Macy’s, Rite Aid, ExxonMobil and other major companies join forces with American Express to provide US shoppers with new kind of experience with loyalty program. New program is better than before.
In other words, shoppers could earn points by purchasing anti-aging cream and lipstick at Rite Aid and then redeem those points to get savings when buying a dress at Macy’s. They could nab points by paying their cellphone bills at AT&T and then use them to get $2 off when they fill up their gas tanks at an ExxonMobil station.
Until now, loyalty programs in the United States have been highly siloed, with retailers offering points and rewards systems that only applied within their own stores. The participating companies believe that this set-up will be more appealing to consumers because it is more flexible.
“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,” said Ed Gilligan, president at American Express, in a statement.
The program is called Plenti, and though it is operated by American Express, shoppers can use any form of payment as they earn or redeem their points.
As the coalition announced the offering on Wednesday, participating companies included Hulu, Nationwide insurance and Direct Energy.
The coalition hopes to eventually add more businesses from different categories such as food, auto and travel.
“We were looking to have a big player in every industry,” said Charlotte Fuller, an American Express spokeswoman. “So we’re not going to have another drug company involved, we’re not going to have another gas company involved.”
While Plenti is a new model in the United States, similar coalition loyalty programs have existed abroad for years. American Express said that its experience with these programs in other countries has taught it that it is important to have brands from across a variety of different categories.
The goal of Plenti is to deliver small savings to consumers on regular purchases, a mission that is different from traditional credit card rewards programs, in which a shopper might hoard points over the long haul to cash in for a big purchase such as plane tickets.
“Unlike some rewards programs where you may accumulate points for two years, this is about being able to experience savings throughout your everyday life,” Fuller said.
So, for example, if a consumer swipes her Plenti card at an ExxonMobile station and has amassed a certain number of points, she might get an on-screen prompt at the pump asking if she’d like to save $2 on her purchase today. (If not, you simply hang onto those points and keep accumulating more.)
Each participating brand will have control over how consumers accumulate points in their stores, but the point redemption structure will be largely consistent across stores: Generally, a thousand points will translate into about $10 savings.
Even as the economy improves, consumers have remained value-conscious and continue to check prices and conduct research in search of the best deals. With Plenti, the coalition is likely looking to capitalize on that mindset.
“Consumers today are busy and smart. They know good value, and they want to be rewarded for the dollars they spend day-in and day-out at their favorite stores,” said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer at Macy’s. “Plenti will offer customers everyday opportunity to earn and to redeem those points with much more choice.”
One thing that retailers won’t gain from participating in Plenti is access to one another’s consumer data. So if you buy shampoo at Rite-Aid, Macy’s will not know that you made that purchase.