Plenti, the coalition loyalty program developed by American Express, stopped taking subscribers on Monday and will shutter completely on July 10, according to the program's website.
Until then, anyone with outstanding points can use them at participating retailers. Retail Dive's requests for more information from American Express and Plenti itself weren't immediately returned.
Several merchants abandoned Plenti at the new year, including Macy's, one of its most prominent participants, and at the time a Plenti spokesperson told Retail Dive that the remaining participating retailers were in "confidential discussions" about the program's future.
The writing was on the wall in January, when American Express confirmed that Plenti partners Direct Energy, Hulu, Nationwide, Enterprise, Alamo and Expedia, along with Macy's, had dropped out, a development posted on an alarming red banner on Plenti's website. An even earlier sign of trouble came last fall, when AT&T stopped taking Plenti points.
There was likely little room for the national program in Macy's revamped loyalty scheme, unveiled in September as part of its turnaround effort. Under that new system, customers started accruing rewards in the fall, with Macy's credit card holders automatically enrolled in one of three tiers. The biggest spenders enjoy free shipping, additional savings and earned points on every purchase, among other benefits. CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts in February that "customers are responding enthusiastically" to the new system, especially at the premium Platinum level.
"In 2018, we will continue to strengthen our brand," he said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. "We feel good about the next phases of our loyalty program, which will launch mid-year, including a tender-neutral option."
But it's not just that one of the largest participants found a better approach to loyalty, experts say. Plenti simply never caught on with American consumers from the get-go, according to research from Maritz Motivation Solutions, which provides loyalty programs to US and global companies. Although Plenti initially had a lot of sign-ups and American Express support, half of consumers Maritz surveyed said they weren't at all familiar with it.
Less than half of self-identified Plenti members said they had ever redeemed a reward through the program. Of those, most said they only purchased from one or two coalition members, which, Martitz VP of loyalty Barry Kirk told Retail Dive earlier this year defeats the main value proposition of the coalition model.
In addition to its service of pooling points, Plenti ran a marketplace featuring deals from its partners, but that didn't gain traction, either.
The program's failure could be due to its model, as well, which some argue isn't feasible in the U.S, which has a vast, regionalized retail landscape where even some big retailers aren't in all 50 states. In addition, most U.S. retailers have established and nurtured their own loyalty programs for decades, responding to the regional tastes and demands of local customers.