Alliance Data kicks into high gear under Melisa Miller’s leadership

In addition, Miller has learned a subtle but important distinction. It’s better to help people understand why the plan is a good one, rather than convincing them the plan will work.

She also sees her job in a new light — it’s not to get the employees excited.

“My job is to create an environment that is exciting, that is filled with opportunity and purpose and clarity and accomplishment. Their job, the job of all 9,000 people, is to find their excitement,” she says. “I can’t make someone happy, but I can provide an environment where people are treated with respect and they receive a fair wage.”

But there’s no time to waste as the company embarks on its next journey of growth and continues to set a higher bar. Miller says nobody in Alliance Data’s space has tripled in size, and nobody else has the same return on equity and return on assets.


Retail is alive and well

Alliance Data’s more than 150 brand partners generate about $30 billion annually in credit sales, says Melisa Miller. While nearly 40 percent of all transitions are digital, 80 percent of retail still happens in the store. This disproves the fallacy that online shopping cannibalizes store sales.

“We know when we can get her shopping in both channels, she will shop two, sometimes three times as much,” she says, adding that the company refers to all of its cardholders as she.

Millennials, 86 percent of the time, interact digitally with in-store transactions, such as checking if they can order a different color online.

“She is seamless in her approach. She doesn’t make the conscious decision, ‘I’m going to be in the store or be on my digital device,’” Miller says.

Another misconception is that Amazon is taking over the world. Miller says Amazon has just mastered the hassle factor of buying online.

“They have helped all of us up our game, but what they haven’t mastered is the experience of going in to touch the fabric and see the color in person and have that personalized experience, particularly in cosmetics or fine fashion,” she says. “It’s not an either/or. We don’t believe that it’s solely brick-and-mortar. We don’t believe that it’s solely digital.”

Today’s customer wants easy, convenient shopping, Miller says. She wants value for the brand that she chooses to stay connected to. Therefore, her behavior dictates how she should be rewarded — bonus points, early access to sales, connectivity to designers, discount coupons, etc.

“Consumers are willing to give you any amount of information about them as long as it’s used for precise and relevant information. So, we have a show-me-that-you-know-me approach when one of our cardholders hits us in the store or hits us in one of our digital channels,” she says.



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The file:

Name: Melisa Miller
Title: Executive vice president, president
Company: Alliance Data’s card services business

Born: Davenport, Iowa
Education: Studied English at various universities. My father fell ill, and I was the one who was able to go home and help my mother.

How are you — and Alliance Data — involved with the Columbus community? I sit on the boards of the Columbus Partnership, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Ohio Business Roundtable. I’ve been here for 13 years and have watched this community change in a very positive, collaborative, civil way.

I believe giving back to the community may be one of the most important legacies I would want to leave behind. (Not me personally — my husband and I make a personal choice every year, as it relates to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.) But we want our legacy as a business to be that it wasn’t just about stock price and profits.

We want to be significant in the communities that we serve. We want folks, when they say Alliance Data Systems, to add they’re great people to work with. Their associates volunteer. They’re incredibly committed to the community. Those are the various badges of honor. But we want to do it quietly.

So, I’m not big about wanting the Alliance Data Systems name all over a room in a hospital. I would rather do it more quietly, like leaving a $100 tip for a waitress. Others would say, ‘You’re crazy. You want to get credit for it.’ They’re probably right. But there’s something a little gratifying about anonymity when it comes to doing the right thing.