AmEx debuts consulting and analytics arm for business customers

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American Express has launched an analytics and consulting organization, called American Express Business Insights, to help its business customers develop better-informed strategies.

The new unit, announced November 19, will study the aggregate trend analysis and spending patterns of approximately 90 million cards across 127 markets to provide business planning and marketing expertise. Business clients can use the group to inform their strategies with data on specific customer segments.

All data will be gathered on an aggregate level, in keeping with the company's privacy practices, so it will not disclose any personally identifiable information to merchants or partners for marketing purposes. Business Insights will be housed within AmEx's Global Merchant Services unit.

Essentially, the pooled transactional data can be used to create consumer segments like “ultra-affluent” or “large corporate” to evaluate purchasing patterns within a business.

Business Insights will be able to identify consumer spending trends, consult on customer acquisition and retention, develop marketing and advertising strategies, and improve CRM and procurement processes, according to a company statement.

The division has began work with businesses of all sizes, providing research from individual consulting projects to quarterly industry benchmarking reports. Leading Hotels of the World has signed on to work with the division to track its customers' purchasing behavior, guide its loyalty program and enhance corporate marketing initiatives.

Lisa Gonzalez, director of public affairs for American Express, said her company has access to both card member and merchant data.

When asked if AmEx has taken on new staff as a result of the new unit, Gonzalez said that the company has made an investment in terms of resources, but would not give specifics.

Dave Frankland, analyst at Forrester Research, said the data AmEx is offering isn't available from other sources.

“There's absolutely a bigger demand for information on customers and markets than ever before,” he said. “This helps meet some of that need. This isn't data from one particular channel like e-mail or direct mail. This looks at entire industries like online spend or in-store spend or geographic spend.”

Frankland said the aggregated data information would likely be helpful for strategic planners and marketing planners.

“For the classic direct marketers, I'm sure they'll put it to the test to see if it works,” he said. “If it moves a needle it will be successful.”

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