There’s no doubt that the loyalty industry is thriving, but as in all industries, there are forces at play, such as customer expectations, technological advances, new legislation and the value placed on the loyalty programme itself, that require us all to adapt. Especially in travel and hospitality, brands need to think of loyalty beyond the programme and show greater appreciation for customers by offering smarter and more personalised experiences that will drive deeper devotion.
To discuss these key issues, themes and opportunities facing loyalty programmes in the travel sector, industry leaders and loyalty experts gathered at the 2019 Loyalty Summit London held at The May Fair Hotel.
During the conference, there was one particular topic that struck a chord: the customer.
When created, some of the major travel programmes had the elite of the Boomers in mind; rewarding and recognising those of most transactional value to the business. However, now these programmes have to adapt to today’s choice-rich and patience-poor traveller with increasingly high expectations and fully aware of their value. To respond to their demands, brands should look at the wider impact of loyalty and create value outside of earn and burn.
So how can brands reinvent their loyalty strategy in a unique way to give customers a better experience, according to the experts?
- Be different
Not one size fits all. Loyalty cannot be created as a carbon copy of another programme or strategy. It needs to be unique to a brand and their customers.
- Use the data
A lot of companies are still not leveraging the full potential of the data they hold and could be doing more to translate it into valuable and actionable insight. Customer must be convinced that there is value in sharing their data, and tangibly see the benefits of sharing it with what's in it for them.
- Provide tailored benefit
Each customer has different needs. Determine what's right from a central point to meet the general demand and then individualist to deliver a personalised experience.
- Accelerate earning behaviour
Encouraging customers to earn early in their relationship will help create momentum in their engagement. If customers earn early, their redemption behaviour increases and as a result, they are more likely to become engaged and more loyal.
- Personalise communications
Many brands still aren't advanced in their communication journey, explore the uses of automation and machine learning to help hyper-individualise member communications.
- Adopt an agile mindset
Don't lose sight of the small opportunities to test, learn and adapt as part of the quest for the big picture. Incremental change and evolution will help prove the value of your strategy and if you don't start, then you won't get off the mark.
Is paid loyalty the future?
Another topic that was widely discussed during this year’s Summit, was the trend of paid loyalty. During his fireside chat, Alan Lias, Loyalty Consultant at Collinson, explained that many travel customers in FFPs are struggling to maintain their elite status and are downgraded. In that context, airlines need to find ways to ensure those customers who want the exclusive benefits of a programme but no longer qualify, are still able to access the perks.
As a subscription economy, with the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix, becomes the norm, brands need to consider using it as an opportunity and encourage customers to pay for the benefits that they crave and would otherwise miss out on. This investment often means consumers will more actively seek a value exchange and become more committed, creating stickiness with the programme.
To find out more on paid loyalty and why brands should find the right balance between a free and a paid loyalty programme that allows different rewards for different customer types, download our recent whitepaper: ‘Putting a price to loyalty: Time to consider paid membership?’.