At a time when consumers place a great importance on value, retailers have become increasingly adept at marketing themselves through discount programs. Today, one way they can reward their shoppers is through a relationship with Cartera Commerce, a Lexington, Mass.-based provider of multi-channel shopping solutions to retailers and shopping centers.

Formerly Mall Networks, the company recently changed its name to Cartera Commerce to better reflect the nature of its multi-channel offerings. Cartera's basic mission is to connect retailers with customers of large financial institutions and airline carriers, as well as with customers of other retailers, says Tom Beecher, company CEO. That allows everyone involved to maximize the rewards to their clients.

For instance, one of Cartera's clients happens to be Chase Bank. Another is grocery chain A&P. Cartera has helped broker an arrangement that allows shoppers who use a Chase credit card to pay for their purchases at A&P to get 2 percent cash back. Other retailers participating in the Chase program include Rite Aid, Pathmark and the Food Emporium.

Cartera can also help retailers feed off each others' client bases with something called a reward-zone program. The program allows shoppers to earn credit points with one or another chain by shopping at a partnering store. Among the retailers that are currently using the program is electronics seller Best Buy.

Since Best Buy executives know that even the chain's most loyal shoppers don't make major electronics purchases more than four or five times a year, they have partnered with dozens of other retailers to keep a connection with their customers on a regular basis. For example, when Best Buy reward zone customers buy something online at Barnes & Noble, PETCO or Land's End, they earn points that go toward discounts on items bought at Best Buy.

Cartera's network currently includes approximately 800 online and brick-and-mortar retailers.