By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
Loyalty programs have increased in popularity significantly through all retail categories, from grocery to clothing, but all of these programs have one thing in common: They're good for only one company. That's not the case anymore with Plenti, the first cross-brand loyalty program of its kind. Plenti was launched by American Express and will soon be active this spring with several noted retailers on board. Among them are Macy's, Rite Aid and AT&T, along with ExxonMobil, Nationwide, Hulu and Direct Energy.
Macy's and Rite Aid currently have their own loyalty programs, known as Macy's Rewards and Wellness+, respectively, but by signing up for Plenti, they're giving their customers more choice in rewards. Participants of Plenti earn points for spending a certain amount of money, in a structure similar to reward programs offered by other retailers, however, these points can be used as retailers other than the company where they were earned. A March 18, 2015 press release released by American Express on Plenti explains how the program will work. Each purchase a consumer makes at a participating retailer, such as AT&T, will earn points, which the consumer can use towards purchases at other companies. The press release gave an example of a consumer buying a tank of fuel at an Exxon or Mobil-branded station and redeeming the earned points towards a pair of shoes at Macy's stores or Macys.com. Every 1,000 points will earn at least $10 in savings, and program members have the chance to get more points by participating in special offers at the program's retailers or online at Plenti's marketplace.
An article published by USA Today stated that there will be no brands competing with each other in the same category, and that Rite Aid will roll their existing Wellness Plus program into Plenti, providing new loyalty cards to their members, while Macy's will have Plenti and their Macy's Rewards program at the same time. The Wellness Plus program will have certain purchases that will be eligible for Plenti rewards, with one reward listed as getting a year of 20% off all purchases after Plenti reward members reach a certain level of spending.
Although run by a credit card company, Plenti is not connected to a credit card, and according to the program material provided by Plenti, any individual age 13 and up is eligible for Plenti. Discounts and rewards in Plenti are applied to any purchase made by a valid form of payment, such as cash, and any debit or charge card. Whether a payment made with a retailer's gift card is accepted as eligible for rewards is unclear at this time. However, the program is likely to be a big draw for customers who may want credit card-level rewards, but don't like signing up for credit cards.
The program was launched after American Express commissioned a research study from Ebiquity, and found that “72% of respondents said they would prefer a rewards program that allowed them to shop at many stores versus a single brand.”
"This is a perfect time for a coalition loyalty program in the U.S., as online marketing becomes more efficient and American consumers become more accustomed to rewards programs, special offers and discounts," says Ed Gilligan, president at American Express. "With American Express' deep experience with the Membership Rewards® program and acquisition of Loyalty Partner in 2011, we are the right company to operate a loyalty program of this scale, involving such celebrated brands."
American Express's division US Loyalty will operate Plenti and manage the rewards process, as well as securing consumer data. US Loyalty will also oversee the marketing efforts for all participating brands. For now, Plenti.com only lists participating retailers and says the program will launch this spring.