Loyalty programs give consumers a better deal and companies repeat business they can rely on, so it’s no surprise they’re growing in popularity. In 2021, eighty-three percent of consumers claim that participating in a loyalty program affects their choice whether to purchase again.
Loyal guests mean revenue. As of 2020, fifty-six percent of consumers said they’d pay higher prices to a brand they feel loyal to, even if they had less expensive options.
But to earn these consumers and their revenue, you need to put thought into your hotel loyalty program. The rule-heavy, complicated programs of yesteryear no longer appeal. Nothing turns off a guest faster than long forms to fill out or points that can only be redeemed on a solar eclipse (assuming the hotel is less than three-fifths full).
Loyalty programs need to be simple, meaningful, and flexible. Independent properties have an advantage over chain hotels. Unrestricted by rigid standards, independents have more freedom to be creative and personalize rewards. The perfect loyalty program should be based on your particular property, who your guests are, and what they want.
Make it Easy to Earn Rewards
It can be difficult to see the value in a program wrought with rules, where rewards take a long time coming, especially for infrequent travelers. To attract a wider range of members, loyalty programs should make it easy for travelers to earn and redeem points with no black-out dates or expiration.
For frequent corporate guests who enjoy status recognition, a program offering tiered benefits provides the distinction they seek. And with no expiration, the complicated (and awkward) situation of demoting members can be avoided.
A couple different tiers are sufficient. If you’re trying to explain the difference between “Double Blue Diamond,” “Double Blue Diamond Plus,” and “Double Blue Diamond Premium,” you may have overdone it. Simplicity is key even with multiple levels, and the benefits of each tier should be clear to guests.
For leisure travelers and less frequent guests, you can give points for smaller actions they take during their stay such as posting on social media, leaving a review, or booking direct rather than through an OTA. You can also reward them for utilizing your hotel’s paid amenities. Guests will be happy to find their spa treatment comes with enough points for a free mojito.
Deliver Instant Gratification
Businesses are more transparent and accessible than ever—and, therefore, more competitive—so rewards programs should deliver tangible value that loyal customers can enjoy sooner. In addition to an easy sign-up, hotels can offer guests immediate perks simply for enrolling, such as a small welcome gift. (Chocolate is always appreciated.)
While free and discounted stays are the most popular rewards, it takes an infrequent traveler a long time to earn them. To maintain interest, properties should offer more frequent rewards that could include room upgrades or dining discounts. You can also throw in soft perks like a late check-out. Everyone loves sleeping in!
Feel free to be creative and partner with other businesses. For example, Choice Rewards offers its members $2.50 Amazon credit and $0.20 per gallon fuel credit at Shell, among other extras. These partnerships aren’t only for chain hotels. Hotel Grand Victorian in Missouri offers 5% cash back through PayPal, bitcoin, or a gift card, and guests can also request a 5% donation to their charity of choice.
It’s all about perceived value. Unexpected freebies don’t have to cost much but go a long way in winning loyal, life-long fans.
Make Loyalty Members Feel Extra Special
All guests should feel valued but repeat guests even more so because loyal customers are a business’ best asset. Harvard Business Review states that obtaining a new customer costs five to twenty-five times more than keeping a current one. So how do you make current guests feel especially welcome? Through personalized service that demonstrates you care.
Get to know your guest segments and what they like. Through online bookings, face-to-face interactions, email, phone calls, social media engagement and reviews, hotels garner valuable information about guest preferences. This works especially well with repeat guests who engage more often.
Customer relationship management software and property management systems include guest profiles where properties can store rich guest data. Armed with this knowledge, properties should delight loyal guests with tailored service that goes above and beyond. Imagine Ms. Smith always buys local chocolates from the gift shop… and her pleasant surprise to find the decadent treats waiting in her room upon arrival. (Again, everyone appreciates chocolate).
You can also allow guests to choose their own rewards to ensure they receive something they’re interested in. Sixty percent of participants would like this option.
Provide Easy Access
Not every guest prefers the same lines of communication, so make sure information and sign-ups are available on a variety of platforms. Integrate your loyalty program into your other marketing campaigns and advertise it across guest emails, your property’s website, hotel app, and social media channels. At the very least, your program should have a dedicated explainer page on your website.
The more transparent your loyalty program, the easier it is for your guests to understand and engage with.
If all this takes up more bandwidth than you have right now or you’re concerned about your reach, consider joining other independent hotels under a larger loyalty program where guests can redeem rewards at any member property.
However, do your research before selecting a company and make sure they’re a good match for your property.
With a flexible loyalty program that offers guests what they really want, independent properties can attract and retain repeat business from all types of travelers. Contact us to learn more about how you can use WebRezPro to implement a winning loyalty program at your property.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published May 2015 and updated September 2022.