When it comes to shopping, regret has many names. “Buyer’s remorse” and “post-purchase depression” are among some of our favorite terms.
Whatever it’s called, not much can make a person regret a purchase more efficiently than realizing that same item was available elsewhere for a cheaper price – or seeing the price of the same item drop after a purchase was made.
The good news is consumers have various avenues to recoup some of their lost dough. Several major credit card companies, including Mastercard, Discover, Citi and Chase, offer price protection programs enabling cardholders to obtain refunds on the difference when items are found to be available for less or go on sale after the original purchase. The bad news, though, is that the refund process for the price difference can be cumbersome, requiring consumers to track the price of an item, fill out paperwork and wait for the claim to be approved – and that’s assuming a consumer even bothers to track the price differences.
But many consumers could soon find an easier process for obtaining savings on such purchases, thanks to an API-based solution: Earny, an app-based bot born from a Mastercard API. Earny launched last year with the promise of offering consumers a more frictionless price protection process. PYMNTS recently caught up with Earny founder and CEO Oded Vakrat about the inspiration behind Earny and how he expects to improve communication between consumers and their credit card companies.
On The Trail Of A Cheaper Blazer
According to Vakrat, Earny’s inspiration started with a blazer purchased for $129 by co-founder Dori Yona. A few weeks later, Yona came down with a sudden case of sticker shock after shopping online and finding the same blazer available for roughly half the price.
Vakrat said he and Yona contacted the credit card company to see if Yona could receive a refund on the difference. The credit card company offered price protection, but Vakrat politely described the process of getting reimbursed for the difference as “inefficient.” While ultimately successful, it took two weeks for Yona to complete the process and receive his $65.
To develop a more efficient post-purchase refund process, the two co-founders entered Mastercard’s Masters of Code Hackathon. The result was the Earny app, which taps into Mastercard’s Simplify Commerce API. Earny uses APIs to authenticate users through their Gmail, Yahoo or Microsoft email providers, then scans their inboxes for eCommerce receipts and compares them to prices from approximately three dozen retailers – including Target, Costco and Overstock.com – checking for price drops. The service works by automating the price protection process, automatically refunding consumers for any detected price differences.
“The idea for us was to build the ultimate personal assistant that will get consumers’ money back automatically when prices drop,” Vakrat said.
The app’s price protections are good for a 90-day post-purchase window. Vakrat noted there are certain items that fall outside of Earny’s automated services, including jewelry, automobiles and perishables.
An Untapped Post-Purchase Opportunity
According to Mastercard’s research, U.S. consumers walk away from more than $50 billion in price drops every year because they were either unaware of better offers or because the refund process can be lengthy and require tedious paperwork.
This sizable sum of money is not just a missed opportunity for consumers to reclaim cash, Vakrat said. It’s also a missed opportunity for retailers and credit card companies to engage with consumers following online checkout experiences.
“Retailers and credit card companies want [consumers] to claim the difference, they want [them] to re-engage with their brands,” he said.
The post-purchase stage is important for both retailers and credit card companies to step up their efforts, according to Vakrat, because it’s a time when consumers solidify their opinions of whether to conduct further business. He sees offering this type of automated service – which enables consumers to more easily get their share of $50 billion in price drops – as a way to help both retailers and payment card companies encourage repeat business.
“This is where [consumers] decide if they will shop with the same retailer – this is where they will decide to shop with the same credit cards,” he said.
The Earny service will be more readily available for consumers who use Mastercard to make their purchases, Vakrat explained. The service is now automatically offered through Mastercard to consumers with credit cards issued through several major banks. Participating financial institutions include Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citi, First Premier Bank and US Bank.
According to Vakrat, the change in consumer behavior is noticeable among those who have access to the automated service. The company’s data shows participating customers returning to the same retailers and using the same credit card as the earlier purchase. At the end of the day, Vakrat said, retailers should consider Earny a tool to help them more effectively and efficiently re-engage with their customer base.
An “Age Of Pricing Transparency”
For the moment, Earny’s focus will be on improving eCommerce shopping during the post-purchase stage and helping consumers recover funds that would otherwise go unclaimed, Vakrat said. Looking ahead, he believes there are opportunities to expand the app’s capabilities to include travel-related expenses, including customers’ hotel and flight reservations.
“We want to be able to protect your hotel reservation and help customers get their money back between the time they make the reservation and the time of their travel date,” he said.
In addition to the consumer savings potential, and a new opportunity for credit card companies and retailers to re-connect with their consumers after shopping experiences, Vakrat said he wants the automated service to help assure consumers they will ultimately get the best deal available for their retail purchases – even if all the available prices were not discovered prior to the purchase.
With consumers able to use online resources to find the lowest possible prices on products, it’s important for retailers and credit card companies to be able to meet and address consumer expectations, he noted.
“I think we are beginning an age [in which] consumers understand the importance of pricing transparency,” Vakrat said. “There’s definitely a need for products like Earny to protect your purchases and give you the confidence to shop.”
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