The Filene Research Institute has partnered with Amazon to offer credit unions a unique opportunity to market their credit cards online.
The opportunity centers on Amazon's Credit Central, a part of the giant online retailer's website that Amazon intends to use to bring its popular retail shopping experience to credit cards.
Under a one-year pilot project negotiated with Amazon, credit unions will pay one flat fee to Filene to have their credit card listed on the site and be able to take online applications for their cards through the site. The fee to Filene is only meant to fund the one year research project that will accompany the offering. Each credit union will also agree to fund a $50 gift card for every Amazon consumer that successfully obtains a card through the site application.
In exchange, participating credit unions will have a place on a retail web site that currently draws 33% of U.S. consumers one a month and 66% of U.S. consumers at least once a year, estimated Amazon Project Manager Sandra Naylor. She briefed credit union executives during a Filene webinar last Wednesday.
Participating CUs will also gain the opportunity to recruit new members from the site as consumers seek their cards and to participate in Amazon's product review system that, Naylor said, will allow credit union cards to match or surpass cards from other, larger, or better known issuers.
“One of the things we are really excited about is the way we can bring attention to better quality offers and better deals for our customers,” Naylor said. “We see the star review system and best reviews to lift quality to the top.”
Naylor explained that the site was also open to local and regional credit unions and not just to credit unions with national brands or national fields of membership. The site will have a place for consumers to enter their zip codes in order to see more locally issued cards or, in cases where the consumer is known to Amazon, the Credit Central page will automatically list cards from the consumer's community.
Just as with other Amazon products, once a consumer clicks on a card he or she will be taken to a splash page where there will be an image of the card along with marketing information from the credit union or bank at the top and links to consumer reviews of the card down below.
Naylor said Amazon was very confident about the success of Credit Central because of how many U.S. consumers already apply for credit cards online and because the retailer has created the same pages for Amazon stores serving Japan, Canada and Germany.
The fees Filene is charging to participate in the pilot are $4,999 for credit union with more than $1 billion in assets, $1,999 for CUs of between $500 million and $1 billion and $999 for CUs of under $500,000. But credit unions that are members of Filene or agree to become Filene members will be able to get a 50% discount from those fees.
But when discussing fees, Naylor stressed that as Credit Central went forward, Amazon would be open to negotiating fees so that credit unions could reach a fee level which allowed it to make money on its card offering.
“We are sensitive to the issue of cost of acquisition and will be willing to discuss fees,” Naylor said. “Our goal is not to maximize profit but to bring our customers the very best available offers.”
In addition, because Filene is using the pilot as a means to study the best ways credit unions can offer cards online, participating credit unions can expect regular feedback from Filene researchers assigned to the project, including updates about how other CUs are doing with their offers and direct feedback about ways that the CU can make its card offer or splash page more successful.
Robert Rubin, CEO of Facilitas and a Filene researcher, said the effort would particularly look at the conversion rate, or the rate consumers click through to the splash page and actually fill out an application. Because the costs of the program are largely fixed, steadily greater efficiencies will be gained as the credit union increases the conversion rate, say from 2%, where 20 out of every 1,000 consumers that click on the splash page fill out an application to 4% where 40 out of every 1,000 consumers do so will be significant, he explained.