American Express’ new blockchain technology could give the card issuer a trove of data on product purchases. Amex has built a distributed ledger that merchants can use to tie card rewards to products they want to move off the shelf.

For instance, if an auto insurance company wants to sell more policies or a coffee shop wants to serve more large coffees, it could offer American Express reward points for the featured items to make them more appealing. A merchant that wants to get people to download its app or join a program could offer the same enticement.

The blockchain lets merchants for the first time offer Amex rewards on their own channels, such as websites and apps, rather than through the card company’s channels. But the real value of the company’s blockchain may be the purchase data it will record.

Product manufacturers want proof and an audit trail that show a promotion led to the purchase of a product, said consultant Richard Crone. Such product-specific information, referred to as “SKU-level data” because it includes the stock-keeping unit number on each product, is coveted.

“Card issuers have known this from the beginning,” he said. “They’ve been fighting for years to get SKU-level data. Read more from…

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