2018 may prove a make-or-break year for the American Express-owned Plenti loyalty coalition. After enjoying the heady days of announcing the signing of grocer partners Southeastern grocers, which at long last gave Plenti the everyday-spend partner that coalition loyalty experts feared it lacked, the program has since seen an exodus of partners heading into the new year—a development that has some industry observers wondering if American Express may soon pull the plug on the nearly three-year-old program. Here’s hoping that 2018 will instead prove to be a rebound year for the program.
By Rick Ferguson
If Plenti skeptics are looking for the writing on the wall, they need look no further than Plenti’s partner page, which is now topped by a fire-engine red banner ad proclaiming the following announcement:
“After December 31, 2017, Nationwide, Direct Energy, Expedia, Enterprise, National, Alamo, Hulu and Local Dining will no longer participate in the Plenti program. Until then, Plenti members can continue to earn points at Nationwide, Direct Energy, Enterprise, National, Alamo and Local Dining on eligible purchases. After December 31, 2017, members will have access to any available Plenti points that have not expired and can use those points for savings on eligible purchases at participating Exxon and Mobil gas stations, Rite Aid stores, participating Chili’s restaurants, Macy’s department stores and BI-LO, Winn-Dixie, and Harveys supermarkets.”
That list looks like a partner exodus—and it doesn’t include Rite Aid, which after the company’s acquisition by Walgreen’s will stop offering Plenti points in January 2018. Nor does it mention that American Express sent out a letter to Plenti American Express cardholders them that Plenti Amex cards will be discontinued, and all cards will be closed on February 16, 2018. Industry observers can only speculate if these multiple departures and end dates are due to normal partner attrition and program evolution, or to some fundamental flaw in the Plenti model that has seen the program become an albatross for both partners and for Amex. Absent other explanations, most of us will default to the later explanation, as evinced by this money quote from AutoSlash:
“In the grand scheme of rental cars, Enterprise Holdings’ departure from Plenti is minor….Renters from Enterprise or National were always better off earning points/credits toward future free rental days via Enterprise Plus or National’s Emerald Club. The termination of the participation agreement by Enterprise Holdings simply means that Plenti didn’t offer enough value (read, “incremental revenue”) to the company. Many major partners have already left [Plenti] but others still remain. We do hope the remainder of the program stays intact as we’re tremendous fans of the ExxonMobil Plenti offers… Yet we still see the potential of the Plenti program completely imploding in the coming year.”
Plenti members are also dubious of the program’s prospects, if these sample comments from Phat Wallet are representative:
“My guess is sometime early next year the Plenti program will be ending. With all these hints we are getting, the writing is on the wall. It probably was not profitable for them as most decisions in business come down to dollars and cents. I wouldn’t be surprised if in January sometime Plenti made an announcement they were ending the Plenti program soon.”
“I foresee many trips to Macy’s, Chili’s, and ExxonMobil in the near future for many of our forum members.”
Need another warning sign of Plenti’s impending demise? Membership Rewards members have also been informed that, effective February 2, 2018, members will no longer be able to transfer Membership Rewards points to the Plenti rewards program. Absent a vote of confidence from American Express, or an impressive new partner signing or two in the new year, industry observers will continue to hold a vigil for the first national coalition loyalty program in the U.S. Here’s hoping that, instead, the program will rebound and continue to offer value to members for years to come.
Rick Ferguson is Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).