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American Express exec: Data and automation are mobile programmatic’s must-haves

NEW YORK – An American Express Open executive at the MMA Mobile Automation and Programmatic Leadership Forum claimed the company’s successful programmatic strategy stems from the right mix of proprietary data, automation and creative, which helps create seamless user experiences.

During the session, “Using Programmatic to Accelerate Growth,” the executive discussed American Express Open’s efforts to maximize its current programmatic initiatives and continue testing new mobile-first tactics in a way that reaches audiences at scale. The brand, which maintains a large marketing cloud, has moved much of its ad spend toward programmatic, due to increasing consumer demand for frictionless mobile experiences.

“A lot is said about data and a lot is said about automation,” said Rajeev Subramanyam, vice president of partnership and digital acquisition at American Express Open. “For American Express, we need to go one step beyond that.

“Data and automation are just the means to an end. The end is delivering a seamless customer experience.”

Challenges and opportunities
The executive admitted that programmatic’s challenges and opportunities are even more compounded within the mobile space. However, it does allow the brand to become more efficient and reach audiences at scale in a much more profound manner.

“We’re seeing programmatic enable our success in multiple ways,” Mr. Subramanyam said.

The financial institution opts to leverage proprietary and first-party data to drive two to three times more efficiency in its marketing efforts. Additionally, creative that functions well in real-time must be thrown into the mix.

American Express creates proprietary segmentation in-house, and then combines creative, data and automation technology for a cohesive programmatic strategy, which it claims has resulted in success.

It is imperative for brands to maximize their programmatic efforts for mobile as well, since it is catching up to television very quickly in terms of amount of engagement.

Consequently, many marketers are shifting their ad spend toward this channel.

Mr. Subramanyam revealed that 94 percent of small businesses leverage smartphones to conduct business-related tasks, meaning that brands must make their mobile experiences relevant in order to create disruption.

If these experiences are relevant for consumers, advertisers and publishers will more readily see the benefits of investing in mobile as well.

“All of us know that mobile has taken over,” Mr. Subramanyam said.

Best programmatic practices
American Express Open’s programmatic strategy follows three key components. First, the company focuses on using first-party data to better reach the right prospect or customer.

The next step is tapping engaging content that will result in a relevant mobile experience, spanning from advertising to conversion.

Finally, American Express uses data and automation at scale to be efficient, a feat that involves iterative testing.

In one of its recent campaigns, the brand implemented a Facebook ad within targeted audiences’ news feeds that invited them to apply for a credit card. However, American Express later realized that the application form itself needed to be mobile-optimized so that users would not tire of typing in their personal details in the small form fields.

“Every dollar you spend from an advertising perspective, you don’t want to see drop off in the [conversion] funnel,” Mr. Subramanyam said.

Other mobile-centric avenues that American Express continues to explore are geo-location targeting and push notifications.

“We know certain geographies skew toward small businesses,” Mr. Subramanyam said. “We’re able to look at geo and say, ‘is there a small business audience and can we scale them?’”

Meanwhile, push notifications remain a top communication channel for mobile marketers, especially those with extensive rewards programs.

Capitalizing on existing strategies and experimenting with new methods, however, still proves to be challenging at times.

An American Express executive at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2016 also discussed several challenges and benefits from building mobile solutions for unbanked and underbanked consumers, including millennials (see story).

“Having that end to an experience, we believe, is critical for mobile,” Mr. Subramanyam said.