Hotel loyalty programs may seem ubiquitous today, but they might not be the draw that they used to be. A recent Oracle Hospitality study finds that nearly 60% of guests still don’t belong to one. Amidst a decline in brand loyalty, how should hotels engage customers to keep them coming back again and again?
Individualization Over Basic Benefits
In a fragmented digital world, this question takes on greater importance. Seemingly infinite options are available online, and almost all of them feature a tempting first time offer for new visitors. A Deloitte study found that millennials will be opportunistic to find deals and take delight in getting the best value for their money. However, that first-time offer, while effective at helping brands gain new customers, doesn’t guarantee that they’ll return.
This is especially true in a world where a deal or a discount is much easier to come by, thanks to the rise of online travel agencies. As travelers are able find cheaper prices and promos themselves, what is even more critical today is hotel’s ability to provide what travelers really value: special treatment and experiences.
Against this backdrop, customized experience is key to keep guests coming back. According to Oracle’s survey, 56.5% consumers want to be able to customize their hotel experience – for example, select a newspaper or set their own check-out time, and 61.2% said they want to choose their rewards.
Online Brand Advocacy Matters
A great experience not only retains loyalty, but also leads a happy traveler to advocate on your behalf, especially online.
Why should hotel care about online reviews? According to a Medallia Institude study, 3 out of 4 millennials do extensive research before making a purchase decision, and 50% report that online reviews were the most influential factor driving a purchase. Besides learning about other experiences, this digital-savvy generation also keen to share their own—they frequently post reviews and are active in digital conversations.
That is why the popular online review sites like TripAdvisor might be where the real battlefield is. A difference in a hotel rating could be more influential than a difference in room rate to consumers’ purchasing decision. As Medallia Institude puts it, “for Millennials, social sharing is second nature, and word of mouth has global reach.” It’s time for hotels to think about how to create that unique experiences for their guests to spread the good words about them.
Experience and Engagement Go Together
Effective means of creating loyalty for hotels, therefore, must revolve around providing one-of-a-kind experiences, sustained engagement and relevance, both within and outside the hotel.
While many hotels provide a mobile app to engage their customers throughout their stay, this is not the only option. Free smartphone preloaded with hotel services, for example, is a convenient solution to extend hotel services. With technology as such, hotels might be able to eliminate guests’ pain of finding free Wi-Fi, provide tailored travel guide and personalized discounts… and most importantly, stay connected with app-fatigued guests wherever they are.
Hotels provide travelers with holiday indulgence experiences in house, through spas, on-site cooking classes and more. But they can truly set themselves apart by facilitating experiences outside of their property, in the dynamic cities they call home. Travelers are looking for local, authentic experiences they can’t get in their hometowns, and hotels and brand that facilitate once-in-a-lifetime moments can earn brands sustainable customer loyalty.