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Amex’s Stewart Kendall: ‘81% of our cardmembers are now engaged with us digitally’

  • As Gen Z and Millennial users further engage with the brand, the mobile app experience has evolved.
  • Kendall, the head of Amex's mobile app, joins us to discuss his firm's mobile strategy.
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Amex’s Stewart Kendall: ‘81% of our cardmembers are now engaged with us digitally’

American Express has seen its customers really move to mobile — 81 percent of its cardmembers are now digitally active with the brand. And Millennials and Gen Z are really leading this increased engagement.

Amex’s vp of global mobile products Stewart Kendall joins me on the podcast today to talk about the company’s mobile strategy and how it informs the entire business. We discuss how Amex uses the mobile app in an attempt to play a more integral role in its members’ ’ lives. Lastly, we get into what younger users expect from mobile and how Amex has created products to service this generation.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Amex’s mobile strategy

We’re committed to becoming an essential part of our customers’ digital lives, while continuing to deliver on our vision of providing the world’s best customer experience to our cardmembers every day.

We’re seeing a huge migration to our digital channels. About 81 percent of our active cardmembers are engaged with us digitally — whether that’s on a mobile phone or website. So, it’s really important that we’re developing experiences that meet the needs of our customers in these new channels.

Making the app more integral

We’ve developed a number of new features over the past couple of years — in fact, I think we delivered 18 to 20 new features in the app over the last year alone. We’re trying to drive a lot more functionality into the experience that would allow our customers to primarily self-serve in the channel.

We’re also thinking about the differentiated experiences — the adjacent spaces — that we want to operate in as an organization. We’re introducing lifestyle and services features along the lines of dining, chat, and concierge.

The voice of mobile within Amex

The company feels it very strongly. We’re all digital natives and use our devices everyday. People can see how important these channels are to our customers, as well. We’re very aware of the importance of the app within the company and we’re trying to drive capabilities and migrate our platforms to be able to support some of these new channels and experiences within our native app.

Managing the product pipeline

Customer need is the key thing we’re trying to figure out based on what we’re hearing from our customers. What kind of servicing and features do they expect from us in the mobile app? That’s absolutely critical. We try to listen to feedback — through an app store or through feedback tools installed in the app.

One of the key things we launched last year was peer to peer payments. In partnership with PayPal and Venmo, we launched the capability to split transactions from within the app with friends or family. It’s very powerful and we’ve seen strong take-up so far.

Our cardmembers can also choose to defer the payment of a transaction and pay over time and installments. Plan It/Pay It is a very popular feature and we’ve seen very strong engagement. It’s part of how we’re thinking about meeting the needs of our customers where they are and where they’re using their app experience.

Promoting Amex’s mobile app

We’re beginning to take mobile features and functionality above the line. In the UK, for example, we’ve got a lot of TV slots that talk about the benefits of the mobile app and the power of membership. We’ll start to do more of that in the U.S.

Of course we do below-the-line marketing. We constantly engage and talk to our cardmembers about the features we’ve created within the mobile experience. Because the app is lightweight and easy to navigate, we try to make it very easy for cardmembers to discover our new features, as well.

Engagement with the app

We’re seeing very strong engagement growth with Gen Z and Millennial cardmembers across the app. We’ve seen about 26 percent year over year growth in engagement with the app and a lot of that is coming from the Millennials and Gen Z.

Younger users generally go deeper into the app itself. As we’ve added more features, they have become more inquisitive and explore the app more. Gen Z and Millennials are about three and a half times more active than our boomers.

Designing and messaging younger users

Our brand narrative has changed a lot. We’re evolving as we think about how to position our cards. If you look at the Gold Card, for example, it’s clearly geared for a younger audience — one that’s inherently mobile.

Today, we have a very strong focus on our core enterprise app, but we recognize that our cardmembers are using multiple experiences from multiple partners. As an organization, we have cobrand partners and there are a range of other partners in the space we could integrate our experiences into.

So, it doesn’t mean we’re wedded to the idea of having a singular app strategy. We recognize the need to explore partnerships and to connect with more customers wherever they are. So, I think it’s a bit of an evolving space for us. We’re actively looking at different ways to engage cardmembers, both within our proprietary channel experiences but also within those our partners.

From a mobile app standpoint, we’re looking at ways we can build capabilities to better enable that — like being able to deep link, allow our experiences into partner experience, and how we build proprietary software to embed in the DNA of our partners.

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