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Guest Post: Open access is democratising travel loyalty

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Guest Post: Open access is democratising travel loyalty

Deliver a ‘smarter experience’ to more customers, says Peter Gerstle, head of travel products at Collinson

Understandably, loyalty programmes will often focus on high-value individuals that bring in revenue – but that’s not to say that today’s lower-value revenue member won’t become a high value one in years to come. There also needs to be consideration for those members who may lack a clear understanding of the mechanisms and workings of a loyalty programme, which can differ greatly, from programme to programme.

By offering a wider range of engagement mechanisms, rewards, offers and more, travel brands can start to make their loyalty programme accessible to more choice-rich members, and in turn, create a broader and more profitable customer base. Democratising loyalty in this way will enable brands to engage their high-value members even further, while also opening up their loyalty programme to new and ‘lower-value’ members.

With this in mind, how can travel loyalty programme providers better help to spread the value (and love) to more?

Step 1: Simply make programmes more simple

If a brand wants to make their programme more accessible to a wider selection of members, they first need to make sure it is uncomplicated. Amazon’s enduring success comes down in large part to the simplicity and ease of its service, and the experience this gives their customers. And from a loyalty perspective, don’t forget Hotels.com and their easy to use rewards programme, where ten nights booked gets you a free reward stay.

Ease and simplicity, in both UX and CX, win customer devotion, whilst premium experiences with retailers like Amazon and Hotels.com (and many more) have heightened customer expectations across every industry. Loyalty programmes of course should be no exception.

Loyalty members should not have to consult forums, blogs and switched-on social influencers to learn how to make the best use of their loyalty programme. It should be easy for them to access their points, discover how much they are worth, find out ways of earning more, and most importantly, where they can spend them. This information shouldn’t be buried in the depths of a customer handbook or online sub-menus. Instead, it should be delivered immediately to customers, before they have to ask.

Step 2: Be more relevant – offer more choice

Members should be treated as individuals. In turn, this creates the need for programme providers to have access to a range of rewards, offers and much, much more.

Take an airline for example. If some of its programme base is located in a region where there are no flight options to redeem loyalty currency, the currency will become largely redundant. Instead, a loyalty programme should broaden its redemption offerings from just flights to include non-core inventory such as electrical goods or health and beauty products, giving these members actual hope of utilising their hard-earned points and miles against products they want and value.

As travel brands build up data on their loyalty members, they can then start to better tailor and expand their whole proposition into new and complementary markets – AirBnB Trips being an obvious and very successful example of this.

Step 3: Broaden earning channels – step into your members’ world

To truly get close to their members, travel brands need to make sure they are better intertwined with the day-to-day lives of their members. Not only does this encourage daily engagement with the member, it also offers the chance to develop greater understanding of that member’s hobbies, preferences and buyer behaviour.

Solutions such as Card-Linked Rewards (CLR) can be used to integrate even further with members’ lives. CLR is a low friction proposition and works by enabling customers to automatically earn points when they shop with selected high street retailers, in-store. After simply registering their debit or credit cards within their existing loyalty programme account, members are then targeted with personalised offers from retailers. As they shop, they earn loyalty currency. A perfect evolution of the already very effective, merchant funded online earn model.

CLR is a fantastic loyalty leveller. It provides the opportunity for members to become more engaged as they can boost their accrual of points through a regular day-to-day and very popular activity – shopping. It CLR, thus easily and naturally, embeds into members’ lives, helping to remove barriers in terms of loyalty’s ease and accessibility – in addition to offering greater choice and value for both members and programme providers.

Final thoughts

Members of loyalty programmes will inevitably have varying levels of engagement and spend, but this shouldn’t always be dictated by their level of loyalty ‘expertise’ or ‘traditional’ points earning or redemption behaviour. The brands that help to democratise loyalty – by improving understanding, being more relevant in terms of rewards and channels, and extending their opportunity to engage – will ultimately deliver a smarter experience to a broader spread of customers.

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