Amex's Latest Bid to Boost Small Businesses: QR Codes

It's the latest move in the long-running Shop Small initiative


American Express continues to go all in on helping small businesses thrive in times of economic uncertainty.

This time around, the financial services juggernaut is using geotagging technology to guide shoppers to the small businesses that need some summer lovin’ to stay afloat.

“Let’s Go Shop Small” is the latest iteration of its long-running Shop Small campaign, but only its second to run specifically during the summer months. It includes digital OOH creative with GIFs highlighting seasonally relevant small business categories such as ice cream shops, bookstores, nail salons and restaurants.

The GIFs, some of which include calls to action such as “Nail your summer vibe” and “Grab your summer fade before summer fades,” also contain special QR codes that guide consumers to Amex-accepting merchants in select categories and located near the DOOH units. They are also featured on Amex’s Shop Small Map.

“We’ve always been about delivering the right message at the right time at the right place as our customer and their experience is at the center of all we do,” Marianne Rausch, vp of global advertising for Small Business Saturday and Shop Small, told Adweek.  

Amex’s recently conducted Shop Small Summer Survey for 2022 found that 76% of small business owners are concerned about inflation, and more than half (53%) agree their summer sales need to be at pre-Covid levels in order for them to stay in business through next year. 

“So, we all need to continue to support the local businesses we love to help keep our communities thriving,” she added. 

Indeed, since its inception in 2010, the impact of Shop Small has been substantial.

Rausch told Adweek that over the past 12 years, consumers spent an estimated $163 billion at small businesses on Small Business Saturdays. Additionally, since 2020 the company has invested more than $300 million in Shop Small initiatives, which are part of Amex’s ongoing effort to drive $100 billion in spending at small businesses through 2025.

While this is a new approach to connecting consumers to merchants, Rausch said the goals remain the same.

“Knowing how imperative consumer support is to local businesses and the tremendous growth and adoption QR codes have seen since the pandemic, we thought embedding QR codes driving to lists of local businesses was a fun way for consumers to Shop Small this summer,” Rausch said.

In addition to the campaign, Amex will host Business Class Live, a free full-day event on July 20 open to small business owners who can either attend virtually or in person at New York’s Javits Center. The event will feature Insecure creator and entrepreneur Issa Rae and best-selling author Jay Shetty as speakers. It’s an extension of the company’s Business Class educational platform, which was created in 2020 to assist customers navigating the pandemic.