American Express is seeking to move beyond its narrow image as a blue chip premium credit card company, and open the doors to new business opportunities, customers and revenues. Its ticket? The group of emerging payment products and services –deals, loyalty, prepaid cards, ewallets and mobile.
At OMMA Mobile MCommerce in Los Angeles Oct. 22, SVP of Strategy and Business Innovation Joanna Lambert noted that in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession, CEO Kenneth Chennault set up a distinct business unit “to challenge the status quo.”
Since then, Amex has developed loyalty deals with Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare; a joint venture with Zynga to provide virtual game points to credit card holders; created Small Business Saturday to promote Christmas shopping; and launched Serve, a prepaid account service in a bid to reach an entirely new customer base, including young adults and women. Last week’s launch of Bluebird with WalMart is part of that effort. Amex has also set up a major mobile JV in China.
Amex’s goal is to provide a “value added system at every stage of the journey,” notes Lambert. It wants to interact with consumers and merchants “the moment they discover different types of services” such as Pinterest, and “how to interact with them…. by sharing things… utilizing information.” The goal is “to see consumers in the wild. That is where we’ll find the killer app.”
While some see Google and ISIS entry into payment and offers “ewallets” as threats to the credit card giants (such as Amex), ewallets are a great upcoming opportunity, notes Lambert. “We want to utilize the wallet in as many ways as possible.”
Many, of course, had expected ewallets to happen sooner. Google Wallet and ISIS are well behind their initial timetables. The challenge is “to move them from novelty to value,” says Lambert. Ewallets ought to be “saving time, saving money; making things relevant; (and) stopping the ‘noise’ in the inbox.”
“From a merchants perspective, (they ought to add) incremental value,” says Lambert. “The number one thing is to make them more personalized, more targeted and more relevant.”
Amex is “spending more and more time on the consumer experience, and specifically, the mobile experience,” Lambert notes. The company is also investing heavily in User Interface design. The UI and service needs to be “distinctive, fun, and there has to be enough in it to access multiple times a day.”
Lambert feels that Amex is especially well positioned to be a great asset in the mobile wallet space because its principal assets are the things that stay consistent: “trust, consumer experience and value.”