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We recently had the opportunity to connect with Melisa Miller, president of Alliance Data’s card services business. In this Q&A we discuss unique aspects of Alliance Data Systems (ADS), its approach in the digital and loyalty space and the strategic direction of the company.

Melisa is accountable for the operating and financial performance of Alliance Data’s card services business, with more than 8,800 associates across 14 U.S. locations. She has more than 25 years of experience in the credit industry with a track record of delivering results while creating a culture of service excellence.

Prior to assuming the responsibilities of her current role in 2011, Melisa served six years as the organization’s chief client officer. As CCO she was responsible for building and managing key brand partner relationships, winning strategies across all product lines, and for the adoption of additional capabilities to existing brand partners. Melisa came to Alliance Data from Experian, where she held various leadership roles throughout her 22-year tenure.

Alliance Data’s card services business offers private label, co-brand and business credit card products to many of the world’s most recognizable brands. As a leading provider of tailored marketing and loyalty solutions, they use branded credit programs to build more engaging relationships between brand partners and their cardmembers. Alliance Data’s card services business is one of three lines of business for its parent company, Alliance Data (NYSE: ADS), an S&P 500 company based in Plano, Texas.

Alliance Data leverages unmatched customer insights, advanced analytics and broad-reaching innovative capabilities to help deliver increased sales to partners, build enduring loyalty to their brands and provide more value to cardmembers. To learn more, visit

Alliance Data is unique relative to most credit card issuers that are pure-play financial institutions. What synergies/capabilities exist across ADS’ business units to add incremental value to clients?

We are certainly unique—deliberately different, we like to say. We are unlike other issuers in that marketing and loyalty are at the forefront of our business and we exist to help drive top-line sales for our partners.

One of our greatest points of differentiation in the industry is our ability to come to the table with the power of three businesses in one: We collaborate with Alliance Data Systems’ other business units—Epsilon, Conversant and LoyaltyOne—to bring our brand partners unparalleled expertise in marketing, loyalty and data-driven insights.

By working together, the Alliance Data family of businesses can offer our partners proprietary access to more than 250 million customers and 22 million U.S. businesses. Our data, and its corresponding research on customers’ lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors, helps us to craft a 360° view of customers. It is hands down the strongest, most predictive marketing toolset in the industry today. We leverage this with our partners to build lasting loyalty through increased sales and relevant touchpoints.

What is the key selling proposition to partners in the current market environment, especially retailers who face a multitude of competitive challenges?

Three key things come to mind when I consider how we approach our potential partners in this highly competitive market environment:

  • First is the fact that retail is in our DNA, which means we understand our brand partners’ challenges better than anyone else in the business. We do not just serve retail; it is the foundation of our business.

  • Second is our brand- and customer-centric approach. The strength of our data and analytics, combined with an innovative suite of products and capabilities, helps our partners better understand their customers’ lifestyles and shopping preferences. And when they know more, they can sell more. We dig deep into the retail landscape to help our brand partners stay ahead of the curve.

  • Third—and perhaps most important—is our people. Our exceptional team who are experts in data, marketing, retail and customer care are truly our “secret sauce.” The work they do simply cannot be replicated.

The customer loyalty space remains a key battleground for companies in every sector. How is Alliance Data evolving to bring differentiated loyalty solutions to its clients and what unique assets can you leverage?

Reaching customers is easy. But connecting with them…uniquely and elevating their experience with the brands they love, takes more attention. We are working directly with our partners every day to create, develop and deliver customizable—and therefore more compelling—user experiences. That collaboration and open communication, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, leads to more flexible loyalty solutions and sets our partners up for long-lasting success with their customers.
Digital remains all the rage and is touching every aspect of the customer experience. How would you describe your digital strategy particularly in areas such as mobile payments and the way that you work with partners?

We are always focused on reaching customers in new and powerful ways. We have been the pioneer to market with several important digital capabilities and mobile has been a critical component of our strategy.

We introduced our digital card long before the market caught on, knowing that customers wanted to be able to pay with their phones. More recently, we launched our patent-pending Frictionless Mobile Credit SM app and our SelectCheckoutSM option for online and mobile purchases. Our incubation team stays busy keeping a pulse on all things digital, regularly researching and testing new digital innovations.

It is important to note that while “brick and mobile” is growing, in-store is still king. In our recent Generational Perspective study, 75 percent of all generations want to see a product in store. Successful brands are focusing on the overall brand experience, using different channels to complement different strategies and increase loyalty to the brand.
The growth of ADS has been impressive and has included adding new partners in T&E as well as high profile retailers such as ULTA Beauty, Williams-Sonoma and Bed Bath and Beyond. How do you strike the right balance of growth relative to capacity/bandwidth and what investments have you made to support the growth and stay on top of quality, innovation, etc.?

Our growth has been purposeful and strategic, which has led to repeated double-digit gains. We continue to make significant investments—from technology to our people—to support our growth and to maintain the highest level of service to our brand partners and their most important assets, their customers.

Looking forward, our next frontier is what we call Alliance Data 3.0. We are taking our customer data to the next level. By anticipating and influencing her purchase decisions, we are helping our brand partners move beyond simply predicting what a customer needs, to making real-time recommendations.

We will continue to evolve and reinvent ourselves to ensure we are deliberately different and are well positioned for future growth—ready to meet our brand partners’ needs.