AT&T is teaming up with American Express and a number of major brands to form a US-based loyalty program in which the participating companies will reward customers for their patronage.
At launch, the joint venture, dubbed Plenti, includes AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), American Express Company , Macy's, ExxonMobil, Nationwide, Rite Aid, Direct Energy and Hulu LLC . American Express, through its US Loyalty division, is managing the initiative and plans to add more companies, but wanted to start with a smattering of places where it sees US consumers spending their time.
Unlike most credit card programs, Plenti isn't dependent on consumers using their AmEx. It rewards them with points for shopping at any of the stores involved that customers can then redeem -- 1,000 points is equivalent to around $10 -- for rewards at the participating retailers. At AT&T, points are rewarded for actions like signing up for qualifying wireless services or for eligible charges on your wireless bill.
Why this matters
Loyalty programs are not a new concept in the wireless industry -- C Spire has had a successful Percs rewards program in place since 2011, and Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US Inc. offer their own variations, for example. But AT&T is taking a different approach to loyalty by teaming up with this larger, cross-industry group. Both C Spire and Verizon only offer rewards for actions related to their own services, such as paying bills online, whereas AT&T rewards can be redeemed with points earned at any participating brand.
The impetus for the carriers to get involved in this kind of service is both to create more loyal customers and to get more data on customers by knowing their purchase history, location and other details. Verizon, for one, requires its customers to participate in Verizon Selects, part of a program to sell aggregated customer data to marketers, in order to be rewarded.
In Plenti, however, American Express holds the customer data, not AT&T, so it's unclear what data the carrier is getting in return, if any. The group says more details on the program will be announced before it launches in May.
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— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading