Do Your Loyalty Programs Actually Promote Loyalty?
We all know the online travel industry has changed: travel agencies now provide a one-stop shop for everything from airfare and room and board to transportation and tours, hotels and car rental agencies are teaming up, and airlines aren’t the only ones offering frequent traveler programs.
And consumers are taking notice of this shift. In an effort to please their own wallets—as well as to avoid too many booking snafus—Always-on-the-prowl bargain hunters can make marketing in the travel industry difficult—especially for companies that can’t compete price-wise. But how do you create and maintain brand loyalty when consumers have hundreds, if not thousands, of choices? By ensuring that visitors have a successful browsing and booking experience, for starters.
It’s not rocket science: loyalty programs, reward points and status levels—when executed correctly—can significantly boost customer retention and long-term brand loyalty. Even better, these programs give travel marketers and on-the-ground team members—such as concierges, management and front desk agents—deeper levels of personalized data on guests that can be used to significantly improve their experience from the time of booking to the time of checkout. The problem is the industry really has not yet grasped how to use these rich data portals to provide a seamless 360-degree brand experience across all channels—meaning not just in their marketing initiative, but also to the customers actual experience in real life.
Traditionally travel marketers have focused on boosting enrollment in loyalty programs to gain access to better CRM data. But it seems there is a disproportionate relationship between CRM data and its use to improve the customer experience. That is: now that their websites are playing an increased role in travel bookings, many brands have more CRM data than ever before but are less inclined to marry it and loyalty data with the online customer experience. This data isn’t just for tracking points and past reservations, it can be used to digitally personalize the experience for each customer, in real time. Things like offers, promotions, calls-to-action, room or seat preference, rewards level, type of traveler, etc.—whether on your website, mobile site or app, or in your hotel—can all be pre-selected or promoted based on each visitor’s unique profile. This will ensure visitors see content relevant to their loyalty level and behavior, which makes the entire booking process easier, reinforces their loyalty status and confirms their importance to the brand.
Yes, it’s true, using CRM data in real time to drive bookings and customer retention is now possible. CRM practices were born and bred in the offline world, but today marrying offline, online and mobile consumer data through new technologies will help you achieve better CRM and multichannel marketing outcomes: more precise targeting, personalization and consumer connections across all media channels, and delivered at the time most appropriate to increasing conversion—a very important factor in the travel industry. Imagine being able to target your consumers across the various phases of travel with different messages that can benefit them: research, booking, check-in, etc. Not only can you dramatically enhance and personalize their experience with your hotel, but increased retention, loyalty and customer lifetime values also result from a truly connected multichannel experience.
Next Steps: Personalizing the Experience for All Customers
When your loyalty program membership is flourishing and your CRM program is successful in its own right. But what about gaining loyalty from visitors who you don’t know much about? Not everyone is going to be a loyalty or rewards member, but that shouldn’t stop you from personalizing their experiences as well.
With each visitor that comes to your website, arrives an opportunity to collect a wealth of user-specific data and create a unique “virtual profile” that can be used to tailor their experience on your site, in real time. Insight on behaviors such as previous trips researched, prior trips, past travel locations, frequency and recency of travel, past purchases, and ads or offers they’ve clicked can inform what content and offers you should make available to each individual, in order to make their visit much more relevant, and hopefully gain their loyalty in the process.
You can use the data you collect from CRM systems, loyalty programs and unique visitor profiles to define rules, or a set of conditions that trigger the specific content and offers served to the visitor.
While rules-based targeting is possible, it is very difficult to manually decide the thousands of combinations of behaviors, products and promotions, so, the next best option is automated personalization solutions. These solutions can adapt the online experience for each visitor, based on data from their recent and previous visits, without assigning rules. In the case of a repeat visitor to a hotel site, for example, you might re-target them with a hotel in the last destination they searched and indicate that only two rooms are left at the discount price.
If you’re ready to provide a deeper connection and more personalized guest service across all touch points, it’s time to stop playing guessing games with your digital assets and listen to your customers’ real live feedback. Even simple changes like button colors can improve conversion rates, and getting smart with targeting and personalization will make turning browsers into buyers and enhancing their loyalty a snap. So listen to your guests, give them what they want and make them feel special, every single time, in every single [digital] destination.