How AMEX is using data and creative to tap into customer contexts

AMEX data chief says brands need to move away from random acts of marketing and get to the zero moment of truth

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Brands should be using data and creativity to become part of a customer’s real-time context, playing the role of facilitator and utility as well as driving efficiency.

That’s the view of American Express vice-president of consumer acquisition and customer loyalty, Dean Chadwick, who spoke at the recent Data Strategy Symposium on how the financial services company is bringing together art and science in order to interact better with customers in real-time, and putting data at the heart of commerce.

According to Chadwick, AMEX’s ambition is to better harness the power of data to connect its services with customers in the ‘zero moment of truth’, a term coined by Google in 2011. Chadwick has been with AMEX for 21 years and previously led its data analytics, global marketing and innovation functions.

“There’s no point having a great set of data that drives a recommendation if there isn’t an awesome experience that’s connected with an audience on top of that,” he told attendees. “We are continually trying to bring these things together.

“We need to move away from random acts of marketing, and have data drive those contextual experiences… delivering real-time value to people on an ongoing basis.”

To do this, the group has been investing in data-driven resources and bringing together data scientists, engineers and marketers.

“What we’re aiming for are new concepts that are customer-centred, but with an overlay of good product design and good data science, that delivers an awesome experience,” Chadwick said. “We try to get products out to the market place quickly. We don’t always get it right, but we always learn from it.”

Chadwick explained his approach as having a foundational data layer, overlaid with data science, but which features experience at the top of the pyramid to drive new commerce capabilities across the network.

To make this happen, Chadwick said he’d had to embrace a new “vernacular that as marketers we need to get comfortable with”.

He explained the new approach as one where brands must look at “nodes” of data, and the “edges” connecting those nodes together. These can be defined in three ways: Stated nodes, such as where a customer lives; triggered nodes, or the event or action that has occurred; and inferred nodes, which are based on data marketers have on customers, such as an interest in fashion based on purchase history.

Examples of AMEX data in commerce

Chadwick then took attendees through the data set AMEX is building up around card members to drive build products and programs for customers. As an issuer, acquirer and network, AMEX has a wealth of information closing the loop from merchant through to card member, he said.

One of these is the Local Champion program, which offers loyalty rewards for customers using their AMEX card in places they regularly spend in, such as local coffee shops or grocery stores. The program is driven by the habitual spend behaviours of customers, Chadwick said, and uses real-time transaction swipes to build the rewards. Participating customers can also see how many transactions they are away from being the local champion in their community.

“It’s the real-time nature of the program, and about being close to an event trigger, that means we can start driving experiences using data,” he said. “It’s a gamification of spending.”

Another example is using spending data as a content layer, Chadwick said, to provide customers with information and recommendations on what’s trending in real-time in a certain location.

“Data becomes an always-on content source, then we can connect people to those different types of experiences,” he said.

In addition, AMEX has partnered with TripAdvisor to link its customer’s AMEX account to their TripAdvisor account. “As a merchant or hotel, you’d then login as a trusted source and ask customers to make a recommendation based on where that customer has spent in the last few months,” Chadwick said.

“The other thing we can do is to create card member hotspots, generate dynamic lists of hotels and restaurants based on curated spend data, as well as use this a way to distribute offers and perks.”

AMEX has also partnered with taxi cabs in New York to provide reward points to customers on taxi fares, extending the currency of its loyalty program in the marketplace, he said.

“The experience must be entertaining, useful and relevant,” Chadwick added. “To be successful in mobile, you need to be driven by utility, content and be somewhat fun – have a pub talkability factor.”

More from Data Strategy Symposium 2014

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