Consumers love a bargain no matter the market demographic and some consumers continue to patronize the same types of stores for their purchasing needs. With the holiday season closing in, Bank of America is releasing its new Silver A-Plus card in an attempt to capitalize on the increased number of sales within this particular period.
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The Silver A-Plus card works by linking its use to particular high end retail establishments such as Saks, Macy’s, Tiffany’s and Lord and Taylor to name a few.
Eligible bank clients can choose which particular establishments they would like to link to the card and as a result this enables them to avail of special discounts as well as the use of exclusive member services such as a personal shopper, free delivery, free access to the store’s customer lounge, priority customer service as well as a variety of other services depending on the store they choose (ITT Sheraton, American Express launch co-branded credit card, 1996).
For each store linked to the card a holographic stamp will be placed on the card’s surface enabling easy identification by store employees and thus facilitating greater client comfort. Due to inherent space limitations on the card a client will be limited to four to five stores of their choosing and will only be able to avail of their special discounts and privileges in those stores alone.
If utilized in other high end establishments the card will work the same as every other credit card and as such doesn’t limit clients to shop in those particular stores alone.
The benefit of having Bank of America releasing this particular card lies in the fact that several high end stores would try to compete in being the preferred establishment where A-Plus card holders would choose to connect to their card.
This would result in greater discounts, better services and even more preferential rates given to Bank of America in order to better entice customers.
As the holiday season draws nearer more consumers are going to start making their Christmas and New Year’s gift purchases.
With the Silver A-Plus card specifically targeting consumers in the top 10 to 1 percent of the economy the goal of the bank is to be able to connect particular consumers with particular stores and by doing so make a profit of off their holiday purchases and agreements with the high end retail stores that they connect to the card.
The current market in this particular case is composed of several of New York city’s high end stores while the consumers are primarily clients with high credit scores and a history of timely and prevalent credit card purchases at such establishments.
The location of the target market will primarily be in the Upper East Side of Manhattan as well as several other prominent locations within New York City.
The reason behind this is due to the fact that stores such as Sac’s, Macy’s and Tiffany’s are primarily located along 5th Avenue while other similar stores are scattered in different locations in New York City as well.
Due to the fact that the Silver A-Plus card is relatively new it would be necessary to test it out within a given location first before further expansion into other territories. Due to the concentration of high end shops and upper income consumers within New York City the area seems to be the most viable location to test out the effectiveness of the A-Plus card.
The target market demographics for the A-Plus card will primarily be high income clients of Bank of America. These individuals should have excellent credit scores of 600 and above while at the same time show consistent patronage of some of New York’s most prestigious and high end establishments.
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It is assumed, though not entirely confirmed, that 60 to 70 percent of the clientele that match the specified requirements will be female clients of the bank while the remaining 40 or 30 percent will be male. This is based upon consumer market surveys which examined the prevalence of female shoppers at high end department stores as compared to male consumers of the same level of income.
Specific behavioral factors that should be present are: high and occasional purchases of expensive brand name goods and services, little variation in purchasing location (i.e. continuous patronage of the same high end stores), yearly wardrobe changes depending on the styles popular for that particular season (i.e. spring, summer, fall and winter collections) and finally little or no delinquency in paying for purchases made.
The market need in this particular case is that consumers need a credit card that links specifically to the store where they do the most shopping and as such enables them to derive the most benefit from shopping at their favorite location through special discounts, services and amenities.
One of the current marketing trends in the credit card industry has been to connect special amenities, services and exclusive offers to particular credit cards.
For example, having access to an American Express Gold, Platinum or Centurion card enables a person to freely access exclusive airport lounges, avail of cash back promos and even gives them the ability to have items freely delivered from the store to anywhere they wish (Der Hovanesian, 2004).
The reason such services are included with the card package is due to the fact that ownership of particular credit cards these days has actually become a status symbol and as such it becomes necessary to entice certain consumers to own particular cards by attaching special bonuses that come with its ownership.
Not only that, individuals who belong to the top 10% of credit card holders usually make expensive purchases which does entail a certain degree of profit for the bank (N.I., 2006).
Taking this into consideration it is not surprising that Bank of America is also launching its own exclusive luxury brand of credit card since as evidenced by current market demand within the top 1% of the population, having a certain degree of exclusivity has increasingly become an almost necessary status symbol in their eyes.
It must be noted though that such exclusive and high status cards also do come with membership costs entailing several thousand dollars a year and are obtained by invitation only. As such a majority of a bank’s or credit card issuer’s consumers do not have access to such cards which enhances the exclusivity attached to owning one.
Target Market Growth
It is anticipated that the target market growth for the Silver A-Plus card will be a 10 to 15 percent client base increase per year until full market saturation levels are reached and by that time target market growth will be reduced to 5 to 7 percent annually.
SWOT Analysis (both the new product and Bank of America)
As one of America’s largest and most well established financial institutions, Bank of America has developed an extensive client portfolio which includes several of the richest people within the U.S. today. Based on its client list as well as records of credit card transactions the bank is well poised to determine which particular clients would be well suited for the Silver A-Plus card.
Another factor to take into consideration is the fact that the Silver A-Plus card and its ability to be connected to only specific stores for better discounts and services is an option not entirely available with other cards.
While it may be true that cards such as American Express and the Bank of America Black Edition do give special offers and discounts they aren’t store specific and there are certain limitations to the services and discounts that card holders can avail of.
The Silver A-Plus card due to its store specific discounts gives consumers a far better and wider variety of discounts, amenities and services not otherwise available with other bank cards and as such presents itself as lucrative option for discerning clients.
One of the current weakness that both Bank of America and the Silver A-Plus card have to deal with the current economic downturn that has affected the U.S. While it may be true that the banks and several corporations have somewhat recovered from the 2008 financial crisis the fact still remains that there is still a lingering financial problem with the current economy (Country Report, 2011).
With the debt crisis in Europe having the potential to spread to America the next few months can actually be considered a tumultuous experience for Bank of America. Another weakness to consider is the fact that consumer confidence in Bank of America has fallen as of late due to various fiascos involving its proposed $5 ATM fee charge as well as its exposure to toxic subprime debt mortgages.
This leaves many normal and affluent consumers hesitant at even considering using Bank of America as their primary financial institution. What is necessary at this particular point in time is for Bank of America to improve its image to consumers before any subsequent new product releases are created.
While numerous financial reports within the past few months have indicated that the U.S. job market hasn’t improved by much they do indicate that corporate profits have increased.
One underlying reason behind this can be attributed to the subsequent increase in outsourcing wherein companies have shifted several aspects of their operations to overseas locations due to the cheaper labor cost.
This is important to point out due to the fact that as corporate profits increase so to do the incomes of the upper 1 to 10 percent consumer demographic that Bank of America is targeting for the Silver A-Plus card.
With corporate profits rising and holiday season closing in this presents itself as a potentially lucrative opportunity to launch a new credit card line that specifically targets these individuals who all of a sudden have higher salaries and incomes due to increased corporate profits.
Current threats to the successful launch of the Silver A-Plus card come in the form of other banks and credit card companies (Roberts & Jones, 2001). The reason for this is that other “luxury” credit cards such as the American Express Centurion card already exist in the market which provides their holders with a wide array of discounts and amenities at several stores already.
While it may be true that the Silver A-Plus enables a far better consumer targeting method since it allows consumers to chose which shops they can get exclusive discounts to the fact remains that cards such as the Centurion and the American Express Platinum edition have been around for far longer and as such have a dominating market share of consumers at the present.
This situation presents itself as a distinct threat since it limits the ability of Bank of America from properly penetrating the consumer demographic they are targeting since those consumers already have cards that cost several thousand dollars a year to maintain and also enables them to avail of special discounts and services.
The competition that bank will face in releasing this particular type of card will come in the form of other banks and credit card issuers such as bank of America. These include Amex, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, as well as Wells Fargo. What must be understood though is that all banks offer different classes of credit cards for different types of consumers.
In the case of all these competitors the “Black card” (based on the American Express Centurion card) can be considered almost equivalent to the Silver A- Plus card in terms of benefits accrued. In fact it was due to the cult like popularity of the American Express Centurion card and its subsequent black coloration that many banks followed suit in coloring their high class cards black.
Today, such cards have an average annual membership cost of $2000 to $2,500 dollars with one time activation costs ranging from $2000 to $5000. Revenue gained from consumers with this specific type of card also ranges from between $500 million to $750 million or more depending on the bank and global economic market (bank incomes for high end cards plummeted after the 2008 financial crisis).
The only product offered in this particular case is the Silver A-Plus card and the amenities, discounts and services that come with its use depending on the store in question.
Key to Success
The key to success in this particular situation is being able to showcase how having a Silver A-Plus card would be better than having any other type of card when shopping at a particular store. By doing this customers who frequent such establishments would more than likely use the card as compared to cards given by other credit card issuers.
The critical issue that must be taken into consideration in this particular case is that will customers actually go for the Silver A-Plus card? Though the card is able to give significant discounts, amenities and services it can only do so in select locations and as such it must be questioned whether consumers will even go for the card in the first place.
The marketing strategy for the Silver A-Plus card will revolve around primarily targeting affluent consumers and show casing the benefits they will attain from the cards usage. After which the benefits of the card will be compared to the benefits of other cards issued by other card issuers and will show how the Silver A – Plus is a superior card in terms of shopping at specific locations.
The marketing objectives for this particular endeavor are the following:
- To increase the credit card use of targeted Bank of America clients by 30%
- To achieve a product penetration rate of 60% within the affluent consumer market within New York City.
- To increase consumer awareness of the stability of Bank of America by a margin of 30 to 40 percent before the initial release of the Silver A-Plus card
- To achieve an initial subscription rate of 20% of targeted market demographics within the first year of release after which subsequent increases in consumer subscriptions should increase by 10 to 15 percent per year.
In order to determine how well Bank of America was able to meet its market objectives sufficient market research will need to be conducted. First and foremost it will be necessary to examine after six months time whether the Bank was able to increase the credit card usage of its target clients.
After which an examination will be necessary to see how many current subscribers there are in the Silver A-Plus card program versus the number of estimated credit card users of the targeted demographic within New York City.
After combing both data sets it will be possible to see the degree of market penetration, the degree of usage and whether Bank of America was able to meet its market objectives.
The financial objectives of this marketing plan are the following:
- To increase the amount of credit card users that the bank obtains
- To increase the amount of revenue obtained via high end product purchases
- To increase Bank of America’s market share of the top 1 to 10 percent of spenders within New York City
The specific target market for the Silver A-Plus card are the top 1 to 10 percent of income holders within the New York City area
The following will be the strategies utilized:
- Promotion through print ads and viral marketing
- Sending out invitations targeting specific consumers
- Creating agreements with several of New York’s luxury brand stores
- Establishing new training regimens for store employees to recognize the new cards
Product – the product in this particular case is the Silver A-Plus card
Price – the card itself needs an activation fee of $2,000 and a $1,000 subscription cost
Promotion – promotion strategies will be those previously described in this paper
Place – the place will be New York City
On average the card itself will have a one time activation fee of $2,000 while at the same time have a yearly annual cost of $1,000. The reason for the high cost is connected to the fact that it gives customers access to various services and discounts that would have a net value well in excess of $1,000 but they are able to get it for free due to special agreements between the bank and the store.
The pricing strategy for this particular card is actually far cheaper as compared to cards issued by other banks. American express for example has an activation fee of $5,000 for the Centurion card while the Silver A-Plus card is only $2,000 and the annual membership cost of the Centurion is $2,500 while the Silver A-Plus is only $1,000.
While it may be true that other credit issuers such as JP Morgan and Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank have high ranked cards with annual membership costs of only $750 and at times wave the activation fee the fact remain that such cards don’t provide the same level of store specific discounts and amenities as compared to the Silver A-Plus card.
This makes its activation cost and yearly annual membership fee justifiable due to the value gained when shopping at specific stores.
Distribution of the production will primarily consist of select individuals being chosen or deemed acceptable as card recipients and that they will need to either pick up the card themselves at the bank or agree to have it mailed to them and then subsequently call the bank to activate the card.
Advertising and Promotion
Advertising and promoting the Silver A-Plus card will involve three specific strategies: direct consumer invitation, targeted commercials and press releases for the general public. In the first strategy Bank of America will copy the current method of credit card promotion utilized by American Express by sending specific invitations to select customers via mail.
These invitations will include a summary of the benefits the card would give to the consumer, how much it would cost them per year to maintain, and the selection of stores that they can link to the card.
A number or email address will be placed on the invitation that the customer can use in order to directly contact the bank and facilitate the transaction at a later date.
The second strategy involves the use of targeted advertisements which showcase the release of the new card via viral marketing campaigns and various TV advertisements. It is expected that this should drum up sufficient interest for various consumers to call the bank and see if they are eligible to have a Silver A-Plus card.
The third strategy involves a press release given to specific newspapers and online bloggers who will then subsequently relay the news via newspapers and online blogs. It is expected that by utilizing this strategy Bank of America will be able to better penetrate the desired consumer market.
All Silver A-Plus cards issued by Bank of America will come with a 24 hour call center hotline in order to enable consumers to subsequently call the bank and report if the card is ever stolen.
Also, customers can call the hotline if they would like to make specific purchases and arrangements over the phone without having to visit the store itself. Calling the customer service hotline is completely free and can be utilized by an Silver A-Plus card holder.
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