Hotel Loyalty Programs are Getting an Update

Kimpton and Marriott have both recently re-vamped their rewards programs. Kimpton’s InTouch is now Karma Rewards and Marriott’s rewards program now includes PlusPoints. Both programs now include richer guest profiles, more immediate rewards, and points for social sharing activities.

Leaders in the industry have observed that traditional loyalty programs need an upgrade to remain relevant. While some are skeptical about the value of incentivized social sharing, there seems to be consensus amongst hoteliers that traditional points and rewards hotel loyalty programs fall short of the expectations of today’s traveler.

Here are some of the ways the Kimpton and Marriott programs are changing the system.

1. Delivering Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is the new norm in this digital age. This is especially true for millennial travelers. 78% of millennials expect to earn a reward within the first three months of participation in a loyalty program.

In just four years millennials will occupy almost half the global workforce according to Harvard Business Review. In general, the world is moving faster than it used to and points and rewards systems where the guest can only gradually and passively accumulate points are becoming obsolete.

Kimpton and Marriott saw this trend and have adjusted their loyalty programs to meet the demand. For example, Kimpton’s tiered program gives guests tangible rewards like Free WiFi and Dining Exclusives just for signing up. Marriott gives users points for actions, like following its brand pages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

2. Taking Personalization to the Next Level

More accurate guest profiles allow for more targeted marketing. Traditional loyalty programs allow for this to a certain extent. But in the next wave, hoteliers will know everything possible about their loyal customers.

For example, Kimpton’s program takes into account face-to-face interactions with staff members. Over time, the guest profile develops Custom Stay Preferences. Eventually, Kimpton will learn to anticipate its loyal guests’ needs and tastes. This creates opportunity for targeted surprise and delight, like a favorite snack automatically delivered to the guest’s room upon checkin.

3. Enabling Word of Mouth Marketing

We’ve talked about how essential it is for hotels to be active on social media, to identify and engage with brand advocates.

In a Forbes article, Jamie Gutfreund, Chief Strategy Officer of The Intelligence Group says, “Marketers need to shift their mindset from the traditional ROI model to one based on ‘ROR,’ or Return on Relationship. In other words, what are you doing to fuel that expression and how are you partnering with each customer or prospect to help them establish their own personal brand?”

With their new loyalty programs, both Kimpton and Marriott reward guests for sharing on social media. Remember, 44% of U.S. travelers always or often consult friends and family for travel advice. Hoteliers can take advantage of this trend. By engaging with brand advocates within the social media community, hoteliers can foster trust with their brand.

What does this mean for the future? 

As hoteliers continue to look for new ways to reward loyalty, it is becoming even more important to have rich guest data. With more detailed guest profiles, hoteliers can drive loyalty and word of mouth marketing in new ways. What if you could link a current guest with a TripAdvisor review that he wrote for another hotel? Or review tweets he sent during his last stay?

While we’re not there today, programs like those at Kimpton and Marriott are strong indicators of what is to come. Radical innovation is on the horizon, and when that happens, the guest experience will change completely.

 

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