In terms of travel loyalty programs, we should first appreciate the privilege of being able to travel in the first place. Some people see it as a necessity, some as an adventure, but at the same time no one rides for free.

Travel companies understand that they provide a service which has a lot of competition and takes in many factors. With bad publicity on social media and growing concerns over travel’s effects on the planet, customer loyalty is more vital than ever. Here are the trends which are ensuring companies land smoothly.

 

Comfort is Key

Whether a one-off vacation or a return trip for a grueling business conference, comfort is a huge commodity. Customers understand that they get what they pay for. If they have an economy ticket or are staying in a cheap hotel, they’re not going to expect red carpet treatment.

This is why travel loyalty rewards need to be more than just air miles or a discount off their next stay. Millennials want a full experience which breeds memories. They will be happy to have less leg room for some flights or forgo a plush bed on some stays if it means they will be rewarded at the end with some luxury.

Travel companies need to use this desire to save up and be rewarded justly. If they do, they will provide individuals with experiences which provide good will during all the lackluster trips we all have to go through.

 

Owning Your Brand

We won’t mention them by name, but certain airlines get a pained reaction when their name is mentioned. Their brand becomes synonymous with disappointment and frustration. In the past all travel companies would claim to offer the same experience, but we are seeing the increasing value of owning what your brand says to a customer.

Brands are learning that they can’t make claims which are unsuitable for their brand. If your company is budget, then the benefits and rewards will support this idea. This could mean small improvements like queue jumping or a free drink during the flight. If you spend a lot of money on first class travel, the rewards equally need to meet this perception. If not, customers will be royally disappointed.

 

Making Travel Easier

There are many ways to travel. Making it easier is a priority for all travel companies, but this doesn’t just mean who gets to board first.

With loyalty reward programs, companies need to ensure theirs are intuitive and will never disappoint. This means incorporating their loyalty program into an app which has all of their advantages logged and easily accessible. It means not making it difficult to redeem these rewards through miles of red tape. It means being open with customers in terms of expectation and providing what you say you will provide.

Customers need a full experience which is catered to them as an individual. There are so many elements to travelling that restricting loyalty programs to simple points on purchases is a thing of the past.

 

The Importance of Engagement

Making it easier brings us to the importance of engagement. We don’t mean a brand contacting a customer. This is now a de facto aspect of all loyalty programs. The trend of engagement is one whereby the right kind of contact is made.

This can be as simple as checking a box whether or not they want a text reminder of their flight details. It also allows for more involved engagement whereby customers can select their meals through the app or unlock certain benefits add-ons when it comes to checking in.

Loyalty programs are seeing more control in terms of how customers are able to unlock rewards. They are also ensuring privacy and preventing user fatigue when it comes to how a brand gets in touch with a customer.

 

Personalized Rewards

Notifications and privacy agreements need to be personalized, but travel loyalty doesn’t stop there. Using previous purchase history, feedback from surveys and meta data from brand interaction, businesses need to create rewards which will appeal to the individual.

Loyalty program software is so important because it allows brands to accumulate this information and analyze it effectively. Once this has been carried out, travel companies can then provide reward schemes which are unforgettable.

If someone is travelling alone, they may be more inclined to watch TV at a hotel. This means offering a premium sports or entertainment package to higher tiered customers. One customer may want to take part in special trips at a specific destination. A good travel loyalty program will offer these kinds of experiential rewards to the right people.

 

Expand Horizons Online

With social media, everyone is their own personal brand. Being able to share pictures, videos and live streams of a vacation is becoming one of the most important parts of holidaying.

For travel brands, harnessing this desire to document is the way of the future. Many individuals have built viable and marketable brands simply through sharing posts of their travel. Tapping into this trend allows businesses to expand their reach, provide aspirational product and, effectively, make referrals.

Use photo contests, hashtag promotions or viral videos to ensure the lifestyle your brand can provide is something users want to share. Customers use social media as a window into the lives of others. They also use it to see how they can improve their own. If you are part of this desirable lifestyle, it is going to ensure loyalty for years to come.

 

Creatively Comprehensive

Even budget travel companies know the importance of comprehensive coverage. They will offer the option to make hotel reservations, use a hire company or even provide insurance options. Savvy travel brands will know that this kind of comprehensive service needs to extend to their loyalty programs. They also know it means its time to get creative.

Offering discounted trips or rentals with affiliated businesses is now commonplace. Brands need to incorporate affiliates into more interesting rewards and opportunities.

An airline can create a unique credit card for travelers to use at all points on a trip, providing discounts and upgrades non-cardholders will not be able to access. They can enter guests into contests for free dinners at the hotel restaurant, just for using the service.

Using customer loyalty software, brands can find out what an individual customer’s interests and appeal to them. The kind of engagement loyalty programs will need to use if they want to stay ahead in the marketplace is the kind which evolves with the customer.

 

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Kelly Rogan
CMO Social&Loyal
Kelly is our VP of Business Development and a loyalty and customer retention expert having worked with large brands all over the globe to grow true brand loyalty. She’s written for media outlets such as Forbes, Inc and Startup Grind on topics related to digital marketing and brand loyalty. She is passionate about combining behavioural psychology and technology to boost results.
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