The Groupon daily-deal craze allows financially savvy consumers to save money with merchants they frequent, but it has so far had little to do with banks. A third-party e-billing provider may change that, setting an example by which banks could become the best value to their most coupon-obsessed customers.
Manilla Inc. said Wednesday it would allow consumers to manage their daily deals through online financial management tools, much like many consumers already manage their upcoming bills.
Providers like Groupon Inc. and LivingSocial sell coupons that provide deep savings to the consumers that buy them, but which expire without the option for a refund if the coupons go unused. LivingSocial, for example, recently let shoppers at Whole Foods Market buy a $20 credit at the store for $10, but the money is wasted if the credit is not used by Dec. 13.
From its launch, Manilla has sought to distinguish itself from other financial management and document storage sites by providing more information than just credit card and utility bill due dates. For example, it allows billers to create dynamic Web ads to show within bills. It also provides information on less-frequent financial obligations, such as magazine renewals.
Manilla's update, which allows users to see when their daily-deal coupons are about to expire, meshes with the goals set by banks when they offer financial management tools, experts say.
"Having a central place to manage and compare, and see what coupons you have and can use is potentially very useful," says Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group LLC of Boston.
Banks might see Manilla's deal-tracking feature as a competitive threat, particularly since some banks are considering providing merchant offers directly via online banking as a way to replace traditional debit rewards, Shevlin says.
"If you are a bank looking to generate revenue through merchant-funded incentives, you don't want [customers] going to a Manilla to manage these offers," he says. "You want them coming to the bank website and mobile site."
Manilla says its service does not compete with banks' merchant-funded rewards programs. Instead, it can help increase traffic to banks' websites, the company says.
"Banks want to capture their consumers as much as they can on their own platform," says Chris Victory, vice president of business development for Manilla.
Since Manilla aggregates bank accounts, rewards and now coupon information — and includes a link back to bank websites — banks can stay involved in customers' online interactions with Manilla, Victory says.
Manilla also announced Wednesday its first mobile application, for Apple Inc.'s iOS and Google Inc.'s Android devices.
"Manilla has needed a mobile application, and this makes perfect sense in the consolidated consumer electronic delivery space," says Emmett Higdon, principal of the banking technology consulting firm Prizm Strategy in Charlotte, N.C.
Manilla, which is backed by the magazine titan Hearst Corp. of New York, offers its service free to consumers.
A mobile app "was directly requested by our users" and should make Manilla's product more appealing to men, Jessica Insalaco, chief marketing officer for Manilla says. Manilla originally targeted its marketing to the readers of the Hearst publications Redbook, Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, which collectively reach about 50 million women a month.
Manilla is structured as an electronic filing cabinet for consumer bills, statements, and reward programs, and it competes with the likes of Doxo Inc., Volly, a unit of Pitney Bowes Inc., Zumbox Inc. and others. Pitney Bowes announced Wednesday that it signed 18 new agreements with large-volume mailers to deliver their mail digitally.