Besides daily deals and Facebook shopping, AmEx is also cozying up to Twitter, looking to enable commerce on that platform. Less than a year ago, the two companies started taking note of how Twitter users were including hashtags when tweeting about things they’d bought or wanted to buy, or deals they’d received.
“We looked at the data, looked at what people were talking about, looked at the categories and used that really as the kernel,” says Joel Lunenfeld, who oversees Twitter’s brand strategy group. In March, the companies launched a program encouraging cardmembers to sync their accounts to receive offers for tweeting a hashtag.
AmEx won’t share specific performance metrics, but the @AmexSync account has sent out more than 232,000 tweets to date (though it should be noted the company automatically posts tweets whether a user successfully syncs up or not). Lunenfeld says getting comsumers to retweet deals is key to helping drive enrollment. And the partnership seems to be bearing fruit. Seamless, one of the program’s eight brand partners at launch, had to raise the cap on how many offers it would extend three times over a 48-hour period, says Scott.
Yet as AmEx experiments in the social arena, the fight for commerce’s future is expected to play out in the mobile arena, as more key players look to line up power positions. For example, Google unveiled its Mobile Wallet last year. PayPal has been rolling out its mobile payment system since last fall, and a joint venture by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless is expected to launch the ISIS mobile payment package later this year.
AmEx is already well positioned. A consumer can link his AmEx card to his PayPal account, and three of the company’s cards will be available through ISIS. But perhaps the best indicator of where AmEx wants to take mobile came, if subtly, a few weeks ago in an update to its iPhone app. With that update, AmEx pushed a new My Offers feature to users populated with deals from the social programs as well as ones specific to an individual cardmember’s purchase history and iPhone’s location.
But the battle to own the mobile commerce relationship with consumers promises to be fierce, and mobile deals look to be a key front. Google already rolled out an Offers product during its wallet launch event. PayPal is making a similar push. But the issue those two companies face, particularly Google, comes back to purchase histories—once again, an AmEx strength. Google has sought to sidestep the issue with prompts for users to personalize their deals preferences, whereas PayPal can factor in purchase history (but only insofar as purchases are made through PayPal).
“The relationship consumers have with PayPal is quite different than what one has with American Express and perhaps other card products,” says Denée Carrington, a former new product development director at AmEx and now senior analyst, consumer product strategy at Forrester Research.
Until PayPal, Google, Visa and Groupon solidify or stake themselves in the social-local-mobile commerce landscape—and that means with users—they risk having to compete in a world that AmEx created and users adopted. “It begins to frame their expectation for how commerce should work,” says Carrington.
But with all the balls AmEx has in play—and those it’s readying to pitch—it is perhaps inevitable that it would bump up against its partners. AmEx is looking to add location-based alerts to its iPhone app so that when a cardmember swipes his card he would receive a location-based alert of a complementary offer nearby—a deal at a retailer a few blocks from where he just finished lunch, for example. As it happens, Foursquare is readying a similar product that would let businesses tap into its Explore location-discovery algorithm and target offers to users, according to Furst.
The big question going forward is: Will those partners be able to resist AmEx’s powerful data supply, not to mention its relationship with consumers wallets? After all, it’s hard to pass up a deal on a cheesecake.