May 23, 2014, 3:41 PM

E-retailers honor veterans with offers

Several Top 500 e-retailers use the Veterans Advantage program to offer exclusive discounts to veterans year round. A similar program called Troop ID allows online retailers to authenticate veterans or active-duty military in order to offer them discounts.

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More than a third of U.S. consumers are likely to take advantage of retailers’ special sales and promotions over Memorial Day weekend, according to data collected by the National Retail Federation.

But what about veterans who the holiday itself recognizes?

A program called Veterans Advantage—started by Scott Higgins, a Vietnam War vet, in 2001—partners with retailers, airlines, hotels and restaurants to offer discounts and promotions to veterans and their families. “We’re a program that is open to all who have served and their family members: active duty, veterans, National Guard, reserves and their family members,” says Higgins. “That’s a large demographic, in excess of a 100 million.”

Participating e-retailers listed in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 are Apple Inc. (No. 2), Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 5), Target Corp. (No. 18), Overstock.com Inc. (No. 31), Foot Locker Inc. (No. 53), 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. (65) and CVS Caremark Corp. (No. 103). Overstock.com, Sears and Target have offers that are exclusively for their e-commerce sites.

A similar service, called ID.me, created by Iraq veteran Blake Hall, verifies the military service of some 25 million veterans and active-duty personnel. That enables online retailers to offer discounts to consumers to the 300,000 consumers who have signed up for the Troop ID credential. ID.me now offers a similar online credential for police, fire, emergency medical and other first responder personnel.

Athletic apparel brand Under Armour, No. 126 in the Top 500, offers 10% discounts to holders of either the military and first responder credential. Under Armour says 70% of the customers who used those IDs were first-time customers. Other retailers offering discounts via ID.me credentials include Sears, the Sam’s Club unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 4) and Overstock.com. Sam’s Club, which requires a membership, is offering holders of the Troop ID credential who join or renew their Sam’s Club membership a $15 gift card and $20 “welcome package” of food items from May 17-26. Retailers pay ID.me an undisclosed fee for each consumer authenticated.

For holders of the Veterans Advantage credential, Sears.com offers $35 off a $300 online purchase. Overstock.com gives veterans a free “O Club” membership, which gets them 5% off each order, free shipping and additional promotions. Target.com offers $7 off a $70 order and free shipping.

CVS started the program in November 2012, offering a 10% discount for purchases made on the site. Veterans Advantage provides a dedicated site housed behind a firewall for all purchases through the program. Member of Veterans Advantage log in to the site with the credentials and are then able to apply the discounts. The program also offered free shipping.

In July 2013, the company expanded the program to its bricks-and-mortar locations. In March 2014, it upped the discount from 10% to 20% online and in stores. The online offer can be combined with all other promotional offers. Members log in on CVS’s site, download and print a coupon that can be redeemed in the store.

“With Veterans Advantage, we have implemented a custom CVS turnkey solution, so our eligible customers can easily redeem our exclusive military offers and be rewarded with additional CVS/pharmacy savings,” says a CVS spokesperson.

Retailers do not have to verify a customer’s veteran status because Veterans Advantage has already taken care of that, and the card does not contain any personal identification information, Higgins says. That is on purpose, and it’s called “de-identification.” The reason behind that, he says, is because veterans experience identity theft at much higher rates than other consumers. The card or online credentials allows veterans to prove their veteran status without revealing information that could be used to steal their identity.

The program is free for retailers and veterans pay for membership. Higgins says it generates a fair amount of goodwill with the public, especially with those being honored. “Retailers are—not unlike CVS—realizing that it’s time to recognize and acknowledge those who have served the country with special offers.”

For its part, CVS says the implementation was easy, and it has received positive feedback from its customers, though it declined to provide numbers on how many purchases had been made through the program.

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