It’s not very often UK consumers can snub their noses at their consumer cousins across the pond and say, “You mean you don’t already have that?” However, the US only recently announced a single loyalty programme where consumers can earn points across multiple companies ranging from paying phone bills to buying groceries. It’s called Plenti (@plenti)and it is part of AmEx, although you don’t need an AmEx card to participate.
In the UK we may not now have a coalition government, but we have had a coalition loyalty programme for years, it’s called Nectar. Similar to the concept of Plenti, consumers can earn points across multiple brands ranging from British Gas to Argos.
But the UK isn’t unique. In fact, AmEx already operates loyalty programmes in other countries, like PayBack in Germany that has been in operation for 15 years.
So, why is the US so slow to embrace this concept? I believe it has been cannibalised by other sales and marketing activities. Two reasons spring to mind:
Firstly, since the US is such a big market and nation-wide retailers have so much power, they may not make great partners when it comes to staying humble and sharing. Ranging from outdoor clothing companies to petrol stations, large US retailers already have their own individual loyalty programmes. Could there be too many alpha dogs in a pack all wanting to define the terms of the programme? To put it in perspective, could retailers trading across Europe get together and agree to something like a joint loyalty programme? I can’t see it happening.
Secondly, I believe that in the US the affiliate industry has been too strong and so retailers have taken the lazier route, which is letting affiliates do all the work. Why band together to form a unified loyalty programme when affiliates have essentially set up something that produces almost the same effect, cash back affiliate sites? Cash back sites build loyalty through giving back cash or giving cash to a consumers’ charity of choice. After all, in the bigger scheme of things, cash is better than points anyway!
But now the US will have it’s cake and eat it too, they have a strong cash back affiliate channel and a nationwide cross-company loyalty scheme. This should benefit consumers who will enjoy even more ways of earning while they spend.
Greta Paa-Kerner (@gretapk) is an associate lecturer on sales management and digital marketing as well as a management consultant through Ganduxer Consulting.