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AmEx’s new division displays value of data

The data and analytics market has seen considerable action this year, from Merkle’s deal for CognitiveData to Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture. Even credit card giant American Express launched an analytics and consulting division last month that promises to help marketers make their campaigns and research more relevant.

Leading Hotels of the World is working with American Express to supplement the analytics work it does based on its customer data. The sales and marketing distribution company markets its services to upscale independent hotels.

“Partnering with American Express [for data analytics] can give us additional insights into customers we would normally know very little about,” said Claudia Kozma Kaplan, SVP of marketing and communications at The Leading Hotels of the World.  “We can be much more intelligent about where we spend our resources with targeted, tactical offers, and we know for sure that we are advertising to a group of people that definitely are our clients.”

“Analytics has been the hottest word [in marketing] for the past 18 months,” says David Frankland, principal analyst at Forrester Research. This trend is being driven in part by the economy, which has forced marketers to analyze their marketing spend more carefully to ensure profitability.

Frankland adds that consumers’ “tolerance level” for wasteful advertising “has decreased.” This is forcing marketers to rely more heavily on analysis to make certain that they are using the right messages and channels to reach consumers.

American Express’ Business Insights division hopes to help marketers do just this. The company always has provided data analysis to merchants, but the unit is taking that experience and using it to develop solutions for marketers that analyze consumers’ transactional data in aggregate.

“The key here is the breadth and depth of the data available to us,” said David Bonalle, VP at American Express Business Insights.

American Express card members generally fall into the “affluent” category. Yet “because our database is so large and covers such a broad set of demographics, we are able to normalize our analysis to represent the general population,” or specific consumer segments or geographic regions, Bonalle explains.

The company expects to work with clients from an array of industries with a variety of marketing needs, from assessing the viability of entering a region to acquiring, retaining and reactivating customers.

In terms of the data itself, American Express’ entry into the analytics market makes information available that will complement marketers’ existing analytics work.

“There aren’t a lot of companies that are looking at truly transactional data,” says Frankland. What makes American Express’ data unique is that it “is market intelligence in aggregate,” he adds. The opportunity it provides marketers “is to move beyond buying lists and to learn more about customers and prospects,” he explains.

Representatives from some analytics firms said they welcome the availability of American Express’ data.

The Business Insights Division’s offering is “complementary” to what DataLogix, which owns the co-op database NextAction, makes available to marketers, says Eric Roza, president of DataLogix: “Transactional data is just one part of what we focus on, which is to take all the best real-world data and using that to describe audiences in a way that is valuable to advertisers.”

AmEx’s creation of this new division may even give a boost to analytics market as a whole, thanks to the cachet that the American Express name carries.

“We’re still in an age when even using age and gender [for marketing analysis] is not something a lot of companies do,” says Roza. American Express, because of “the quality of data that is available and its brand value” is the kind of company that can bring new companies into the analytics market, he continues.

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