American Express Pushes for Hashtag-Driven Commerce

Can you imagine making purchases with a special hashtag in a tweet? Twitter and American Express sure hope so, but as the companies expand their partnership to include a new pay-by-tweet functionality, first they will have to encourage customers to adopt new behaviors for online shopping.

Once American Express card members sync their account with Twitter, their tweets will become virtual purchase orders for gift cards and products from select merchants. American Express first brought its Card Sync technology to Twitter last March, introducing merchant discounts that came in the form of statement credits. Thousands of merchant offers have since been promoted on the platform, resulting in millions of dollars in savings for card members, notes Brad Minor, VP of public relations and social media communications at American Express.

“This is part of a long-term path to digital transformation for American Express. We are focused on delivering our card members and merchant partners with relevant and valuable experiences where they are - and increasingly, that is on social media,” he adds. “We’ve also seen growth in followers for our merchant partners, an increase in conversation about those brands in social media.”

American Express is kicking off the sync-to-buy program with a $25 American Express gift card for $15 (available by tweeting #BuyAmexGiftCard25), and beginning Wednesday it will begin offering products from Amazon, Sony, Urban Zen, and Xbox 360.

After users tweet a hashtag to express their intent to buy a product, they will receive an @reply from @AmexSync asking them to confirm their purchase with a subsequently unique hashtag within 15 minutes.

Commenting on the flood of branded tweets that might follow, Andy Sternberg, co-founder and CIO at Adler Integrated tweets: “[American Express] will essentially buy your tweets for two at $10. Might want a secondary Twitter account or this can get annoying.”

Card members can avoid flooding their followers’ streams with hashtags for online purchases by initiating the entire transaction via @replies, but that more private option will likely be less apparent to the average user.

“We want to ensure you can make the purchase quickly and easily, but also want to build in the confirmation tweet to give consumers even more control,” adds Minor. Merchants will also begin receiving more detailed reports and aggregated stats about the performance of their offers via American Express.

By boosting its partnership with Twitter, American Express is also giving Twitter a major vote of confidence that will certainly catch the attention of other brands and social marketers. Indeed, it appears that American Express has already picked its favorites in social media and Twitter is sitting center stage.

“We believe in the power of Twitter and are focusing the bulk of our marketing efforts in the platform. We will be actively engaging our social community, as well as those of our merchant partners who are involved,” Minor notes.

“Twitter is about sharing, communicating, and connecting. We strategically chose products that are simple to explain in 140 characters or less and are buzzy,” he adds. “The products available for purchase are already part of the social conversation, and we are now able to turn those conversations into commerce.”

In addition to the discounted gift card offer, American Express will begin selling an Amazon Kindle Fire HD, a Sony Action Cam and Waterproof Headband Mount, an Urban Zen bracelet designed by Donna Karan, an Xbox controller, or an Xbox 360 4GB console.

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