Customer Experience Management (CEM)

AT&T & Friends Form Rewards Program

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.

Read more about carrier's customer retention strategies on the customer experience management content channel here on Light Reading.

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, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

sarahthomas1011 3/18/2015 | 2:22:01 PM
Better than Isis! I'm surprised the program isn't limited to American Express card users, but that is probably what makes it appealing to the other brands on board. As is true with most things, this will get more appealing the more companies get involved.

I give this a better shot than AT&T's past JV, Isis, though.
Ariella 3/18/2015 | 4:18:48 PM
Re: Better than Isis! Interesting, it sounds like AE's main incentive is the data it gains. 
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 4:31:44 PM
Classic A classic marketing technique adapted to 21st century communications technology. I don't see this going wrong.
sarahthomas1011 3/18/2015 | 6:46:13 PM
Re: Classic I can sense the sarcasm, but I admit, I don't see your concern with the service...what do you think could go wrong?
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 8:40:54 PM
Re: Classic Nope. My sarcasm projector must be malfunctioning. I'm not being sarcastic at all. This looks like a win all-around. 
sarahthomas1011 3/20/2015 | 12:30:20 PM
No more rewards for US Cellular Well, not everyone is gung ho about rewards programs. US Cellular is shutting down its program to cut costs. It says, in an SEC Filing, that it's doing it "to bring its customers more of the things that matter to them the most, such as national coverage, customer service excellence, the newest devices and the best overall value." 

Phil_Britt 3/23/2015 | 11:06:00 AM
Re: No more rewards for US Cellular SReedy,


Just rolling out a rewards program is not enough. If it's run like a "buy nine, get the 10th free") program, without any true value for customers, it will mean nothing. And a rewards program means nothing if customer service is terrible. Rewards programs need to be nutured, managed, tweaked when necessary and run in conjunction wiht a company's overall marketing efforts.
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