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BizReport : Loyalty Marketing : March 23, 2017


Experts: Why points aren't enough for loyalty

Loyalty programs continue to be an important part of retailer programs, but some rewards are more sought after than others. Two experts explain.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: New data shows shoppers/customers want more than points from loyalty programs -- what is pushing this change?

Jeff Hassman, Executive Vice President & CMO, Excentus: Consumers want flexibility from their loyalty programs, and as more loyalty programs offer a mix of points, rewards, brand experiences, perks and cross-partner promotions, the standards for loyalty, as well as consumers' expectations for different types of rewards, rise.

Members want brand interactions and rewards that are timely and relevant. Not every member wants to accumulate points to redeem at a later time - they might be interested in smaller, more frequent earn-redeem opportunities or personal experiences with the brand. They might be attracted to cross-brand promotions. Layering additional reward types onto programs that are related to the brand can boost consumer loyalty. A hospitality or airline brand that offers points/miles and fuel discounts, for example, increases affinity for vacationing families or road-warrior travelers.

Liz Crisafi, Head of Portfolio Marketing, Loyalty and Partnerships, the Americas, IHG: Exactly. We know that transaction-based relationships are no longer enough, and that consumers want meaningful, personal relationships. Our research shows that what members want from their loyalty program, is to feel part of a 'special club.' An important part of that is delivering unique experiences and meaningful benefits to our members, which they can use throughout their travel experiences, not just when they are in our hotels.

We've talked to our members and looked at their spending habits to identify key areas of the travel experience - before, during and after their actual stay - where IHG® Rewards Club can play a role. Those findings informed the benefits that we've introduced over the last couple of years, such as Uber, Kindle and now Fuel Rewards.

Kristina: What immediate benefits can be found in expanding loyalty programs beyond points?

Jeff: The goal of any loyalty program upgrade or change should focus on both the program and the members. Expanding a loyalty program beyond points increases the likelihood of continued program growth, meaning more members, more foot traffic, more customers, and increased spending from already valuable members. Non-point rewards also deliver different kinds of value. Consumers who earn Fuel Rewards savings, for example, regard their cents-per-gallon rollbacks at the pump as the equivalent of cash, and even more valuable than cash back rewards.

The benefit for members should be tangible - rewards that make them feel understood, acknowledged and valued as customers. Satisfied members are likely to spend more, and they're also likely to become powerful word-of-mouth brand ambassadors as well.

Liz: A brand's loyalty program should always continue to evolve as the needs and desires of members are always changing in order to stay relevant to existing members and continue growth. With IHG® Rewards Club, our vision for loyalty is to create truly connected relationships over transactions and personal experiences over points alone. We know that these are the things that matter most to all of our members and how a brand builds lifetime loyalty.

Tags: Excentus, IHG, loyalty marketing, loyalty program trends, rewards marketing










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