were looking for a capability we could control a little more closely to sign a lot of local merchants. There are a lot of merchant-funded programs out there by the big guys, but they can't concentrate on Middle America. They have to focus on cities like Atlanta and Boston, that is local to them."

VanFleet recognizes that the smaller, local merchants mesh well with credit unions. "Credit unions have a close relationship with small businesses in their towns and we want to help them leverage that."

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