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American Express Out-Innovates Google and Groupon

Rocky Agrawal, reporting for TechCrunch:

This morning American Express is launching a new deals platform in partnership with Facebook that should make big waves in the payments and offers space.

Winners: Facebook, American Express, small businesses
Losers: Groupon, LivingSocial, Google, foursquare, VISA, MasterCard

With the new platform, merchants will be able to target deals at American Express cardholders on the Facebook platform. Initial launch partners include H&M, Sports Authority, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sheraton, Westin, Travelocity and Celebrity Cruises. Although the launch focus is on big national brands, the platform is self-serve and well suited to the needs of small business. This presents a big and credible threat to Groupon, LivingSocial, Google Offers and other daily deal providers.

The platform covers both one-time and loyalty offers. Some examples of the offers that could be presented:

  • Spend $30 and get a $10 statement credit.
  • Spend $50 and get 10% back.
  • Visit 3 times, spend $50 each time and get a $10 statement credit.

I’ve been waiting for someone to do this.  When Foursquare announced its deals functionality, I thought it was a good start.  Now with Amex partnering with Facebook, I’d say Amex is in the running right up there with Groupon and LivingSocial.  (Amex needs to keep building its partner repertoire, though.)

Foursquare is an interesting proposition — it’s a hugely popular service, and I see an opportunity for them to partner with POS (point-of-sale) vendors so that businesses can know what clients are saying about them in real time.  They’d also be able to tell when their best customers are in the house based on check-in data.  And naturally, if Foursquare can strike more deals with vendors for its users, it has a chance of making a pretty good run at the deals game, too.

Where Foursquare got flanked? By Amex choosing to partner with Facebook, the world’s largest social network.  Amex has no pretense about being a social network, so they are free to hook up with whoever will work with them.  Foursquare, however, has pretty strong social capital, and I think any reluctance they have to cede social momentum to a company like Facebook translates into opportunity for others who aren’t invested in the social game.

Any way you cut it, this is all very interesting.  And it’s just the beginning.  Watch.

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