Sam Shank, chief executive of hotel booking app HotelTonight, reveals why traditional travel loyalty programs leave a lot to be desired
People tend to love loyalty programs and being rewarded for doing what they’re already doing: shopping, travelling, sleeping.
But the harsh reality is that most travel loyalty programs don’t offer as many benefits as they’d have you believe. Littered with rules and complexity, that dazzling reward quickly loses its shine.
If you want to build a better program, look to other existing products or services and poke the pain points.
Figure out what works and what doesn’t, the gaps in the service and what opportunities there are for you to build something new.
When we created HT perks, HotelTonight’s rewards program, we made sure to scrap the term “loyalty program” internally to ensure we were creating something new that stood out from the crowd.
It’s not only about building something better, but something that captures people’s attention in a completely different and innovative way.
Most people aren’t going to read the fine print – especially when it’s as complicated as the ones found in many loyalty programs.
Plus, the details are usually different for everyone, based on how you booked, where you booked and what you booked.
One thing they all have in common: they’re all far too complicated and easily misunderstood. If you can avoid this, you’ve already got an edge.
Once you’ve successfully navigated your way through the sign-up process, you’d probably think you’re enrolled and ready to go. Not so fast!
Blackout dates and limitations often stand in the way, making it tricky to redeem points and reap benefits.
This can have a negative, anti-loyalty impact that overshadows any positives the program was designed to create.
Removing or limiting blackout dates means happier, more engaged customers that keep coming back for more.
Points Lose Value
As in life, loyalty programs are always changing.
This means those points that have been sitting around waiting for a rainy day might suddenly be worth a lot less, which is confusing and often maddening.
Programs points should have simple rules, a clear value and transparent reasoning for change should it happen.
Back to the Beginning
Picture this: you travel enough to finally reach a super elite status level. Then you have a break in travel, due to schedule or circumstance, and just like that, you lose your status.
You’re relegated back to the status of a brand-new customer, without any of the perks for your past loyalty.
Instead adopt a policy that stays with customers, even when life happens, to ensure loyalty and customer happiness.
Spend, Spend, Spend
Often the more you spend, the more you get.
But when you really look at what you have to spend – say £1,000, 10 nights booked in a hotel or 20,000 miles travelled before you get a free check, night or flight – it suddenly feels a lot less enticing.
This is especially true as most earned benefits, such as nights or flights, expire before you’re able to redeem them.
Offering benefits that can be redeemed far more quickly presents a huge opportunity to not only keep loyal customers happy, but to attract new ones.
Not so Fun
Fun is not exactly what one usually associates with travel loyalty schemes.
Complex rules and systems mean they’re lengthy, boring and infuriating, but there is lots of potential for improvement, like adding fun surprises and travel perks that are clearly and simply communicated.
At HotelTonight, we took inspiration from mobile games to make the process of levelling up more fun, motivating and rewarding.
It’s also important to remember that loyalty programs should reflect your brand, so infuse it with elements of yours.
HotelTonight’s HT Perks program was launched in 2016 has won widespread praise for its simplicity