On Tuesday around late morning I posted some speculation about the launch of a new program by Plenti.
Judging from the American Express trademark filings I guessed at an opportunity to earn and redeem Membership Rewards points across a variety of merchants. It turns out not to be Membership Rewards-related at all.
Earn Points With a Variety of Retail Partners
Plenti is a new ‘coalition rewards program’ where you can earn points across a variety of participating merchants.
American Express already owns Payback which offers coalition rewards programs in Germany, Poland, India, Mexico, and Italy. Now they bring the model to the U.S.
Inital sign-ons include:
- Nationwide Insurance
- Rite Aid
- Direct Energy
By the time the program launches during the spring there will likely be more.
Here are some earn examples:
– Earn 1 point per $1 spent of your monthly phone bill at AT&T
– Earn 200 points after you make your first fuel purchase at a participating Exxon or Mobil branded service station
– Earn 100 points after you spend $80 on qualifying purchases at Macy’s
– Earn points on rotating product offers, such as 400 points when you buy two bottles of vitamins
Fits Into the New Amex Mass Market Strategy
This puts American Express squarely in the US everyday consumer market. That’s a direction they’ve clearly been taking the company — building out their portfolio away from the traditional business traveler and airline co-brand.
- The Amex Everyday cards are aimed at ‘multi-tasking women’
- The Bluebird and Recard products are aimed at unbanked consumers through Walmert and Target co-brands
Unlike traditional frequent flyer programs, coalition loyalty programs are aimed at consumers broadly and not at frequent travelers.
What We Know About How It Will Work
The program won’t launch until sometime in spring, so you can’t join yet and we don’t have details like earning rates.
However, we do know that:
- Earning will be independent of payment method. So you can AT&T bills with a Chase Ink card, earn the 5x category bonus, and still earn Plenti points. You can earn Plenti points when filling up at an Exxon or Mobil station, and still earn category bonuses for gas with a non-Amex card.
- They promise ‘special offers and product discounts’. Already American Express has the ‘sync’ platform and targets offers for specific retailers at consumers. Here they have new retailer partners as part of Plenti, as well as more consumer purchasing data.
- 1 Cent Per Point in Value. Points are promised to be worth ‘at least’ 1 cent apiece in ‘savings’ (1000 points = $10).
When the program launches it will clearly be worth joining (for free).
How This Fits Into The Overall Direction of Loyalty
Worldwide, coalition retail programs have been the rage lately. American Express is hardly the only player in the global market. In Northern Europe the Coalition Rewards PINS program actually ties a variety of retailers together with an airline (Air Baltic). Canada has Air Miles which – while lacking an airline partner – offers redemption opportunities that include travel. And the Avios program in the UK has a non-airline related sibling.
Clearly there’s the possibility for consumers to leverage their earn across multiple merchants. And the benefit to merchants that they hope to attract customers of other participating brands, while avoiding having to manage their own program.
While American Express is providing the infrastructure here, and the program isn’t tied to Amex payment cards or to other Amex platforms like Membership Rewards, it would seem like this is an area ripe for future growth.
They’re claiming to be the ‘first and only’ such program in the U.S. I’m a bit skeptical about the claim to first. (The historical S&H Green Stamps program probably counts as a coalition rewards program. And Plink Rewards was an undercapitalized one which shut down in September.) When pressed, they claim to be “the first program with major US national brands – there haven’t been other programs with diverse well known partners like Plenti” and that seems fair.
American Express will no doubt make a better go of this than those that have come before.