Small businesses received renewed attention in 2020, as a growing number of consumers announced intentions to shop locally and from independent stores. Many will hope to build on this momentum in 2021, but the retail landscape remains competitive. Expanding on its annual Small Business Saturday promotion, American Express has introduced a number of new offers for 2021, several specifically for its Small Business card holders and small merchants.
Consumer behavior – and the consequent merchant response – has shifted significantly over the past year, changing the priorities of many small businesses. Many financial service companies, including American Express, adapted their programs accordingly; the latest offers are tailored to the needs of these SMBs in 2021, following the positive response to 2020’s measures.
“Last year we moved quickly to support our Card Members by delivering relevant value and services to help them navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic,” said Rachel Stocks, EVP of global premium products and benefits at American Express. “As a result, we saw incredible engagement across these offers, which drove increased loyalty and lower attrition levels than in 2019 across our Card Member base.”
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In addition to several Consumer Platinum Card Member benefits, AmEx will roll out offers to its small business customers. According to an AmEx Trendex survey, 59% of SMBs expect technology to be their top business expense this year, followed by office supplies (36%) and media & advertising (30%).
In response, U.S. Small Business Card Members will now have access to up to 400,000 additional rewards points in the categories of wireless, shipping, advertising, gas and office supplies. This works out to five times more than the traditional amount rewarded, in the areas where SMBs are most likely to spend. An additional $250 in cash back is also available on eligible business purchases.
“As the business landscape evolves, we’re focused on designing offers and solutions that give small businesses the continued support they need to navigate these uncertain times and come out stronger,” said Courtney Kelso, SVP and general manager of U.S. commercial card and global commercial services at American Express. “We want to reward them with offers that make sense for their business right now – such as shipping and advertising – while also setting them up for the future.”
There is also an emphasis on digital investment, following the explosive growth of e-commerce. The rise of DTC led many companies to establish an online presence and revenue channel for the first time. This may have been challenging from both an operational and financial standpoint; some SMBs have likely struggled to free up the necessary cash flow to build comprehensive digital system.
However, having a digital storefront has become table stakes in the new retail landscape. Those without an e-commerce channel missed out, as data from the AmEx Trendex found that 79% of consumers spent significantly more time shopping online last year. But it’s not too late: over half of consumers plan to increase their online spending in 2021. For e-commerce newcomers, AmEx has launched an offer to get four months free from BigCommerce, for setting up an online store.
Social media marketing is another particular focus for many brands in 2021, which likely prompted one other new offer from AmEx: discounted access to social media management solutions from Sprout Social. Connecting with customers on social media platforms has been an increasingly popular way for brands to maintain relationships with shoppers while keeping socially distant. Some brands have even used additional capabilities to sell directly in-platform.