1) FourSquare – In June of this year, FourSquare and AmEx launched a US-based partnership for discounts when AmEx customers checked-in with FourSquare at select merchants.
The official name of the services is American Express Specials – which runs on AmEx Smart Offer APIs. To access it, card members must link their cards to their Foursquare accounts. After checking in to a participating store, the Special can be loaded onto their AmEx cards – at no cost to the consumer. When the card is used to make the purchase, the offer is automatically applied – no need to present the offer at checkout – and a credit included in the following statement.
Although it is not clear the cost to the retailer, AmEx’s objective is to raise revenues by increasing card usage and not by charging the retailer. For large retailers, the agreements are not public but for participating small retailers, it seems that there is no charge. All the while, participating retailers will gain access to a wealth of customer data that will allow them to analyze the effectiveness of their offers on traffic and loyalty.
2) Facebook – In July AmEx unveiled a social media platform called ‘Link, Like, Love’ that gives card members personalized deals on Facebook based on their social graphs – cardholder’s and friends’ likes and interests. To sign up, just download the ‘Link, Like, Love’ app on
AmEx Facebook page (it is not available in the App Store) and link your AmEx card to your Facebook account. If you see a deal that you like, just tap the button by the offer and the special will be loaded directly to your AmEx card. Just like in the case of AmEx and FourSquare, coupons are free and no printouts are necessary.
With this service, AmEx seems to have found a way to capitalize on the famous ‘Like’ and ‘Check-In’ buttons. Basically, you will only be presented with offers that are relevant to you by including specials on topics or locations that you, or your friends, have ‘Liked’ or where you have ‘Checked-In’. For example, if you recently ‘Checked-In’ at a participating grocery store, you will be presented with a coupon for that specific retailer. If you recently ‘Liked’ a musician’s fan page, you may be presented with a discount on concert tickets or on music downloads of that specific artist.
There are clear benefits for consumers. What about retailers? Large retailers will work directly with AmEx to include and promote their deals but, for small businesses, AmEx has launched a program within this platform called ‘Go Social’ that allows them to create and distribute coupons on a number of social networks. Businesses can sign up via Facebook to be included on deals in Facebook, FourSquare and other social sites. This is a great way to gain visibility while accessing customer analytics.
3) SCVNGR (stands for Scavenger) – SCVNGR is a location-based gaming application that allows you to perform challenges in exchange for deals. For example, if you check into ‘Bostonian Burrito’ and you choose the ‘Tin Foil Origami’ challenge (i.e. build an origami bird with the tin foil wrapping your burrito), you can then take a picture of your origami and, since you have passed your challenge, claim a ‘Mini Burrito’. It is meant to be an entertaining and engaging way of acquiring rewards.
SCVNGR also offers a slightly different experience via their LevelUp application where you register to get your personal QR code that you use to pay and save at local businesses in your town. Each day, they feature a new merchant and add credit to you QR code. Your charges and rewards will be saved via this code. AmEx has partnered with SCVNGR to offer discounts on Levi’s stores in Boston and Philadelphia. This is a very small partnership since it is one retailer in two cities (SF was featured for one week) but it is another way for AmEx to test the waters.
4) Vente Privée – It is a French-owned flash sales site with about 13 million members and more than $1 billion in European sales. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Vente Privée’s founder, explained during an interview with Business Insider, the company is about creating great event sales that bring traffic to stores. It is about offering something really special that will keep businesses and consumers coming back to them over the long term.
Gobry regards the US deals market as particularly mature, crowded and challenging although he believes that Vente Privée’s offering is very different to that of Gilt, Amazon, Groupon or Facebook. For this reason he had always envisioned going into this market with a partner and, from his perspective, whom best than a customer-centric and excellence-centric entity such as AmEx?
This partnership is very different to those setup with FourSquare, Facebook or SCVNGR and shows AmEx willingness to experiment and to make long-term bets with all types of partners.
5) Mobile Partners – AmEx has also worked with iOS, Android and other providers of mobile operating systems to develop and deploy applications. For example, earlier in the year AmEx launched its iPhone and iPod Touch applications and just a few days ago, it launched its iPad app. This last one has received a particularly warm welcome since very few financial institutions have, at this point in time, iPad apps – although most have iPod, iPhone and Android apps. As result, in a very short space of time, American Express app has become the third most popular free app on the iPad, right behind Bank of America and Citibank.
AmEx 90 million card members worldwide, its history of excellence and the new acquisitions, partnerships and product launches discussed, give the company an ideal platform to become a key player in this space. Specifically, AmEx unique makeup as a card issuer, merchant acquirer and payment network has allowed the company to develop direct links with consumers and merchants alike – most credit card companies do not have direct links to merchants because they work with acquiring banks.
These direct relationships allow AmEx to be:
1) Agile and fast in striking deals with all players
2) Extremely valuable at extracting consumer information and helping retailers analyze the effectiveness on the deals
3) Easy to work with since it is simple for them to implement the deals without direct support from the retailer’s staff, avoiding training and other costs.
It is also a win from a consumer’s perspective since AmEx seems to be very focused on developing a great customer experience across all channels. As Julie Fajgembaum – VP of Brand, Marketing and Social Media for AmEx – explained, their focus is on being where their customers are, irrespective of platform or device, in the way that is most relevant to the user.
All in all, a great initial proposition that can be expanded and make AmEx a serious contender in the mobile commerce and mobile banking spaces.
GigaOm Pro Long Views: ‘How American Express could be a monster in the local-deals market’, contributed by Ryan Kim on August 1st, 2011. http://pro.gigaom.com/2011/08/how-american-express-could-be-a-monster-in-the-local-deals-market/