Consumers can now earn Facebook Credits for purchases they make at brick and mortar locations by signing up for Plink, a loyalty program that officially launched on Thursday.
Plink connects offline transactions with people’s online profiles without placing additional onus on consumers or businesses. And because people are rewarded with Credits, businesses do not have to devalue their products through discounts. To reach mass audiences though, the demand for Credits will need to expand beyond social game players. As more goods become available for Credits, Plink can build partnerships with more restaurants, retailers and other businesses.
Facebook users connect their accounts with Plink and register a credit card with the site. Plink then matches users’ purchases with offers they qualify for. Users will receive emails to connect Credits they earn to their Facebook profile.
Plink users can earn Credits when they use their credit card at Taco Bell, Quiznos, 7-Eleven and a few other national chains. For instance, spending $10 at Taco Bell results in a reward of 12 Facebook Credits, the equivalent of US$1.20. Most in-game items typically cost anywhere between one and 50 Credits, but select premium items can be valued higher.
Plink’s biggest selling point is that consumers don’t need to carry coupons or rewards cards. They use their credit card as they normally would and the Credits add up, similar to how people earn Frequent Flier Miles. Members have to provide their online banking credentials when they sign up for Plink, which might turn off some users, but the company provides a disclaimer about how it uses the information and why users’ information is safe.
For businesses that partner with Plink, there is no change to the transaction process so staff does not need to be trained and sales aren’t slowed down, as they are with prepaid coupons or check-in deals. Restaurants and retailers pay Plink a percentage of the sales generated by Plink members.
Film studios and musicians have started to experiment with offering content in exchange for credits, but currently the market is dominated by in-game purchases. If Credits take off like Plink CEO Peter Vogel predicts they will, the company provides a unique way for Facebook users to earn them by taking actions offline.