DigitalBits’ Founder: Blockchain Might Have Saved Plenti

April 24, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Not so long ago, American Express set a shut down date for its Plenti network, a loyalty program that attempted to bring together a coalition of vendors to make the rewards program more attractive. It wasn’t a bad idea, but in the end, it didn’t work so well mainly because consumers seemed less than interested and several merchants bailed out of the program. DigitalBits’ Al Burgio, meanwhile, wonders if the program might have been saved had it put blockchain to use like seen in DigitalBits itself.

Burgio, DigitalBits’ founder, suggests that the use of blockchain might have improved Plenti’s efficiency, which would have been a big help in terms of its overall user experience.

Burgio explains: “Plenti failed because it was forced to work in a world with inherent limitations of legacy technologies that caused an imbalance between consumers and businesses. Consumers and merchants have become disillusioned with many legacy loyalty programs because of the challenges with use, low client retention, substantial costs associated with addressing the security concerns with redemption management, and inherent time delays.”

He continued, saying “…That’s why tokenizing loyalty and rewards programs on the blockchain is the future. Consumers will easily be able to transfer and trade tokenized points. This gives the consumer an increase in choice and flexibility and helps enhance the perceived value of loyalty points for the business.”

Burgio makes a good case here, but he doesn’t make a complete one. While ease of use and user experience are two major factors in the success of any program, they’re not the only ones. Tokenization and blockchain operations will certainly speed up the network, but it’s not just speed that kept users out of the fold.

Customers didn’t see a value here. A Magnify Money report from 2015 considered Plenti worthwhile at Rite Aid but not worth the hassle for use at gas stations; customers would have saved about $0.10 on a typical fill-up, which could run $30 or more, so definitely not worthwhile. The similarity in names to a General Mills yogurt release also called Plenti likely didn’t help matters.

A combination of a difficult-to-use system and a lack of value torpedoed Plenti. Blockchain might have fixed half the problem, but whether it would have been enough by itself is speculative at best.