For many travelers, the brand experience begins with booking and ends with deboarding. Aside from travel time itself, the touchpoints are infrequent, limited to reminder emails and occasional update texts. What’s missing is the personalization and personification required to build a true relationship.
To that end, airline and hotel brands should think about their loyalty programs as less of a line and more of a loop—an ongoing cycle that establishes the brand as a presence in the traveler’s life and allows them to engage with the brand before, during and after a trip.
For example, brands can play a bigger role in the pre-journey experience by offering members exclusive access to content about their destination. They can also consider ways to lengthen the journey by offering travelers access to in-flight or in-room entertainment once they return home.
In hotels, if a guest prefers a certain special cocktail or beverage, the brand might share personalized instructions at checkout on how to make the beverage at home, so the experience continues beyond the doors of the hotel itself. Airlines can cross-reference the member’s recent destination with similar locations they may find interesting and help them plan their next trip. As travel becomes more expensive, airlines and hotels can partner with banks or financial planners to help people understand how to effectively budget for that next big trip.
Disney is one brand that has been making use of this value loop model for almost a century. Beginning in the 1940s, the brand creator mapped an elaborate multi-touch consumer journey that was anchored by films and extended by theme parks, music, merchandise, comics, publications and more. This model was likely considered complex at the time, but today it serves as a good example of how a brand can effectively branch off from its core business to create a multifaceted experience. Disney is now reportedly considering a new Amazon Prime-style membership program that would offer customers discounts and perks. In doing so, the brand’s primary goal is to create a program that encourages members to spend more on its streaming services, theme parks, resorts and merchandise—while collecting information on customers’ purchasing habits by reviewing data about shows they watched, trips they took and merchandise they purchased to better understand their preferences.
In a value loop model, consumers come to see the brand as part of their lives—an integral piece of their long-curve plans—rather than a one-time service provider.
Here are four best practices brands should embrace as they rethink their loyalty programs for the modern traveler:
- Recognize: Know members better than they know themselves
Provide guests with a system that grows and flexes with them through their long-term travel journey. Give them the tools to build a relationship with a true travel partner, rather than simply completing a transaction.
- React: Empower interactions in real-time
Create a happiness cycle with technology and tools that empower guests and staff. Whether guests are online or onsite, brands need to have the right digital tools to create a personalized journey.
- Reward: Provide members with personalized and aspirational experiences
Increase the ways you reward loyalty by offering members the option to personalize rewards. Ensure that the program includes a mix of instant gratification and long-term benefits.
- Retain: Move to virtuous cycles and integrated ecosystems
Shift to a value loop loyalty model that offers members relevant and timely ways to engage with the brand beyond the traditional travel period. Reconsider what assets the brand has that can generate new touchpoints with travelers.
If the past two-plus years have demonstrated one thing, it’s that brands across all industries must constantly evolve to manage an ever-increasing level of disruption. For airlines and hotels, that means rewarding travelers who are loyal to the brand—and finding ways to build and strengthen relationships over time.
To learn more, visit the Travel and Hospitality section of our website or contact us.
This article was written by Emily Fridman, Strategic Growth Studio Leader and Matthew Robinett, Commercial Leader, in Cognizant’s Retail, Consumer Goods, Travel & Hospitality practice.