When planning a trip, travelers have a seemingly endless list of options to choose from. Besides the major decisions of where to go and when, they have the ability to dig into the finer details, like what type of property to stay at and which airline to fly. With the amount of competition in the traditional travel sector along with OTAs and the growing presence of The Sharing Economy, it is becoming tough for brands to keep guests returning to their property on a consistent basis. So in a shifting industry, what are travelers looking for to keep them coming back, and how can travel brands get guests to repeat visits to their properties? Let’s take a look at some ways to gain customer loyalty.
Points or Appreciation?
“Getting guests through the door on a regular basis is hard when many customers make their choices solely based on price.” (1)
We all love a great deal, and that does not change when it comes to getting a steal on a room. But we are also aware that we cannot always rely on a deal for a vacation. But these deals are driving the level of brand loyalty down, as the importance of saving money to use during other aspects of the trip has risen.
Currently, guests think that loyalty is associated with getting free things. If a guest demonstrates loyalty by staying at your property several times per year, they will accumulate points and get free things such as free nights at your establishment. I think we can all agree that free things are nice, but it’s not what guests truly want if they are going to continue to be loyal.
What are guests really looking for? Recognition. Feedback has shown that guests are far less concerned with point accumulation than they are with being in a position where they are recognized and have their preferences understood, making their stay personalized. (1) This is not to say that guests do not appreciate the points, and they defiantely get used, but there are other things that seem to be much more important in the big picture. So if a loyal guest has checked into your property multiple times and ordered extra pillows, the simplicity of already having the extra pillows in the room upon arrival speaks volumes and will be appreciated much more than points for a future stay.
Brands Creating Loyalty
Brand loyalty has also expanded, and is now created through the digital world, something that is completely different than what we have seen before. But, by combining the digital world, and the fact that travelers like to be appreciated, brands are now taking advantage of this.
A simple tweet, or facebook post can now promote brand loyalty in the blink of an eye. Digital rewards are just beginning to scratch the surface of a new wave of brand loyalty, but some brands are catching on quick. The best parts about this are that it is (basically) free, and your brand has the ability to experiment to see what really works. Unlike sending a physical reward, a quick mention on Facebook gets to the consumer immediately, and all it is costing you is a little time from your marketing team. (2)
But with all the positives that come along with digital rewards, there are some negatives as well. Although delivery is quick, the rewards are very limited and only work well if the property has a large social media following. (2) So for properties that generally attract an un-savvy tech crowd, the approach of digital rewards will not work so well. So, how does a property combat this? Newsletters are a great option. Offering a deal with a long lifespan can pay out great as you may see initial redemption right when the newsletter goes out, as well as later redemption when those who are less tech savvy get around to checking their email. This way, they’re not missing out on the deal, and you’re gaining a reservation.
Appreciate Guests at the Right Cost
We’ve learned that guests do not necessarily want free things when they stay loyal. As the old saying goes, “the best things in life aren’t free” can be very fitting in the world of brand loyalty and customer rewards in the travel sector. Appreciation makes people want to come back, as they are not known as just a run of the mill traveler, but someone who continues to go through a certain brand because of the way they are treated, and the free nightly stay that comes with it all.