Southeastern Grocers' Harveys chain has relaunched its loyalty program behind Plenti rewards, becoming the first supermarket chain to join the nascent coalition of retailers and services that share collection and redemption of shopper loyalty points.
The program, which went live at all Harveys stores Wednesday, replaces the chain's previous loyalty rewards program, FuelPerks, which offered points for grocery shopping redeemable for gasoline discounts, officials of Southeastern Grocers told SN.
American Express-owned Plenti is the first "coalition" loyalty card in the U.S. and launched last year with retailers including Rite Aid, Macy's and ExxonMobil. Ken Wicker, Regional VP of Harveys, in a statement said the company made the switch because it offered shoppers more flexibility to apply rewards points — including groceries at Harveys stores, which are located mainly in rural communities in Georgia.
"Our research showed us that the majority of our Harveys customers were not fully benefiting from our previous loyalty program. In fact, only approximately 20% of our Harveys customers benefited from it and many cited a desire to be able to apply rewards to the cost of groceries," Wicker said. "We saw Plenti as an opportunity to implement new value and offers that could benefit all Harveys customers. With Harveys Rewards with Plenti, our customers now have more flexibility, benefits and a longer redemption time of two years. And most important, they can choose to save on gas or apply their savings to a variety of products — including groceries."
A spokesman for Southeastern declined to comment on the financial considerations of changing programs. He said Southeastern's other owned banners, Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie, were continuing to offer FuelPerks to their shoppers.
Jim Wisner, president of the Libertyville, Ill.-based consulting firm Wisner Marketing Group, in an interview with SN described Plenti as "a modern-day version of trading stamps," but said the program has received some mixed reviews — in part because it hadn't signed up a grocery partner until now.
"Until it builds up a real head of steam, I don't see Plenti really influencing shopping decisions in the same way an airline loyalty program might," Wisner said. "I'm not sure that all customers really understand what it's all about. Getting a grocery store involved should certainly help, because they have the greatest trip frequency."
"Plenti hasn't really reached escape velocity yet," added Raymond Pucci, associate director of research services for Mercator Advisory Group, Boston. "Coalition loyalty programs are difficult to manage because they have so many different partners to coordinate and manage, in contrast to a single merchant program like Starbucks that can integrate pay, ordering and loyalty, and that drives engagement. That's the name of the game."