Kunai Partners With Visa to Consolidate Merchant Loyalty Programs Onto an Open, Centralized App
Visa Inc. is a leading global payments technology company, with a focus on electronic payments. Founded in 1958, Visa’ major areas of activity include consumer and commercial credit and debit card services, as well as payment processing and other related services for financial institutions and merchants. Visa is considered to be one of the world’s most valuable businesses with over 20,500 employees worldwide.
Visa has always strived to innovate on developing technologies and trends in the payments industry. In 2018, Visa noticed a market gap that, by all accounts, should have been addressed by several innovative technologies in the past decade.
Merchants such as grocers, fashion retailers, and other big box stores tend to offer very strong loyalty incentives in the way of programs and memberships. These programs often provide immense value in the way of discounts and sales essentially for free. However, they require the customer to either carry around a membership card or enter their phone number for every purchase.
To make matters worse, this paradigm presents an inherent flaw: lack of transparency into a customer’s loyalty points balance. This makes it extremely difficult for customers to use loyalty points for purchases at eligible locations.
If customers are unable to spend their rewards points, they are then incentivized to frequent a competitor’s establishment– harming the vendor’s business as well as relegating the customer’s loyalty points to a digital waste bin.
Visa sought to remedy the problem by consolidating all of the customer’s siloed loyalty programs (or loyalty cards) onto a single nexus: their payment card. They would create an open and centralized platform: LoyaltyLink.
A Burgeoning Premise
The idea was to create a collaborative ecosystem across the customer and merchant touchpoints. Should a customer use their payment card at a partnered vendor, the vendor’s machine would recognize the payment card and all the attached loyalty programs. Thus, eliminating the need for a customer to present a membership club or eligible phone number.
It would also allow the customer to pay with their card, their loyalty points, or a combination of the two on the customer-facing terminal screen.
It was during this time that Visa contracted Kunai to build a proof of concept vehicle that would serve to test the viability and practicality of LoyaltyLink and its associated technologies.
Given their extensive experience within the financial industry and deep familiarity with both Android and iOS development, Kunai was uniquely equipped to develop the platform quickly without compromising quality.
A Three-Pronged Attack
Kunai presented Visa with a three-part solution:
Utilize the Poynt POS system to create a merchant-facing screen to facilitate the proposed features
Utilize the Poynt POS system to create a customer-facing screen to facilitate the proposed features
Create a mock Merchant mobile app to showcase loyalty program and payment card linking functionality
Kunai leveraged the Poynt POS terminal for its all-in-one feature-set that provided dual screens for both customers and merchants. Poynt also comes with a barcode scanner, NFC, card dip, a receipt printer, and a native app store. All these features provided a convenient done-for-you platform that enabled Kunai to focus on development and fast deployment.
The LoyaltyLink project’s database and server would be developed and deployed on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Firebase would be utilized to develop the mock mobile merchant app while CyberSource would be used to create the payment-related services. All sensitive data would be tokenized and securely stored in CyberSource TMS.
The Poynt POS system functions off of two screens and runs in a custom android environment. For both screens, Kunai utilized Poynt’s software development kit (SDK) to build an app that would integrate with Poynt's payment terminal.
The merchant screen was designed to simulate the merchant’s touchpoint while the customer screen was designed to simulate the customer’s touchpoint during a real, person-to-person transaction.
Mobile Merchant App (iOS)
The mock mobile merchant app (also known as the Grocery App) was created to simulate the customer journey and related touchpoints in the LoyaltyLink system. The app was deployed on Firebase to build and test the application as quickly and easily as possible.
This app would run the user through the most relevant customer touchpoints from linking the loyalty program to a payment card to issuing a loyalty program card.
Kunai built all the features of the LoyaltyLink platform as envisioned by Visa. Since the platform would function as a proof of concept, Kunai also provided fully documented steps to replicate the customer journey across all modules.
The platform successfully linked a customer’s loyalty program membership to their payment card that could then be used and recognized at Poynt POS systems.
Users could earn and burn points through their payment card and not have to worry about carrying around their loyalty membership cards or inputting their phone number at the register.
Module: Poynt– Merchant
The merchant screen for the Poynt POS system provided merchants with a variety of features.
Merchants can scan an item’s barcode or enter its SKU# to add it to the cart. Any relevant deals and offers will then be automatically applied to the item.
For payments, the merchant screen shows whether or not a customer’s payment card (via swipe, chip, or NFC tap) is linked to a loyalty card. If there is no linked loyalty card but the customer is a loyalty program member, the merchant may give the customer the option to link their payment card to their loyalty ID.
If the consumer is not a member of the loyalty program, the merchant is given the option to induct the customer into the loyalty program and link their loyalty ID to their payment card.
The merchant screen allows the vendor to facilitate the customer journey through the most common loyalty program use-cases.
By allowing the merchant to facilitate the flow of linking the payment card with the loyalty card, wide-scale adoption can be made much easier.
Module: Poynt– Customer
The customer screen for the Poynt POS system provides customers with transparency into their loyalty program benefits.
The customer screen shows the items in the cart as well as the total price in both the user’s currency and point value equivalent.
The customer may decide how they want to pay for their cart. They may choose between paying it all with their payment card, with their loyalty points, or with a combination of both.
And finally, customers may choose how they want to receive their receipt.
The customer screen is a highly flexible tool that provides customers with full transparency into their rewards balance as well as the convenience of two additional payment options on top of payment card and cash.
This module can be configured to simulate a payment delay and provide confirmation once the payment is completed.
Module: Mobile Merchant App (iOS)
The main purpose of the Grocery App was to allow the user to link/enroll their payment information to their loyalty ID. Aside from the core functionality, the app itself was designed with the explicit goal to look and feel like an actual grocery store, although certain features such as the ability to purchase items are not functional.
As for core functionality, the Grocery App allowed users to link their payment card information to their loyalty ID. This can be done by manually entering the card information or scanning the card with the built-in OCR technology.
The app also allows users to create profiles, view deals and offers, and see their loyalty points. Payment information is stored securely within CyberSource TMS and is only displayed with the last 4 digits of the card number accompanied by a visual icon.
Users can link multiple payment cards to their loyalty card and can also add, edit, and remove both payment cards and loyalty cards within the app.
An Evolving Collaboration
Kunai is one of Visa’s trusted software consultancies. Their collaboration spans multiple projects and many years.
“As our relationship with Visa deepens, we hope to contribute more and more to their success. It is always a pleasure to work with Visa, and we look forward to our next collaboration.” - Andrii Gorishnii, Software Engineer and Product Manager at Kunai.