US20110082737A1 - Computer-implemented methods, computer program products, and systems for management and control of a loyalty rewards network - Google Patents

Computer-implemented methods, computer program products, and systems for management and control of a loyalty rewards network Download PDF

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Publication number
US20110082737A1
US20110082737A1 US12892847 US89284710A US2011082737A1 US 20110082737 A1 US20110082737 A1 US 20110082737A1 US 12892847 US12892847 US 12892847 US 89284710 A US89284710 A US 89284710A US 2011082737 A1 US2011082737 A1 US 2011082737A1
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Prior art keywords
loyalty
rewards
network
customer
card
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Abandoned
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US12892847
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Andrew B. Crowe
Scott Galit
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Metabank
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Metabank
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • G06Q30/0207Discounts or incentives, e.g. coupons, rebates, offers or upsales
    • G06Q30/0226Frequent usage incentive systems, e.g. frequent flyer miles programs or point systems
    • G06Q30/0233Method of redeeming a frequent usage reward
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • G06Q30/0207Discounts or incentives, e.g. coupons, rebates, offers or upsales
    • G06Q30/0226Frequent usage incentive systems, e.g. frequent flyer miles programs or point systems

Abstract

Machines, computer program products, and computer-implemented methods to manage and control a loyalty rewards network and to provide customer loyalty rewards to a customer for purchasing goods or services. Computer program product can determine if a customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty rewards network. If the customer is not a member, the computer program product can enroll the customer in the loyalty rewards network. As a purchase are made by member customers thereafter, the member customer swipes or otherwise enters a loyalty reward card number and the computer accumulates and stores loyalty rewards network data representative of the member customer's purchasing behavior. Upon accumulating sufficient loyalty rewards pursuant to collection parameters, the member customers can select one or more of the available loyalty reward actions and the computer program product can implement the selected one or more loyalty rewards action.

Description

  • [0001]
    This application claims priority and is related to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/246,391, filed Sep. 28, 2009 titled Computerized Management and Control of Customer Loyalty Rewards Network, Associated Systems and Computer program Products and U.S. Utility application Ser. No. 12/626,349, filed Nov. 25, 2009 titled “Machine, Methods, And Program Product For Electronic Inventory Tracking”, each of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0002]
    1. Field of Invention
  • [0003]
    The present invention relates generally to the computerized management and control of databases regarding customer retail sales of goods and services. More particularly, embodiments of the present invention relate to systems, computer program products, and associated methods to manage and control a loyalty rewards network allowing customers to apply or otherwise use loyalty rewards for payments made for goods or services.
  • [0004]
    2. Background
  • [0005]
    Loyalty programs or rewards have been used by merchants and other providers of goods and services, as well as by marketing personnel. Loyalty programs or rewards are the result of structured marketing efforts to reward purchases of goods or services from participating merchants or provider of goods and/or services. Those participating have typically been groups or chains of affiliates of merchants or service providers.
  • [0006]
    During the course of purchases in a loyalty reward program, data from groups or networks of purchasers is useful and valuable concerning purchasing behavior and trends can be aggregated in some form for analysis and evaluation. The group data assembly or network organizer typically receives certain general demographic and identification information from customers or customers willing to participate in the network at the time customers joins the network.
  • [0007]
    Membership or participation in the network by a customer is evidenced by what have generally been known as discount cards, club cards or rewards cards. The cards have certain identification and authentication data encoded therein, usually in barcode, magnetic stripe or other form that is easily scanned or read. In some cases, tokens such as key fobs or the like which contain comparable identification and authentication data may be used in place of cards. Data gathered from purchases made by participants is made available in connection with evaluating marketing trends and purchasing behavior.
  • [0008]
    Existing loyalty reward data has been gathered by various groups or chains of merchant outlets, and by the forms of payment (such as credit card, debit card, cash, or check). The ability to easily track purchasing behavior across multiple merchants separately and independently of the form of payment has been difficult, especially for more niche segments or purchasing types or groups that are not as likely to be able to participate in registered credit card programs.
  • [0009]
    Assembling data indicative of purchasing behavior has been a very cumbersome process. The assembling often-involved integration with multiple retailers; or assembling and relying on data from only one type of purchase; or was done on a retailer-by-retailer basis. This has made it difficult for a marketer to both aggregate participating locations as well as to create a large pool of users to furnish a reliable and representative database. This has been particularly challenging in connection with what are known in market analysis as “emerging groups”. In addition, so far as is known, the data models did not accommodate the ability to create a single consistent branded product that all participating customers could use.
  • SUMMARY OF INVENTION
  • [0010]
    In view of the foregoing, various embodiments of the present invention advantageously provide a machine, computer program product, and associated computer-implemented method for managing and controlling of a customer loyalty rewards network. The network, according to the present invention, allows a customer to participate, irrespective of the form of payment, and allows a merchant to participate using an existing financial services electronic payment networks. The network, according to the present invention, allows a marketer to aggregate a base of customers with a single card product that each participant is willing to use, enabling the rapid creation of a targeted base of customers in selected groups. This provides a standard customer product and enables targeting of demographic segments of particular interest without regard to purchase method, which creates a compelling targeting opportunity for marketers.
  • [0011]
    Applicants have recognized a need for easily tracking purchasing behavior across multiple merchants independently of the type or form of purchase being made. The present invention provides computer systems, computer program products and computer-implemented methods for computerized management and control of a customer loyalty rewards network or database to meet such a need.
  • [0012]
    Embodiments of the present invention provide a loyalty rewards network that allows participating merchants and financial institutions to provide customers a service that enables a customer to earn loyalty rewards at a point of sale at the time of purchase. Rewards are earned at the point of sale by electronically accessing the computer-implemented network with a loyalty rewards card that is furnished for member customers. The loyalty rewards program provided by the network can be supported by any merchant. The card can be issued at the location of a participating merchant or financial institution.
  • [0013]
    Embodiments of the invention can include, for example, a computer implemented method to cause a computer to perform the process of determining that a customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in a loyalty rewards networks and for performing the process of transmitting a loyalty rewards action confirmation to the member customer. Embodiments of the computer-implemented method can receive data by the computer from a point of sale about purchases of the customer entitling the customer to obtain loyalty rewards. A determination is then made in the computer that the customer is a member of the loyalty reward network based on the received data. The received data is then stored for the member customers in a loyalty rewards network database accessible to the computer. Loyalty rewards availability information according to the stored loyalty rewards criteria is then sent from the computer to the member customer. Instructions from the customer regarding a selected loyalty rewards action from the availability information are then received by the computer. A loyalty reward action confirmation is then transmitted from the computer based on the instructions received from the customer.
  • [0014]
    Embodiments of the present include a computer for managing a loyalty rewards network through an existing financial services electronic payment network. The computer can include one or more databases defining a loyalty reward network database that is capable of accumulating electronic data related to purchasing behavior for a plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty rewards network. The computer can include, for example, a memory, a processor, and an I/O interface. The computer can include a computer program product, stored in memory and operable on the computer for performing a process of determining that a customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty rewards network and for performing the process of transmitting a loyalty reward action confirmation to the member customer.
  • [0015]
    Embodiments of the present invention can also include a computer program product to execute a set of operations and instructions. The computer program product is stored on the memory of a computer and operable by the computer to cause a computer to perform the process of determining that a customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty rewards networks and for performing the process of transmitting a loyalty rewards action confirmation to the member customer. The operation can include, for example, determining availability of a loyalty reward action for the member customer responsive to receiving, via the existing financial services electronic payment network, electronic loyalty reward network data. The data is associated with one or more purchases by the member customer and is accumulated in the loyalty rewards database. The availability of loyalty reward action is determined according to collection parameters stored the loyalty reward database and the received data. The operations, for example, can include implementing one or more of the selected loyalty reward actions responsive to electronically receiving instruction from the member customer, the one or more selected loyalty reward actions being one or more of the determined available loyalty reward action.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
  • [0016]
    So that the manner in which the features and benefits of the invention, as well as others that will become apparent, may be understood in more detail, a more particular description of the invention briefly summarized above may be had by reference to the embodiments thereof that are illustrated in the appended drawings, which form a part of this specification. It is also to be noted, however, that the drawings illustrate only various embodiments of the invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of the invention's scope as it may include other effective embodiments as well.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of computers interconnected through an electronics communication network and involved in a computerized customer loyalty rewards network managed and controlled in accordance with the present invention;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of a computer system for managing and controlling a loyalty rewards network according to embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of a computer-implemented method performed in a computer according to embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of a computer program product stored in a computer readable medium for managing and controlling a loyalty rewards network according to embodiments of the invention;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 5A is a front view of a loyalty rewards card for use in a loyalty rewards network according to embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 5B is a back view of a loyalty rewards card for use in a loyalty rewards network according to embodiments of the present invention; and
  • [0023]
    FIG. 6 is a schematic diagram of computers interconnected through a financial services network and involved in a computerized customer loyalty rewards network according to an embodiment of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION
  • [0024]
    The present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, which illustrate embodiments of the invention. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the illustrated embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.
  • [0025]
    Existing loyalty rewards networks largely depend on the method of payment such as credit cards, or by type of purchases or merchants. The ability to easily track purchasing behavior across multiple independent merchants irrespective of the method of payment or type of goods or services currently is difficult and cumbersome, especially for customers that are not able to participate in registered credit card programs. Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention advantageously aggregate the purchasing behavior of a base of customers across multiple merchants independent of form of payment or type of goods or services. This enables the rapid creation of a targeted base of customers in selected groups. Embodiments of the present invention provide a standard customer product that enables demographic segments of particular interest to be targeted without regard to purchase method or purchasing type.
  • [0026]
    Embodiments of the present invention manage and control a loyalty rewards networks by which customers are provided with access to and use of a loyalty rewards network to earn loyalty rewards irrespective of method of payment. Loyalty rewards are gained by simply entering or swiping a loyalty rewards card or token through a reader/sensor before, or at the time, the customer pays for their goods or services from a participating merchant or financial institution. The rewards information can be made available for use, for example, by the customers in the form of a loyalty reward card. The loyalty rewards card, for example, can be associated with a loyalty rewards card number and a member customer. The card may be a tangible, physical card with storage media thereon, or it may take the form of a virtual card in the form of data stored in and accessible from a computer memory or storage device after appropriate security and authentication through code or password identification. The loyalty rewards card is provided to the customers after the customer becomes a member of the loyalty rewards network.
  • [0027]
    In some embodiments, the loyalty cards are associated with a member customer, or one or more member customers (e.g., husband and wife), and can be used on existing financial services networks. The loyalty rewards card can have, for example, indicia, e.g., logos, slogans, source identifiers, of a loyalty rewards network sponsor and of a credit card processor; a serial number; and expiration date. The structures of various types of specific cards, e.g., magnetic stripe, and types of material are well known to those skilled in the art and can be used with embodiments of the present invention. Typically, a card is formed from plastic and has a magnetic stripe affixed to the plastic through an application of heat. Those skilled in the art will understand that other embodiments besides a magnetic stripe can include radio frequency identification devices (RFID), smart chips, bar codes, and other similar devices.
  • [0028]
    As one skilled in the art will appreciate, a loyalty rewards card with a magnetic stripe can store information, or data, e.g., account information, by modifying the magnetism of particles on the magnetic stripe on the card. Data can be read by swiping the card through a slot past a reading head of a card reader device, including most point-of-sale hardware. Embodiments of the card can include, for example, two tracks of data on a magnetic card used for transactions, known as tracks 1 and 2. In addition, a third track, known as track 3, can be available for magnetic stripe cards. Tracks 1 and 3, if available, are typically recorded at 210 bits per inch, while track 2 typically has a recording density of 75 bits per inch. Track 2, as typically encoded, provides for numeric data characters, including up to 19 digits for a primary account number (including a Bank Identification Number (“BIN”) as understood by those skilled in the art), an expiration date, a service code, and discretionary verification data, such as, a Personal Identification Number (“PIN”). It should be understood that the loyalty cards need not be in the form of plastic or synthetic resin cards. It is contemplated that the loyalty cards may take other configurations such as tokens, key fobs or other conveniently shaped small articles that are capable of containing comparable identification and authentication data to that used with the present invention.
  • [0029]
    More specifically, electronic data from a point of sale terminal are received over an electronics communication media or link about purchases made by a customer that entitles the purchaser to loyalty rewards. The received data is analyzed in a computer that manages the loyalty rewards network according to the present invention. The computer determines if the customer is a member of the loyalty rewards network, based on data stored in a loyalty rewards network database stored in machine-readable media and electronically accessible to the computer. If the customer is not a member, the computer can inquire whether or not the customer would like to be a member, and enroll the customer in the loyalty rewards network if the customer desires to become a member. If the customer is a member or becomes a member, the electronic data about purchases are entered and stored in the loyalty rewards network database. An electronic message indicating the nature and type of loyalty rewards available to the customer from the network is then sent from the loyalty rewards network computer over electronics communication links or media to the member customer. The member customer selects one or more of the available loyalty reward actions. For example, an available loyalty reward action can be issuing a gift card (e.g., if the member customer has accumulated $10 dollars in loyalty rewards by purchasing $200 dollars worth of goods, a $10 gift card can be issued). The loyalty rewards network computer applies the loyalty rewards pursuant to the electronically received instructions from the member customer. The loyalty rewards computer implements the one or more selected loyalty rewards actions, and sends an electronic message over the communications link to the customer with confirmation of the loyalty rewards action.
  • [0030]
    Access to and use of the network, according to the present invention, may be supported by a merchant who is desirous of, and qualified to, become a participating merchant in the loyalty rewards network, and as such is willing to comply with the appropriate terms and conditions of the network. The network is thus available at locations where the network upon which the card is issued is accepted. The invention may be implemented as a computerized process, a computer system, or a computer program product.
  • [0031]
    A computer 30 for managing and controlling a loyalty rewards network over an existing (traditional) financial services electronic payment network 100 is shown in FIG. 6. The POS terminal 24 receives the payment using the loyalty rewards card 90; a merchant computer 101 for accepting purchasing transaction and facilitating communication of the transaction and associated loyalty rewards data; the financial services electronic payment network 100 provides to identify an issuer associated with the loyalty rewards card 90, an credit card processor computer 30 for processing the transaction and the loyalty rewards data, and for executing the instructions for managing and controlling the loyalty rewards network through communications medium 28. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, the merchant computer 101 and financial services electronic payment network 100 are component of a traditional payment transaction system that enables credit transactions with a merchant, e.g., consumer credit card and debit card systems, and as such, credit card 30 can process payment information in addition to and in conjunction with loyalty rewards network functions of the instant invention.
  • [0032]
    Communication medium 28 connects the loyalty rewards card 90 to the merchant computer 101, financial services electronic payment network 33, the credit card processor computer 30, the loyalty rewards network card distribution partners 40, and the loyalty rewards network sponsor 38 (though the communications medium 28 is depicted as connecting only the credit card processor computer 30, the loyalty rewards network card distribution partners 40, and the loyalty rewards network sponsor 38). The communication medium 28 can include, for example, a telecommunication network 103, which can include a wire-based telephone network, pager network, cellular network, or a combination thereof, and a computer network 105. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, the computer network 105 can connect all of the system components using a local area network (“LAN”) or wide area network (“WAN”), or a combination thereof.
  • [0033]
    During operation, the loyalty rewards card 90, for example, can connect to the POS terminal 24, which can be, e.g., a terminal at a merchant or, alternatively, a device interface such as a telephone or computer connected to an internet connection. To use the POS terminal 24, and thereby access the credit card processor computer 30, a consumer swipes or otherwise enters order information carried on the loyalty rewards card for goods and/or services.
  • [0034]
    In a preferred embodiment, the loyalty rewards card number 92 is extracted from the loyalty rewards card 90, and passed to the merchant computer 30 in response to a consumer or merchant swiping or otherwise interfacing a loyalty rewards card 90 with a POS terminal 24, or by entering the loyalty rewards card number 92 directly into the POS terminal 24 via keypad (not shown). Once the POS terminal 24 receives the loyalty rewards card number 92, and any other data that may be stored in the storage medium, from the loyalty rewards card 90, the POS terminal 24 may append time of sale data thereto for transmission, i.e., and any additional transaction information such as the transaction date, transaction time, merchant identification, etc., and thereby assemble the loyalty rewards data. The loyalty rewards data is then encrypted and transmitted through the communications medium 28 to the merchant computer 101. The merchant computer is both configured and positioned in communication with the credit card processor computer 30 through the financial services electronic payment network 100, and decrypts the loyalty rewards data, including the loyalty rewards card number 92, and appends additional data, such as the merchant acquirer identification, there to for transmission of the purchase transaction message to the financial services electronic payment network 100. As one skilled in the art will recognize, in addition to transmitting the loyalty rewards network card 92, the merchant could also transmit settlement data to the payment network so that the merchant or can receive payment in conjunction with available loyalty rewards network action. To perform these duties, merchant computer 101, for example, consists of at least one computer, though it can be implemented as one or more computers each having a processor and memory coupled to the processor to store operating instructions therein, which can be configured in the form of a server.
  • [0035]
    The merchant computer 101 transmits the loyalty rewards data, including the loyalty rewards card number 92, to the financial services electronic payment network 100, which operates to set transaction rules, facilitate transactions, settles funds between parties, engages in risk mitigation etc. Examples of payment networks 100 are e.g., MasterCard®, Visa®, American Express®, or Discover® network. At the financial services electronic payment network 100, the loyalty rewards data is decrypted so that the credit card processor can be identified and the loyalty rewards data is then routed to the appropriate credit card processor computer 30. The financial services electronic payment network 100 can be configured as one or more computers each having a processor and memory coupled to the processor to store operating instructions therein, which can be configured in the form of a server.
  • [0036]
    As shown in FIG. 6, the credit card processor 30 can, for example, connect to the communication medium 28 via telecommunications interface 107 and web server 109.
  • [0037]
    As shown in FIG. 6 telecommunications interface 107 allows a loyalty rewards card 90, loyalty rewards network card distribution partner 40, loyalty rewards network sponsor 38, a merchant computer 101, or a customer 20, to connect to the credit card processor 30. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, web server 109 provides the payment network 100, merchant computers 101, loyalty rewards network card distribution partners 40, loyalty rewards network sponsors 38, and networked computers access to the credit card processor computer 30, and is used to manage computer traffic to and from the credit card processor computer 30. As such, web server 109 is configured with processors, memory, and I/O devices to allow efficient exchange of data between the credit card processor 30, its related components and the financial services electronic payment network 100 to facilitate the web functions thereof.
  • [0038]
    As further illustrated in FIG. 1, a loyalty rewards network system includes a communication medium 28 that connects a customer 20, a participating merchant 26 (connected e.g. to merchant computer 101), a credit card processor computer 30, a loyalty rewards network card distribution partner 40, and a loyalty rewards network sponsor 38 participating in the loyalty rewards network N. The participating merchant 26 has associated therewith a point of sale (“POS”) terminal 24 for interacting with a customer and a loyalty rewards card 90 via e.g., the merchant computer 101. The POS terminal 24 can be, e.g., a terminal at a merchant or, alternatively, a device interface such as a telephone or computer connected to an internet connection, and initiates a purchase. The POS terminal 24 can include a keypad so that a customer can enter an electronic order card number; a barcode scanner (so the merchant can scan a barcode associated with the order, a product, or the loyalty rewards card); and a magnetic stripe reader/slot (so the merchant or customer can scan a magnetic stripe on the loyalty reward card). The reader/slot is a convention reader that can also read, for example, credit cards. Alternative embodiments of the POS terminal can include an RFID interface and/or a contact memory button reader. The POS terminal, further includes various software and hardware for interfacing with a financial services electronic payment network, and a credit card processor computer 30, as known and understood by those skilled in the art. For example, the POS terminal may include a computer display screen (not shown) for displaying transaction data, a computer memory such RAM, ROM and related hard disk storage for storing transaction data or computer instructions, a computer processor for executing computer instruction, and associated buses for data input and output, including those to connect the POS terminal 24 to the communications medium 28 for interaction with the credit card processor computer 30. As such, the POS terminal 24 may be one of the available type from vendors Hypercom, Verifone, Lipman Nurit, Ingenico, and the like; or by keying the traditional Network 16-digit card number (with or without the security code) into a traditional or web-based POS terminal, over a land-based or cellular telephone or using other electronic transmission technology, e.g., RFID.
  • [0039]
    The loyalty rewards card adapted to interface with the POS terminal 24. In such embodiments, as illustrated in FIGS. 5A and 5B, the present invention may associate, for example, with the loyalty rewards network card 90 with the member consumer. As understood by those skilled in the art, a loyalty rewards network card 90 can have indicia 91, e.g., logos, slogans, source identifiers, of a sponsoring bank and of a loyalty rewards network card processor; a serial number 92; and expiration date 93. The structures of various types of specific cards, e.g., magnetic stripe 94, and types of material are well known to those skilled in the art and can be used with embodiments of the present invention. Typically, a card 90 is formed from plastic and has a magnetic stripe 94 affixed to the plastic through an application of heat. Those skilled in the art will understand that other embodiments besides a magnetic stripe can include radio frequency identification devices (RFID), smart chips, bar codes, and other similar devices. Embodiments of the present invention can include forming cards or having a customer purchase, otherwise convert, or receive cards already formed.
  • [0040]
    The participating merchant 26 of the loyalty rewards networks may also accept payment in a variety of forms such as cash, credit card, debit card, or check for the goods or services upon which loyalty rewards will be offered, In the process of the customer paying for the goods or services, the customer may also offer his or her credit card to the merchant, who swipes that card through its POS terminal 24, enters the purchase price amount into terminal 24 or an associated data input keypad or the like, and presses a transmit key (normally, the “credit” button) to send a point of sale or POS message to the credit card processor 30 through the merchant computer 101 (FIG. 6) and communication medium 28. In addition to the payment transaction, the merchant may allow the customer to also initiate a loyalty rewards network transaction by allowing the customer to also swipe its loyalty rewards card—or in a simplified embodiment, the loyalty rewards card is integrated with the customer's credit card to simplify the transaction steps. Alternatively, the customer may offer its loyalty rewards card to the merchant and pay cash for the goods or services. In such instances, a message passed through the POS terminal may include a message for a zero charge, or some other identifier indicating that the message is a loyalty rewards message not a credit message. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, though not all possible combinations of methods for a customer to interact with the POS terminal to access the loyalty rewards network are described herein, all such configurations are within the scope of the present invention.
  • [0041]
    Moreover, customers use their respective physical or virtual cards in one of several ways, e.g., swiping the physical card or in a traditional point-of-sale (“POS”) terminal, as shown schematically at 24, or by accessing the rewards network though a personal computer. Rather than using the actual card number, some businesses may choose to use some other identifier that is uniquely associated with the card number for verification/security purposes to gain access to the computerized loyalty rewards network. Such embodiments may be beneficial for use as, e.g., a code entered on a merchant's website, etc.
  • [0042]
    As previously mentioned, the loyalty rewards network data from the POS terminal is routed through the traditional (i.e., existing) financial services electronic payment networks (e.g., MasterCard®, Visa®, Discover®, American Express®) via the communication medium 28 to the credit card processor computer 30. The credit card processor computer 30 analyzes the loyalty rewards network message to verify the identity and membership of the customer in the loyalty rewards network. The credit card processor computer analyzes the loyalty rewards network data to determine one or more of the following: loyalty rewards card number, card security code, merchant category code (“MCC”), merchant name, merchant identification number, terminal identification number, time-of-day of transaction, allowable merchant, allowable quantity, allowable number of purchases within a prescribed period of time and the like.
  • [0043]
    The credit card processor 30 accumulates and analyzes the loyalty rewards network data according to collection parameters stored on a loyalty reward network database, and may be one or more computers or servers to store the program products and databases thereon as is known by those of skill in the art. The collection parameters are rules-based, table-driven and configurable in real-time. The credit card processor 30 enables a plurality of member customers to accumulate loyalty rewards and use them at the member customer's discretion, so long as within the collection parameters. The loyalty reward can, for example, correspond with purchasing behavior and reward the member customer for purchasing products. The credit card processor 30 accumulates the loyalty reward network data in a loyalty rewards network database portion of loyalty rewards data storage 32 stored in a memory 34. The memory 34 is accessible as a component portion of the credit card processor 30, or it may also take the form of a digital data storage device or media otherwise accessible to the credit card processor 30. The memory 34 also includes or has access to a digital data storage area or device 36 containing customer card account data for a financial institution or organization offering regular credit card services.
  • [0044]
    As further shown in FIG. 2, the credit card processor 30 can include memory 34 storing the royalty reward data 32, customer card account data 36, and computer program product P, an input/output (“I/O”) interface 64 for transferring information or data, as well as commands to the computer 30, a processor 66 from directing data to and from the memory, a computer terminal 68 for displaying data to a user. The I/O interface 64 also receives data and information furnished the computer 30 from other authorized sources over the electronic communications network 28. The I/O interface 64 can be any I/O interfaces including, but not limited to, a network card/controller connected by a PCI bus to the motherboard, or hardware built into the motherboard of the computer 30. As can be seen, the I/O interface 64 is connected to the processor 66.
  • [0045]
    The processor 66 is the “brains” of the credit card processor computer 30, and as such executes program product and work in conjunction with the I/O interface 64 to direct data to memory 34 and to send data from memory 34 to the communications medium 28. Processor 28 can be any commercially available processor, or plurality of processors, adapted for use for the computer 30, e.g., Intel® Xeon® multicore processors, Intel® micro-architecture Nehalem, AMD Opteron™ multicore processors, etc. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, processor 28 may also include components that allow the to be connected to a display 68 and keyboard [not shown] that would allow a user to directly access loyalty rewards network data stored in memory 34.
  • [0046]
    Memory 34 stores the program product of the instant invention, customer account database 36, and loyalty rewards network database 32. It should be understood that various types of computer readable media are available and adapted for use as memory 34 to store the computer program product P and the forms of loyalty reward data 32 and customer card account data 36 according to the present invention. Such forms of computer readable media include but are not limited to tangible storage media, such as nonvolatile, hard-coded type media such as read only memories (ROMs), CD-ROMs, and DVD-ROMs, or erasable, electrically programmable read only memories (EEPROMs), recordable type media such as floppy disks, hard disk drives, CD-R/RWs, DVD-RAMs, DVD-RIRWs, DVD+R/RWs, flash drives, memory sticks, and other newer types of memories; as well as transmission type media such as digital and analog communication links. The data stored in such media may also include loyalty rewards network data and criteria, and operating instructions for management and control of the loyalty rewards network, as well as instructions related to operation of the computer system 30 and performance of the method steps described above. It should also be understood that such media can be at other locations instead of or in addition to the locations described above to store program products, e.g., including software, thereon.
  • [0047]
    Returning to FIG. 2, the loyalty rewards database 32 may be stored in, e.g., a database in memory 34, and can include, among other things, one or more of the following stored in, e.g., separate tables, columns or fields: (i) the loyalty reward network card number, (ii) the date and time of the transaction; (iii) the merchant category code (“MCC”), which is similar to a standard industrial classification (“SIC”) code; (iv) the merchant's name; (v) terminal identification number upon which the loyalty reward network transaction occurred; and (vi) the dollar value of the customer's purchase. It should be understood that other additional types of data may also be required to be collected, if desired. The loyalty rewards network data 32 may also include machine-readable data concerning loyalty rewards criteria, rules and conditions, as well as collection parameters. The collection parameters are rules-based, table-driven and preferably configurable in real-time. The rules, conditions, and criteria establish availability, amount, and terms for obtaining loyalty rewards or use of such rewards and are chosen by the network provider or service of the loyalty rewards network.
  • [0048]
    A user may access the loyalty rewards network database 32 via, e.g., a web-based system interacting with the credit card processor computer I/O device 34, processor 66, and program product P. In such a configuration, loyalty reward network participants including, participating merchants, card distribution partners, loyalty rewards network sponsors, and participating customers, would be able to see, among other things, the number of loyalty reward network purchases that have been transmitted and processed, and loyalty rewards that have been requested and fulfilled.
  • [0049]
    Returning to FIG. 2, the customer card account database 36 stores customer account data and may have separate tables, columns or fields that are used to link the customer to the data in the loyalty rewards network database 32, provide enrollment data for the loyalty rewards network, or otherwise associate an existing credit card customer with the loyalty rewards' network. As such, the loyalty rewards network permits customers who are interested in participation in the loyalty rewards network to join using, e.g., existing credit card data. Customer card account database 36 can therefore include, e.g., data such as a customer name, customer social security number, customer address, customer demographic information, customer payment history, amount owed on account, etc.
  • [0050]
    Referring now to FIG. 3, a computer-implemented method according to program product P of an embodiment of the invention is set forth. As will be set forth, in the process P, a computer implemented method or process can cause the credit card processor computer 30 to manage the loyalty rewards network and provide customer loyalty rewards based on purchases by the customer. The amount and type of rewards are based on collection parameters stored in the memory 32, e.g., the loyalty rewards database 32, accessible to the computer 30. Embodiments of the present invention can include, as indicated at step 50 of FIG. 3, receiving data at the computer 30 from a POS about purchases of the customer entitling the customer to obtain loyalty rewards.
  • [0051]
    The computer-implemented method then determines at step 52 if the customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty reward network based on the contents stored in the loyalty reward network database 32 and the received loyalty reward data. If the customer is not a member customer, the computer 30 at step 56 customer inquires through the communications media 28 of the customer's interest in joining the loyalty rewards network. If the customer indicates interest in the loyalty reward network, enrollment occurs in the manner previously described above, and processing continues. If no interest is manifested, processing according to the present invention terminates.
  • [0052]
    The program product P, during step 54, stores the received loyalty rewards network customer data in the loyalty rewards network database 32, and determines the availability loyalty rewards action according to the stored loyalty rewards collection parameters and the accumulated loyalty rewards network data for the member customer. The computer 30 transmits via the communication media 28 the determined available loyalty rewards action to the member customer at step 56. The member customer then selects on or more loyalty reward actions and sends the selection to the computer via the communication medium 28 at step 58. During step 60, the computer implements the one or more selected loyalty reward action and sends a loyalty reward action confirmation over the communications media 28 from the computer 30 to the member customer. For example, if the computer determines based on the collection parameters and other data stored in the loyalty reward network database 32 that a $10 gift card is an available loyalty reward action, such information is transmitted to the member customer. If the member customer, in this example, selects the $10 gift card, the computer implements this action and transmits a loyalty reward action confirmation to the member customer. In the alternative, if the member customer does not select one or more available loyalty reward actions, then the computer will store the loyalty rewards for later use at the member customer's discretion.
  • [0053]
    The computer program product P, as illustrated in FIG. 4, is operable on the computer 30, stored on a tangible computer memory media 34, and operable by the processor 66 on the computer 30. The computer program product P comprises a set of instructions 70 that, when executed by the processor 66, cause the computer 30 to perform various operations. For example, the operations may include receiving data from a point of sale about purchases of a customer entitling the customer to obtain loyalty rewards (step 70). The computer program product P further includes operations to determine or confirm from the received data that the customer is one of the plurality of member customers enrolled in the loyalty reward network (step 72).
  • [0054]
    The computer program product P can further include, for example, operations for inquiring about the customer's interest in joining the loyalty rewards network in the event that the customer making purchases is not already a member (step 72). If the customer indicates membership or participation interest, enrollment is made available by the computer. If no interest is manifested, the computer program product according to the present invention terminates. Enrollment may occur before or at the time of making a purchase from a participating merchant. For example, a customer not yet a member of the loyalty rewards network, but having a customer card account with a participating merchant institution or entity participating in the loyalty rewards network, may indicate such an interest. The customer can be identified for subsequent loyalty rewards participation from data indicated by the contents of a customer card account database 36, which is the conventional credit card database with the participating merchant or organization offering the credit card processor 30, e.g., includes data such as a customer name, customer social security number, customer address, customer demographic information, customer payment history, amount owed on account, etc.
  • [0055]
    For example, when such an existing credit card customer indicates an interest in the loyalty rewards network, loyalty reward information beyond that already stored in the customer account database is then requested and electronically gathered and sent from the merchant to the credit card processor 30 for storage in either the customer account database 36, e.g., to link the customer account database to the loyalty rewards database 32, or the loyalty rewards network database 32, e.g., to include purchase data, rewards points and other criteria identified above. Appropriate processing to authorize the interested customer as a new member may also occur. Once authorized, the new member to the loyalty rewards network is furnished a unique loyalty rewards card number and a loyalty rewards card that may at first be a temporary one, and followed later by a permanent one for continuing use and participation in the loyalty rewards program. The computer program product P also includes, for example, storing and analyzing the received customer data in the loyalty rewards network database 32 (step 74) commensurate with the steps noted above.
  • [0056]
    After the issuance of the loyalty reward card, the customer may also register their interest in receiving rewards. This may be accomplished for example, by electronic message transmission, a web-interface, an interactive voice response unit or a cell phone text message, or short message service (SMS) message, with registration data to be stored in either the customer card account database 36, loyalty rewards database 32, or a combination thereof. The loyalty reward network may or may not send back an acknowledgement of registration to the member customer at the time of joining the network. In any event, a loyalty reward network card and card number are both delivered in an appropriate and customary time manner to the customer for continuing use. As such, loyalty reward card delivery can either be electronic, e.g., via e-mail, or through actual delivery of a standard thirty-mil plastic card with a magnetic stripe that functions on a traditional financial services network, e.g., MasterCard®, Visa®, Discover®, or American Express.®
  • [0057]
    Uniqueness of card numbers is preserved by generating all numbers through check-sum-digit algorithms based on DES-3 standards. The Bank Identification Number (“BIN) that the physical or virtual loyalty cards function is configured such that when loyalty reward network transactions are transmitted, they are not reported or recorded as financial transactions. Accordingly, the loyalty reward data does not cause financial settlement to occurs. Financial settlement, however, can occur if the method of payment is a credit card transaction, or other type of transaction, that is transmitted over the existing financial services electronic payment network for authorization.
  • [0058]
    The computer program product P further can include operations for determining the available loyalty reward action for the member customer and sending the member customer one or more available loyalty reward actions (step 76). Upon of the accumulation of sufficient loyalty rewards stored in the loyalty reward network database 32 for a member customer pursuant to collection parameters, the credit card processor 30 offers the member customer the available loyalty rewards to use customer at the customer's discretion. Use of the loyalty rewards may or may not be restricted to use at participating loyalty reward network merchants. For example, upon spending $200 in the loyalty reward network, the customer may earn a specified amount such as $10, which represents a trigger point for offering the customer a financial network branded gift card from a participating merchant in that amount. It should be understood that the loyalty rewards according to the present invention may take other forms than gift cards. For example, the loyalty reward may take the form of payment to some other entity. Other entities to which payments may be made include, for example, (i) the loyalty reward network itself indicated at N as managed by credit card processor 30; (ii) one or more of the participating merchants; (iii) a loyalty reward network sponsors 38, who may or may not have their particular brand displayed on the loyalty reward network card; and (iv) a loyalty reward network card distribution Partners as indicated at 40, e.g., merchants and other customers. The operations can further include receiving instructions from the customer one or more selected loyalty rewards (step 80). In such a process, the computer then implements the one or more selected loyalty reward action and sends the member customer a confirmation loyalty reward action (step 82).
  • [0059]
    The present invention also permits partial authorization of loyalty rewards in appropriate circumstances. In a situation where a partial authorization of a customer request for a loyalty reward is permissible, an authorization request from the customer originates in the merchant or POS terminal 24. The authorization request sent includes in the message a coded indicator or flag indicating that the terminal is capable of a partial authorization response. When the credit card processor 30 receives the message with the partial authorization flag, if the entire amount cannot be authorized, the credit card processor 30 can send back a conditional authorization message indicating that even though the original amount cannot be authorized, a lesser amount can be authorized.
  • [0060]
    For example, if the authorization request is for $20, but the loyalty reward balance is only $10, rather then sending back a decline, the conditional authorization response is granted for the amount of $10. In the loyalty reward network scenario, the authorization request will be for the full amount of the purchase and the conditional authorization amount will be $0. Use of the partial authorization message in this manner according to the present invention thus allows the Loyalty Reward Network to communicate back to the merchant and to the Loyalty Reward Network cardholder that the Loyalty Reward Network Data has, in fact, been captured.
  • [0061]
    In some embodiments, the credit card processor 30 after analyzing and accumulating the loyalty reward network data, can, for example, transmit notice of receipt to the customer. Transmissions to the customer may occur in a number of ways including, but not limited to, by short message service (SMS), email, receipt of a traditional response code that may be configured in such a way as to communicate additional order-specific data back to the customer, or through the unique use of a network partial authorization message.
  • [0062]
    Embodiments of the invention can also include making at least some of the stored loyalty rewards data available to a loyalty rewards network sponsor 38, a loyalty rewards network card distribution partner 40, a participating merchant, and a member customer through one or more communication networks not associated with the financial services electronic payment network. Operations can include, for example, compiling loyalty rewards network data, real-time, for transmission to one or more loyalty rewards network sponsor 38, a loyalty rewards network card distribution partner 40, and a participating merchant. Beneficially, subscribing entities could access near real-time purchasing behavior, irrespective of the method of payment or type of goods or services provided. Such data across multiple merchants can be invaluable to marketers, especially for marketers interested in the demographics that are not typically participants in credit card programs customer.
  • [0063]
    Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to the mind of one skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the illustrated embodiments disclosed, and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (21)

  1. 1-20. (canceled)
  2. 21. A machine for managing a loyalty rewards network through an existing financial services electronic payment network, the machine comprising:
    a processor computer having a non-transitory computer memory and a processor operable thereon, the processor computer associated with and in communication with a financial services network;
    a computer program product, stored in the non-transitory computer memory and operable by the processor computer, the computer program product performing a process of enrolling a customer in a loyalty rewards network, and a process of transmitting a loyalty rewards to the member customer, the computer program product comprising the instructions of:
    associating the customer with a loyalty rewards card account, the loyalty rewards card account having a unique loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer;
    associating at least one merchant with loyalty rewards and loyalty rewards criteria, the loyalty rewards criteria associated with customer purchase data required to generate loyalty rewards;
    determining an availability of loyalty rewards for the customer responsive to receiving, via the financial services electronic payment network, the electronic loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer and customer purchase data, the availability of loyalty reward being determined using the loyalty rewards criteria;
    crediting the loyalty rewards card account with the loyalty responsive to the determination that loyalty rewards are available; and
    implementing one or more selected loyalty rewards actions responsive to electronically receiving instructions from the customer to redeem loyalty rewards.
  3. 22. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the customer purchase data includes one or more of the following data items: merchant category code, merchant identification number, standard industrial classification, terminal identification number, date purchased, time-of-day purchased, and dollar value of purchase.
  4. 23. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the computer program product further comprises the instruction of:
    settling a financial transaction at the merchant after transmitting the loyalty rewards to the customer.
  5. 24. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the customer is issued a loyalty rewards network card, the loyalty rewards identifier being stored on the loyalty rewards network card and the loyalty rewards network card being used to interact with the processor computer.
  6. 25. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the one or more loyalty rewards actions includes: issuing a gift card, applying a payment to a participating merchant in the loyalty rewards network, applying payment to a loyalty rewards network sponsor, applying payment to a card distribution partner of the loyalty rewards network, or applying payment to the one or more purchases.
  7. 26. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the customer purchase data originates with a point of sale terminal connected to the processor computer via the financial services electronic payment network, the point of sale terminal being positioned to receive data from a customer card account database accessible by the processor computer.
  8. 27. A machine according to claim 21, wherein the machine is adapted so that a customer can access its loyalty rewards network account using a personal computer connected to the financial services network.
  9. 28. A computer program product, stored in a non-transitory computer memory of a processor computer and operable by thereon, the computer program product performing a process of enrolling a customer in a loyalty rewards network, and a process of transmitting loyalty rewards to the member customer over a financial services electronic payment network, the computer program product comprising the instructions of:
    associating the customer with a loyalty rewards card account, the loyalty rewards card account having a loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer;
    associating at least one merchant with loyalty rewards and loyalty rewards criteria, the loyalty rewards criteria associated with customer purchase data required to generate loyalty rewards at the at least one merchant;
    determining an availability of loyalty rewards for the customer responsive to receiving, via the financial services electronic payment network, the electronic loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer and customer purchase data, the availability of loyalty reward being determined using the loyalty rewards criteria;
    crediting the loyalty rewards card account with the loyalty rewards at the at least one merchant responsive to the determination that loyalty rewards are available; and
    implementing one or more selected loyalty rewards actions responsive to electronically receiving instructions from the customer to redeem loyalty rewards.
  10. 29. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the customer purchase data received by the computer includes one or more of the following data items: merchant category code, merchant identification number, standard industrial classification, terminal identification number, date purchased, time-of-day purchased, dollar value of purchase, and a loyalty rewards network card number associated with the member customer.
  11. 30. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the computer program product further comprises the instruction of:
    settling a financial transaction at the merchant after transmitting the loyalty rewards to the customer.
  12. 31. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the customer is issued a loyalty rewards network card, the loyalty rewards identifier being stored on the loyalty rewards network card and the loyalty rewards network card being used to interact with the processor computer.
  13. 32. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the one or more loyalty rewards actions includes: issuing a gift card, applying a payment to a participating merchant in the loyalty rewards network, applying payment to a loyalty rewards network sponsor, applying payment to a card distribution partner of the loyalty rewards network, or applying payment to the one or more purchases.
  14. 33. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the customer purchase data originates with a point of sale terminal connected to the processor computer via the financial services electronic payment network, the point of sale terminal being positioned to receive data from a customer card account database accessible by the processor computer.
  15. 34. A computer program product according to claim 28, wherein the computer program is adapted so that a customer can access its loyalty rewards network account using a personal computer connected to the financial services network.
  16. 35. A computer-implemented method to cause a processor computer to perform a process of enrolling a customer in a loyalty rewards network, and a process of transmitting loyalty rewards to the member customer over a financial services electronic payment network, the computer implemented method comprising the instructions of:
    associating the customer with a loyalty rewards card account, the loyalty rewards card account having a unique loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer;
    associating at least one merchant with loyalty rewards and loyalty rewards criteria, the loyalty rewards criteria associated with customer purchase data required to generate loyalty rewards at the at least one merchant;
    determining an availability of loyalty rewards for the customer responsive to receiving, via the financial services electronic payment network, the electronic loyalty rewards identifier associated with the customer and customer purchase data, the availability of loyalty reward being determined using the loyalty rewards criteria;
    crediting the loyalty rewards card account with the loyalty rewards at the at least one merchant responsive to the determination that loyalty rewards are available; and
    implementing one or more selected loyalty rewards actions responsive to electronically receiving instructions from the customer to redeem loyalty rewards.
  17. 36. A computer-implemented method according to claim 35, wherein the customer purchase data received by the computer includes one or more of the following data items: merchant category code, merchant identification number, standard industrial classification, terminal identification number, date purchased, time-of-day purchased, dollar value of purchase, and a loyalty rewards network card number associated with the member customer.
  18. 37. A computer implemented method according to claim 35, wherein the computer-implemented method further comprises the instruction of:
    settling a financial transaction at the merchant after transmitting the loyalty rewards to the customer.
  19. 38. A computer implemented method according to claim 35, wherein the customer is issued a unique loyalty rewards network card, the unique loyalty rewards identifier being stored on the unique loyalty rewards network card and the loyalty rewards network card being used to interact with the processor computer.
  20. 39. A computer implemented method according to claim 35, wherein the one or more loyalty rewards actions includes: issuing a gift card, applying a payment to a participating merchant in the loyalty rewards network, applying payment to a loyalty rewards network sponsor, applying payment to a card distribution partner of the loyalty rewards network, or applying payment to the one or more purchases.
  21. 40. A computer implemented method according to claim 35, wherein the customer purchase data originates with a point of sale terminal connected to the processor computer via the financial services electronic payment network, the point of sale terminal being positioned to receive data from a customer card account database accessible by the processor computer.
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Owner name: METABANK, SOUTH DAKOTA

Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:GALIT, SCOTT;CROWE, ANDREW;REEL/FRAME:026722/0223

Effective date: 20100112