Loyalty Program Design FlawsAfter a lengthy hiatus from posting on our blog, a recent marketplace development caught my eye and prompted me to write.

Allow me to open by asking – “when was the last time that you saw a loyalty program end?” We’re all familiar with programs being added by retailers, travel partners, restaurants, etc. But I cannot remember a recent instance of a program closing. However, that’s exactly what is happening with the American Express-sponsored coalition program called Plenti –  https://www.plenti.com/home .

And because this is such an unusual occurrence, I stopped to think about why it is happening, using my own experience with the program as a guide. Here are my thoughts.

First, I didn’t find the program design overly compelling. Unlike American Express’ excellent flagship loyalty program, Membership Rewards, Plenti seemed restrictive and undefined. While Membership Rewards allows members to accrue points from all purchases, Plenti points could only be earned by purchases from selected sponsors. And those sponsors varied widely by type – from grocery chains to gas stations – meaning that there was no easy way for consumers to remember what qualified, and what did not.

Secondly, I would submit that it was relatively cumbersome to redeem accrued points. Consider this instruction from the program web site: “Use Plenti points at checkout to save money at certain Plenti partners, no matter where you earned them.” The detailed instructions accompanying this called for the purchaser (i.e., program participant) to “Scan/swipe your Plenti card or enter your phone number at checkout,” and then “Select “YES” when prompted, and enter Plenti PIN if needed.” That’s a lot of steps to complete just to get a small discount. And I may be missing it, but I don’t believe that there is any other way to use points.

So, why should I spend any time thinking – and writing – about the end of Plenti? Because I believe that it reinforces a couple of key messages that we stress when advising prospective and existing clients.

  • When designing a program, make sure that its purpose and construction are clear. Furthermore, make sure that the program provides a compelling value proposition to the program participant.
  • Keep it simple! Make earning and redeeming points easy to understand and straightforward to do. And then communicate, communicate, communicate.

Whether you are considering a single-sponsor, or coalition, program, we’re here to help you make it one that drives the results you want and need.


At Quality Incentive Company, Rob is responsible for leading the company’s business development efforts in both the employee recognition and sales/channel arenas. He has more than 10 years of experience in the recognition and incentive industry, having served as president and CEO of Atlanta-based Loyaltyworks before joining QIC in 2011.

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