A New Jersey-based marketing consultant is urging credit card banks to do much more over the Internet than simply receive applications.
Lawrence C. Smith, head of a company called Response Data Corp., is pushing issuers of cobranded cards to integrate their services with those of their marketing partners. Consumers could, for example, call into a single World Wide Web site to get instant loan approvals or check an account or frequent-flier mileage balance.
Mr. Smith, 31, who founded Response Data four years ago, said such traffic at a bank's Internet address could build brand loyalty for both the card issuer and its retail partner.
"We want to bring the consumer back to the Web site repeatedly by providing information that they would want on a consistent basis," said Mr. Smith.
"It's a very effective concept, and I wouldn't be surprised if (Response Data) gets some competition in this area," said Robert B. McKinley, president of RAM Research Group, a credit card tracking firm that recently launched a credit card information service on the Web.
Mr. Smith said at least three of the top 25 bank card issuers have agreed to work with his company to create Web sites for their cobranded programs in the first quarter.
He declined to identify the banks, because they are not yet on-line. One of the three, he said, will simultaneously launch a new card and post it on the Web. The other two banks plan to go on-line with existing cobranded programs.
Response Data, based in Lyndhurst, N.J., only recently began specializing in Internet services.
Its core business is providing card issuers with new-account processing services. Response Data manages information coming into a bank from telemarketing, direct mail, and risk-score modeling companies. Much of its growth comes from supporting balance transfer offers.
For example, People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn., hired Response Data to take the information from paper credit card applications and transmit it to Total System Services Inc., the bank's processor in Columbus, Ga.
For the past three months, Response Data has been focusing on developing technology that would allow banks to approve credit card applications on- line and to provide interactive Web sites.
"A lot of banks are using the Internet as a billboard, but what we are doing is linking the marketing end with the back-end process," said Mr. Smith.
Response Data plans to enable banks to approve credit card applications at the time of an electronic connection - a capability that Mr. Smith claimed would be a first in the card business.
Response Data would allow cardholders to complete applications on the Web page and receive an answer within minutes. The consumer information would be protected by encryption technology on Netscape Communications Corp.'s Commerce Server.
An electronic application would be processed through one of the major credit bureaus and would be approved or denied according to the bank's underwriting criteria.
Existing cardholders might be able to rent videos on-line, find out about new releases, or order other products, depending on the business of the cobranding partner.
Once cardholders are looking at a Web site, Mr. Smith believes, banks have a perfect opportunity to cross-sell other financial products like certificates of deposit and mortgages.
Cardholders might also use the Web site to learn about special deals that the retail partner is offering. That feature, combined with financial services, gives people "a compelling reason to visit the site again and again," said Mr. Smith.