In May, American Express launched Plenti, a U.S.-based coalition loyalty program with eight partners, including Macy's, AT&T, Exxon Mobil and Rite Aid. These types of programs, which let consumers earn and redeem a single currency across multiple partners, are popular in other areas of the world, but coalitions have historically failed to gain traction in the United States.
Plenti's initial progress indicates that it might buck the trend: It signed up more than 20 million members in its first two months reaching around 16% US household penetration. For reference, established coalitions such as AIR MILES, Nectar and FlyBuys have household penetration rates of more than 50%.
But any decent loyalty marketer knows enrollment doesn’t tell the whole story. Three things, in particular, give coalition in the U.S. a fighting chance:
The loyalty program landscape is crowded. Plenti entered the market at a time when companies across industries – from retail to travel/hospitality to automotive – invest in loyalty programs to drive retention, engagement and loyalty. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, consumers belong to an average of nine loyalty programs. The proliferation of branded programs makes it hard to stand out, and it shows: 58% of loyalty marketers that Forrester surveyed in 2015 indicated they were dissatisfied with their loyalty strategy. Coalition programs offer a differentiated value proposition: members shopping across partners experience an increased earning velocity and wider choices for redemption, which boost the utility and perceived value of the program.