At some point, the hotel and travel industries mistook points-based loyalty program participation for traveler loyalty. Loyalty points represent a transactional relationship with the guest; true loyalty reflects an emotional connection with a brand. Loyalty is not required to convince a consumer to purchase a product that demonstrates a clear financial value proposition.
However, a loyal consumer will go beyond financial terms when evaluating a value proposition – they happily pay a premium for the privilege to acquire the product. The difference is that transactions can be bought, but loyalty is earned. Organizations interested in loyalty focus on customer engagement and recognize customer lifetime value as the measure that identifies the ultimate winner.
Customer Engagement is perhaps the most important and least understood factor impacting the performance of companies within the global tourism industry. Companies spend millions to attract new customers, but often fail to effectively develop and exploit brand preference once trial has occurred. The prevailing assumption is that the product “sells itself” once experienced. this is rarely the case.
The strategies to transition a prospect to a first-time buyer, then to a returning customer, and finally to a repeat customer are critical to attain sustained success in highly competitive markets. Organizations employ tactics to capture registrations for newsletters or frequent traveler programs, but often squander opportunities to identify customer needs and personalize service delivery to exceed expectations.
Reputation Management by engaging in discourse on review sites like TripAdvisor is an excellent method to acknowled accolades from fans, but also address issues raised by critics. Managing TripAdvisor is much simpler than managing Facebook and Twitter communities where where communication is more conversational. Additionally, for Twitter or Facebook messaging, where communication with followers tends to be more oriented to near real-time interaction, legitimate customer engagement can require a larger, and better trained, resource allocation.
The benefits of proactive reputation management can be significant as recent studies have revealed a direct correlation between higher review rankings and higher average daily rates for hotels.
Personalization has also generally not been well executed within the travel industry. Guest preferences are highly itinerary-centric and vary depending on trip purpose, traveling companions, etc. Current frequent traveler programs may associate a traveler with an ID number, but consumer profile development is normally relatively rudimentary. Profile information may include generic preferences, but are rarely segmented by trip type. Further, booking interfaces typically lack the capacity to interpret trip-specific preferences to provide a highly relevant solution set that can simplify and streamline booking processes.
The future of travel involves engaging the traveler in an end-to-end experience. The group that is able to earn the trust of the consumer will ultimately be rewarded by being allowed to serve as the hub for travel planning activities. Hotels will similarly serve as the base of operations for the destination experience. The greatest benefit, beyond the ability to capture additional revenue streams related to ancillary product sales, advertising or referral fees from partners interested in working with loyal guests.
Additionally, not only do revenues increase on a per stay basis, but repeat customers dramatically expand lifetime values.
The economics of customer engagement and ROI calculations have permanently changed with the ubiquity of social media. Customer engagement through social networks cannot be measured in pure last-click conversions like direct response or email promotions. Through online social channels, customer engagement is a process with different types of conversion metrics.
Applause (likes), Amplification (shares), and Conversation (comments) measure markedly different metrics of guest engagement, each reflecting varying degrees of commitment expressed by the user. For comments, sentiment analysis and semantic context become important considerations.
Most importantly, these new engagement metrics allow the tracking of micro-conversions to enable social attribution to be measured in terms of economic value to more accurately calculate ROI and contribution to organizational business objectives.
- Economic Value
End-to-End Travel Experience
- Destination Experience
- Lifetime Customer Value
- Planning Experience
- Customer Direct
Location Based Services
- Check-In Programs
- Geo-centric Offers
- Decision Makers
- Owned Content
- Paid Content
- Earned Content
- Anticipating Needs
- Establishing Expectations
- Exceeding Expectations