FirstData’s Sarah Owen: Digital Receipts Are ‘Social Currency’

The giants of American commerce are now diving into the “local” space. American Express, MasterCard, Citibank are just some of the big brands entering local via SMB and national retailer relationships. FirstData, which processes secure transactions for 7,000 financial institutions and more than 4 million U.S. merchants — 50 percent of U.S. merchants — has now jumped in as well.

As we noted in a blog post earlier this week, First Data has announced a JV with CardSpring that will offer a smart commerce platform to local merchants via local online and mobile media publishers, such as city guides or Yellow Pages.

Sarah Owen, FirstData’s VP of personalized marketing and loyalty, notes that it is an important extension for First Data. The new technology provides all kinds of promotional linkages to transactions (deals, coupons, gift cards, loyalty points etc.). That means that “financial institutions become publishers as well,” she says. “It’s all about digital receipts. That’s the social currency.”

Owen takes issue with the idea — OK, my idea — that the CardSpring platform may be seen as an alternative to electronic (mobile) wallets. “I absolutely see a need for a mobile wallet….to make lives easier,” she says. FirstData’s intentions are “to make mobile wallets more robust” and “proliferate faster” by providing a universal platform that doesn’t need any new hardware.

And she assures it would be easy to do. Some doubts were raised about consumers proactively going on the Web to sign up for apps, but Owen says apps could also be pushed out to people on their phones and tablets. It is a simple affirmation. Card swipe technology is in the works too but isn’t ready yet.

Owen also suggests that OfferWise fits in well with branded bank and credit card and deals services since it is “not consumer facing.” OfferWise, for instance, could be used by Google Wallet to “expand its functionality,” she says. “We have a robust redemption platform.”

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