In 2012, American Express introduced Amex Sync on Twitter, which allows card members to sync their card to their Twitter account and earn credits by tweeting special hashtags. In early 2013, American Express introduced a new feature to this program, which allows card members to make direct purchases by tweeting special hashtags.
Blogger Adi Robertson highlights the significance:
“The results here are functionally similar, but you’re not just doing some advertising in exchange for credit — you’re putting an actual purchase history online and asking American Express to charge your card through Twitter.”
Thinkers, bloggers, marketers and American Express card members note that this move further streamlines the process of shopping online, and speculate upon the role financial institutions and social networks will play in the future of ecommerce. Several have also shared privacy and security concerns over merging their banking and social media accounts.
Card members sync their accounts online at the American Express website, and then follow @AmericanExpress to find out about the latest credit offers and purchase offers from American Express and its partners. CNN’s Heather Kelly explains the process of loading credit offers on their cards:
“On Twitter, you tweet the hashtag for an offer and then go make the purchase in person or through a separate online store. The discount is then applied to your American Express account within eight weeks.”
Card members must use their synced card when making purchases at partnering stores.
Social Commerce Today’s Paul Marsden explains the process of making direct purchases through tweets:
“Amex cardholders sync their Amex card with Twitter at sync.americanexpress.com/twitter. Then, when Amex/Amex retailers offer deals (published in the @AmericanExpress Twitter feed), cardholders can buy them by simply tweeting the deal’s special hashtag – e.g. #BuyAmexGiftCard25.”
To prevent accidental purchases, Amex requires a second, confirmation tweet. TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas notes:
“Payments are made by tweeting a purchase hashtag, and retweeting the confirmation tweet from Amex within 15 minutes of receiving it. The product will then be shipped to the account billing address synced with Twitter, and payment taken from your synced Amex account.”
American Express launched the new feature with an irresistible offer – buy a $25 Amex gift card for $15. Bloggers and online media spread word about the offer, as did card members who tweeted to avail of it.
Discounts are an increasingly common – and effective – way for brands to promote their online & mobile payment initiatives. For instance, in mid-2012, Starbucks made headlines for selling a record 1.5 million $10 virtual gift cards on daily deals site LivingSocial at a discount of 50%. Strategist Jeremy Jacobs attributes this rise in real-time and impulse sales to increased connectivity on mobile devices:
“Putting the right offer in the right context in the right time frame is so much easier now than it ever was before, so consumers are responding by being willing to say, no matter where I am at – whether at home watching TV or at my kid’s soccer game – I can make this purchase right away.”
In addition to the $25 Amex gift card, card members could also choose to purchase other items, such as an Amazon Kindle Fire HD or Microsoft Xbox 360, at discounted rates.
“Last July, the brand launched a program called “Link, Like, Love” that tailored deals to you based on your Facebook “likes.” (For instance, if you “liked” Whole Foods, you might see an offer on your Facebook dashboard.) The brand also linked with Foursquare last June for a national program that rewarded users with a loyalty card-like credit when they checked in.”
Other social American Express initiatives include the Social Rewards campaign in 2011, which, as AdAge’s Beth Snyder Bulik noted, encouraged “customers to think about spending rewards points in less traditional ways” and share their experience on Facebook:
“What’s the most memorable thing you’ve picked up with Membership Rewards points — great trip, cool gadget? Do tell!”
Bloggers and thinkers, like Fast Company’s Austin Carr, believe that American Express’ social media partnerships and initiatives help differentiate the brand as a modern-day social company:
“With the [Twitter] partnership, AmEx helps fortify its role as the credit card for the social media generation.”
Similar to the Social Reward campaign, Amex Sync on Twitter encourages people to talk about their spends on their social networks, resulting in free promotion for the offer and brands involved. As Mashable’s Todd Wasserman noted:
“For AmEx, the move may be less about boosting a fledgling ecommerce platform and more about promotion; With each hashtag, users give a tacit endorsement to the program and, by extension, the AmEx brand.”
This same philosophy is shared at PayWithATweet.com, a service which allows people to exchange their virtual items for a tweet of endorsement:
“In today’s world the value of people talking about your product is sometimes higher than the money you would get for it.”
Some thinkers, like Red Ant CEO Dan Mortimer, note that the purchase-with-a-tweet feature streamlines the shopping experience, but doubt that convenience is the only criteria for online shoppers:
“Shortening the payment cycle for impulse purchases through social is certainly an interesting field and should definitely be followed closely by certain retailers. The timing of the announcement by Amex, one week after Twitter is hacked and loses 250,000 passwords is certainly very brave as is the assumption that consumers want to make all of their purchases public and traceable.”
Marketers note the Amex Sync on Twitter program presents ample opportunity for measurement which can help Amex develop its program further, glean insights from consumers and share this back with partners. Some, like Paul Marsden, believe the program paves the way for American Express to enter the ecommerce field:
“The Amex pay-by-tweet initiative is part of a broad industry move for financial services companies to get more intimately involved with e-commerce.”
Fast Company’s Austin Carr remarked:
“AmEx aims to be the connective tissue between merchants and consumers on social media that will provide a mix of offers, data, and branding to its members.”
Consequently, several thinkers believe the program can help Twitter establish its validity as an ecommerce platform. GigaOm’s Eliza Kern pointed out:
“Most of Twitter’s monetization efforts so far have come through marketing and advertising, such as promoted tweets which now cost up to $200,000 a day, but this partnership that allows purchases through tweets could move the company toward e-commerce opportunities as well.”
WSJ technology reporter Shira Ovide shared a similar view:
“Marketers for the most part devote a small chunk of their advertising budgets to Twitter, partly because it’s tough to prove a tweet or an ad on Twitter leads to a sale. Being able to directly show consumers seeing a Twitter message and buying a product may prove that connection.”
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