To cultivate true brand loyalists, savvy travel and hospitality brands focus on giving their customers more control over their choices and making life easier—even outside of the expected brand touchpoints.
Imagine a world where customer sentiment and affinity for your travel and hospitality brand extends well beyond the journey itself. A connection that goes broader and deeper, enabling your valuable customer to truly associate with your brand in meaningful and sustained ways. For customer-facing organizations, it’s the holy grail where participative engagement is elevated to a whole new altitude, leading to lasting, profitable relationships with incredibly valuable advocates.
And what’s the catalyst that might drive this wide-angle view of a truly meaningful engagement?
It’s anchored in how well a brand understands and empathizes with the daily routines of its valued travelers. And this opening of the aperture enables the relationship to extend well beyond the transaction and customer touch points. For travel, that extends to life when consumers aren’t on the road.
And what’s the enabler?
It’s the free exchange of data between a brand and its consenting customers that allows a brand to legitimately earn the loyalty of consumers who, in turn, knowingly surrender valuable data that the brand then turns into even more valuable information to personally advantage from.
And why does it matter?
Progressive travel brands are building their loyalty propositions around the needs and behaviors of their customers, not limited to the product or service that they market. This broader offering opens brands up to greater opportunity to be top-of-mind with their most valuable customers, intelligently and thoughtfully using permissible data to serve up content, offers, partners, extended services, and recognition that are relevant to their everyday lives.
Whereas some loyalty offerings tout a lifestyle proposition, most simply leverage a partner ecosystem that extends beyond their own product or service as a means of justifying their positioning. We expect more. Simply showcasing a partner to authenticate the positioning is not enough.
To win and retain customers, focus on these two perennial human needs
1. “Give me control and offer me choices”
Consumers want to have a hand in what a travel brand has to offer that is in keeping with their lifestyle, allowing for a ‘voice’ in the relationship. And that extends to loyalty programs that can find innovative ways to provide options and alternatives for members, essentially giving them the ability to pick and choose how (and when) they engage.
Starbucks has always looked to find a better solution for its guests. By offering a plethora of beverage and snack options, the brand has tilted the controls back to its customers, affording them the ability to tailor their beverage. This has, however, raised the perennial challenge – how do you deliver an experience to each and every customer in quick time without compromising quality and service? One workaround, mobile ordering via the app, has proved to be a valued member benefit that eases the pressure and gives the guest a little more influence over the experience that they want to have.
Hotel companies like Hilton are similarly leveraging technology to offer its guests more control over the check-in experience with a digital key solution that allows members to bypass the front desk and use their phone as the keycard to access their room, elevators, side doors, the fitness center, and the parking garage.
2. “Make my life easier”
Giving busy people back time is the greatest gift any travel brand can offer its loyalists. Take Delta Airlines, who has taken a leap out of the airport to offer a pre-emptive strike in search of facilitating a less stressful and a more seamless travel experience for its members before they even leave their home or hotel. By merging data with ride-share operator Lyft, Delta has essentially combined the power of partnerships and customer data to extend its reach and deliver value that takes some of the pain points out of an inter-connected end-to-end travel experience.
Singapore Airlines is trialing an innovative, app-enabled, blockchain-powered means for members to use their KrisFlyer currency to earn and redeem products and services as part of their everyday life. KrisPay gives its users a simple, single method to transact, offering more equity in the program’s currency and more reasons to stay engaged with the Singapore Airlines brand, even when its members aren’t traveling.
These innovative, technology-enabled solutions seamlessly link customer data for the sole purpose of benefiting their customers and taking the stress and complexity out of our everyday lives.
Expanding the scope—and potential—of loyalty
So, when it comes to the next generation of loyalty benefits, imagine if your status (not just how you accrue miles or points) was recognized based on the things you do in everyday life. And consider a loyalty proposition that also offers its members a choice of which partners they would like to engage with, based upon their own behaviors and preferences, regardless of whether they are travel-related or not.
Take health and wellness as important themes that many frequent travelers consider important. What if you could select health- and wellness-related products and services, such as local gym memberships or health foods and supplements, and you were rewarded accordingly? Imagine if you could also receive credit for clocking up miles on a treadmill or elliptical while using the hotel gym when you are on the road. This positive recognition for positive action that the brand recognizes in the form of points and status is powerful, placing more emphasis on relevant everyday activities that center on the health and well-being of its valued customers.
You see, everything must firstly center around the customer and their needs. Then the right to a conversation, a relationship, and ultimately sustained revenue follows. That's what true lifestyle loyalty is all about.