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Flexibility, personalisation and partnerships are just some of the ways to keep customers loyal

Loyalty is a big issue in this fickle and competitive world where consumers are spoilt for choice and it’s harder than ever to build brand equity. In recent weeks that has led to some strange and interesting moves – Red Lion handing over it’s member rates to Expedia being one.  

At TDS North America next month (Oct 6-7) driving loyalty is high on the agenda; here are some of the issues that will be up for discussion.

#1. Flexibilty: the biggest opportunity 

Travel brands, which aren’t providing flexibility in how members can earn and burn their rewards are missing big opportunities, says Christopher Barnard, President at Points, a firm dealing in loyalty currency management. His top tip for standing is to provide more options for members to both earn and redeem points and miles beyond their own brand, citing three travel brands that are doing this well:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards allows members to reach redemption goals faster is a good example; in this programme points earned in hotel programmes like Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport can be turned into the airline’s points. ‘Not only does this solution make rewards programme more valuable to members, but also increases their engagement,’ Barnard stresses.

  • La Quinta Inns & Suites recently updated La Quinta Returns. Now members can redeem rewards for stays outside of the La Quinta brand at 11,000+ other luxury properties around the world. More options to spend points is not only convenient but also incentivises members to keep booking and earning within the programme. For La Quinta it means global reach for its loyalty programme.

  • Flying Blue, the loyalty programme of Air France-KLM, among other partner airlines, adds more value to its programme by offering members many ways to earn miles. Through the recent launch of Air France-KLM's Flying Blue booking engine, members can earn and spend their award miles, either in full or in combination with cash, on hotel bookings. The programme increases revenues by adding hotel sales and also offers a brand new rewards option to loyalty members, thus building value, convenience and ease of overall booking.

#2. Personalisation: an important piece of the puzzle

Personalisation is still underestimated and often under utilised. In fact, only 11% of loyalty programmes offer personalised rewards based on a customer’s purchase history or location data. That’s a big gap when 86% of customers say that personalisation influences their purchases. Jay Stuart Rein VP, Global Travel & Hospitality Industry Solutions Practice, EPAM agrees that there is still a long way to go: “Best practices throughout the entire travel journey have not been implemented by any single provider to any significant extent”.  

Top tips:

  • Look to insights from traveller data, and other non-travel related structured and unstructured data, which is often underestimated.    

  • Consider traveller preferences such as available traveller transactional data  - such as past travel, preferences, demographics, social media contributions and more. In other words, determine what is important to the traveller.  

  • Don’t ignore the competition and know your own goals – you need to know what they are doing, and where you are headed, in order to be able to communicate with travellers effectively

#3. Partnerships: keeping loyalty pumping

As pointed out in #1, flexibility is fundamental, and this is a clear advantage of multi-partner programmes, which provide members with more flexibility and convenience in earning and redeeming loyalty rewards. In the retail space, Plenti, is a coalition programme launched by American Express last year and includes brands like Macy’s, Rite Aid, Exxon and AT&T. Plenti members can shop at Rite Aid, earn rewards and then redeem their rewards at Macy’s. With the option to earn rewards with more than one brand, members see greater value and are much more engaged overall, says Barnard. But a word of warning from Rein who stresses that, “it is not entirely clear that these programmes, structured as they are today, will be key drivers to traveller decisions in the future.”

Points, a loyalty currency management system and tech firm Epam are sponsors of TDS North America (Oct 6-7). On Day 2 Barnard and Rein will be talking about how to innovate your approach to loyalty in the digital age

TDS N. America 2016

October 2016, Las Vegas

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