Photo by Nick Wong

At a time when competition continues to intensify, loyalty programs are becoming increasingly important. But according to Bond Brand Loyalty’s study called The Loyalty Report 2019, produced in partnership with Visa, “billions of dollars in consumer spending are left on the table when brands fail to address the 28-per-cent gap in consumer expectations versus program experience along the travel journey.”

That means hotel companies can benefit from a re-tooling of their loyalty programs by working to close that gap to better meet customer expectations.

Among the most successful loyalty programs, according to the study (based on overall member engagement over the last year) are Amazon Prime, McDonald’s McCafé Rewards, Sephora Beauty Insider, Nordstrom Nordy Club, Rewards, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and Mountain Equipment Co-Op. Interestingly, hotel, gas and convenience and coalition companies make up the bottom of the rankings.

So what can hotel brands be doing differently to drive higher engagement results? According to the research, hoteliers should zero in on key opportunities to differentiate loyalty programs by focusing on the member experience, which, in turn, can lead to deeper brand engagement and increased sales.

Here are a few recommendations from the findings:

Reconsider Gamification: The enjoyment of participating in a program beats the actual end reward — 49 per cent of members are interested in using game mechanics and, when gamification is present, 72 per cent take advantage of it.

Revisit Personalization: Consumers have a high expectation that when personal data is shared, it’s used to make a better, more personalized experience for them. Interestingly, eight in 10 program members want more of their data to be used to improve personalization and only one in 10 members say their program experience is highly personalized or that they’re satisfied with the level of personalization.

Refocus on Gen Z: Gen Z and younger millennials (ages 24 to 29) are highly influenced by loyalty programs (65 per cent of Gen Z and 71 per cent of millennials), but they’re less satisfied with the overall program. Thirty per cent of Gen Z are willing to pay a fee to receive enhanced benefits from loyalty programs compared to the average Canadian consumer at 32 per cent.

Review Partnerships: And, finally, according to the study, program members have the capacity to be actively involved in only eight of the 13 programs of which they are members. That means there’s an opportunity for brands to partner with other operators when program participants have similar traits or buying patterns.


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