Over the past few years, a number of brands have emerged as leaders in the social media space. Red Bull has leveraged their social platforms to rethink brand publishing. Disney has built an engaging community on all of their platforms. But it’s American Express that is clearly leading the way.
In an industry that is not known for innovating new technologies, Amex stands above the rest. As a travel and entertainment card they led the credit card industry by developing one of the first and most frequently awarded travel loyalty programs—Membership Rewards. They have re-invented B2B marketing by developing Open Forum, a social platform created to provide information and resources on key topics for entrepreneurs. Amex also created Small Business Saturday; a nationwide “buy local” initiative that focuses on the positive impact of supporting businesses in the local economy. The program was designed to help Amex’s most valuable customers during a sputtering economy and is supported by the federal government, states, cities and even large corporations with whom the small businesses compete.
However, over the past couple of years, Amex has cemented their legacy as a leader in the space when they began their Amex Sync program. With Sync, Amex members connect their accounts to their Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter profiles and receive personalized offers and discounts directly at the point of purchase. By combing their social data along with their Amex purchase history, not only can Amex provide relevant, customized offers for their consumers via social media, they are top of mind at the moment of purchase.
This month, Amex did it again. They beat retailers, technology companies and even online retailers like Amazon to the punch by creating the first social commerce program using a hashtag to initiate a transaction. Through a partnership with Twitter, Amex allows users who sync their cards with their Twitter account to pay for exclusive products simply by using a hashtag. In the example below Amex offers their members a Sony Action Cam for $179.99 by sending a promoted Tweet containing the hashtag #BuyActionCamPack.
Beyond the social media innovation, the real genius of the Amex Sync program is that Amex has re-defined their role in the consumer transaction. In most online retail transactions consumers have dozens of payment options and the choice is inconsequential to the transaction. In the new model Amex has created retailers bring their promotional offers to the credit card company who uses their unique partnership with Twitter to market the product, facilitate orders, and pay for the transaction. The retailer need only fulfill the orders.
This program will, no doubt, be copied by every other major credit card and retail brand company as soon as they can figure it out. In the meantime, Amex will enjoy first-mover benefits again. And they will continue to demonstrate to their industry that financial services firms can innovate in technology and social media.