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Rite Aid execs see Plenti of potential

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Craig Riner (left) and John Learish of Rite Aid

Rite Aid's Craig Riner (left) and John Learish

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NEW YORK — Rite Aid senior vice president of marketing John Learish and vice president of marketing Craig Riner were on hand in Manhattan Wednesday evening at the consumer launch event for Plenti, the coalition loyalty program of which the drug chain is a founding partner.

The event featured entertainment, games and displays from Plenti merchant partners, which along with Rite Aid include AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, Mobil, Nationwide, Direct Energy, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hulu and American Express. Each company is the exclusive partner in its business segment. Plenti is run by US Loyalty, a division of American Express.

Consumers signing up for Plenti can use a single card to earn and redeem points to use for savings at any of the participating merchants. Earlier this week, Rite Aid rolled out wellness+ with Plenti, a co-branded version of its wellness+ rewards program that enables its customers to earn and redeem Plenti points.

Learish noted that the Plenti launch comes five years after the May 2010 launch of wellness+, which now has over 25 million active members and captures about 80% of Rite Aid’s business.

“It’s something that we have been committed to evolving and improving over time, and we’ve put a lot of enhancements into the market,” Learish said. “What Plenti does is give us the ability to really drive new customer acquisition. We’re estimating that 70 million members are going to join Plenti in the first year through its partners. So we’re going to be able to reach a lot of shoppers that aren’t shopping Rite Aid today and might not be familiar with us.”

“A significant portion of that 70 million number is going to come through Rite Aid,” he added.

For some consumers, Plenti points also might be a differentiator in determining whether they shop at Rite Aid or another pharmacy retailer, Learish acknowledged. “Customers are going to have the ability to accrue and earn points in a lot of different places, and they’re going to add up. So they’re going to want to shop at the retailers where they can spend those points.”

Said Riner, “At every drug store corner, they could turn left or right. This will provide a more meaningful value proposition that could turn customers right into our stores instead of left into our competitors’.”

“We think it has the potential to drive a big benefit for Rite Aid,” Learish added.

Riner said Plenti’s current mix of blue-chip, complementary merchant partners is part of its strong appeal, and there’s “an aggressive effort to grow the coalition partnership.”

“As we continue to grow the appeal and power of the program, the more partners that we can bring into the mix that are in different sectors and different categories and that enable meaningful, everyday interactions for our customers, the more it will benefit everybody,” he explained.

Later this month, Rite Aid plans to get under way with a national television, radio, circular and digital advertising campaign for wellness+ with Plenti, including social media.

“That’s another strength of this coalition. The partners have a collective marketing spend of over $3 billion,” Learish said. “US Loyalty will be running an overall campaign to support the program, and then each partner will execute its own version. So you’re going to see surround sound on this for quite some time.”

Plenti, too, will provide Rite Aid with a broader picture of its customers, according to Riner.

“For the first time, we’ll actually be able to get better insight into what our customers are doing outside of our stores or outside of our channels. We’ll be able to look at customers in aggregate and target customers that have different buying behaviors at different partners and, through Plenti, target them in ways we couldn’t before. It really creates a more holistic picture of our customer.”

For example, Plenti data may indicate that customers who buy fragrances at Macy’s are a great target for cosmetics or skin care at Rite Aid, said Riner. “So we’ll be able to go through Plenti to target customers that may never have set foot in our stores before with very relevant offers at Rite Aid.”


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