Amex and FourSquare @SXSW

A lot was reported about the launch of an offer system between FourSquare and American Express.  The general idea was that a FourSquare user who has tied their account to an Amex card would be available for exclusive offers at a few select establishments in Austin during SWSW, mashable writeup.

Video Examples: Part I , Part II

The specific offer was “spend $5, get $5” and it loaded directly to the card.  This was funded by Amex and they sent out a team on the ground to inform the local merchant employees who are participating in the experiment.   The system works flawlessly once you sign into Foursquare and clip the offer to the card.

Things they nailed:

  • Staff training
  • Redemption via card
  • Real time updates for user
  • Actual money transfer (assumption but it has to just work if they claim it)

Challenges for scale:

  • Creating a self-serve training system for local retailers to load offers, Amex specific offers
  • User awareness, great for FourSquare users who own Amex.  Less compelling for Amex users who don’t already play the game

Not addressed:

  • Discovery :  Not sure how FourSquare game and venue search will address this.
  • Fraud: I assume the 3-4 day post is waiting for the transaction to clear
  • Analytics: Can the merchant see the data?  Are they going to adjust the offer?  Would Amex change the offer for different users?
  • Who funds the offers long-term?

If I am a merchant do I really want to fund offers for Amex users?  I am challenged to see the local merchant angle here because many local merchants won’t take Amex due to their high interchange fees.  I am sure that the experiment was interesting but there needs to be a triple win where the merchant, user and payment/platform all get value.  A note is that few friends who were there planned to try it out but never got around to it, maybe it as not compelling or maybe it was just a busy time at the big tech party.

The challenges aside I think that the execution is slick and I am interested to see what happens in phase 2.


About svmoneyball

A lifelong student of silicon valley. I also tend to play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee.
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