AmEx Links Up Facebook With Coupon-less Deals, And Lets Merchants Go Social

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American Express is going all in on the daily deals business, striking a deal with Facebook that is similar to the one it already has with Foursquare. Through a new Facebook app called “Link, Like, Love,” AmEx cardholders can link their cards to their Facebook accounts just like they can already link their cards to their Foursquare accounts. Once they do so they will get a dashboard of deals from brands such as Whole Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts, Virgin America, and Sports Authority. (These offers are different than Facebook Deals, which Facebook sources itself)

Unlike Groupon or LivingSocial, these AmEx deals don’t require anyone to pre-purchase anything or present any coupons to merchants. One of the biggest challenges for the daily deals industry is how to measure how many offers are actually redeemed at thousands of different participating businesses. But AmEx has an advantage here in that it is already a payment network that is set up and accepted in businesses large and small around the world. All people have to do is buy the deal item with their AmEx card and they will be credited the deal amount. The Facebook twist is that the deals you see are influenced by what you and your friends “like” on the Web using the Facebook like button.

Although many of the deals at launch are with national brands, AmEx is also leveraging its relationships with smaller local merchants. It is a launching a program aimed at them called Go Social which allows merchants to manage deals across both Facebook and Foursquare, with other social networks to be added in the future. Business owners will be able to create their own coupon-less deals in a self-serve manner that are triggered whenever someone with a linked account buys a deal item. Self-serve has been a challenge so far with local merchants, but AmEx can market to them through its existing channels.

Go Social will also allow merchants to put their locations on social networks like Facebook and Foursquare, and track their deal campaigns across those networks. Since AmEx has all the payment information, it can track deal redemption fairly easily. Closing the offer to redemption loop is the singel biggest challenge in the daily deals space. Even Groupon Now, Groupon’s mobile app with instant deals, requires participating merchants to have iPhones and train staff on how to redeem the offers. AmEx doesn’t try to change the behavior of the consumer or the merchant, other than give them an incentive to pay with AmEx versus cash or a credit card.

While it all sounds good on paper, the proof will be in the quality and density of deals that AmEx can procure. This will be a battle between local sales forces. But it looks like Groupon and LivingSocial finally have some serious competition.