Just Once More: The Evolving World of Customer Loyalty Programs
By David Hogan Executive Director of Major Accounts, Heartland Payment Systems | March 29, 2015
Customer loyalty is built upon a mutually beneficial relationship. While some business owners think they are merely rewarding existing customers who would be spending money with them anyway, it's more likely that they are ensuring a return visit through a loyalty program. They're truly ways for both business owners and consumers to get what they want while building more personal connections. With customers now looking for personalized experiences with their preferred brands, loyalty programs are using data to offer custom-tailored rewards-much more than something like a free lunch at an on-property restaurant.
For frequent business travelers, hotel, rental car and airline choice is commonly based on brand loyalty and rewards program membership. Even travelers taking a handful of trips a year can fall into this category, with discount travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity all running rewards programs. Unique promotions, brand partnerships, etc., are all used to complement standard plans. A business traveler will typically stick to one or a couple of preferred brands, making those who fit this sort of customer profile highly valuable. Thanks to technological advancements, what was formerly an always-on, one-size-fits-all type of reward is shifting to a more differentiated and segmented approach that will keep customers coming back "just once more."
Generally, hospitality loyalty programs are free, with opt-in registration. Simply belonging to a program typically results in exclusive access to members-only perks. Members are further encouraged to use the program on property (and off property with partner companies) to accumulate points that can then be redeemed for various rewards. Hotel loyalty programs have become so popular that loyalty point management apps and websites like PointsHound and AwardWallet.com are taking off in a big way.
The sheer variety of hotel rewards programs is a boon for the consumer. All major chains have them, and companies like Heartland offer solutions for those large operations all the way down to smaller mom and pop operations. Modern technology is making customer loyalty programs much more valuable for the business owner than they ever have been and now everyone from chains to bed and breakfasts can get in the game.
Data-capturing technology makes a wealth of customer information available to business owners. This data can be leveraged in a number of ways to enhance the customer's experience-making them feel more connected to the brand. Information like the average length of a guest's stay to the frequency of their room service orders is now accessible and ready to be utilized. This data can be used to learn behaviors and boost usage and increase value of a stay.
Hotel check-in can now be transformed from a routed transaction into a highly personal interaction. Gone are the days of wielding a membership card. With these programs, guests' preferences like their room choice or the typical time of their wakeup call can instantly pop up on the front desk attendant's screen upon check-in.