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Loyalty Through a Mobile Device

I belong to one airline loyalty program and fly with that carrier almost exclusively.  I also belong to several hotel loyalty accounts and, while I like earning points and will leverage those loyalty programs when I can, I’ll also stay wherever the conference takes me or where the price is best. I have a few favorite restaurant brands and dine out frequently, but I don’t belong to a single restaurant loyalty program. I’m the exact portrait of your typical traveler.

Globally, nearly all travelers (94%) belong to an airline loyalty program. Most (80%) belong to hotel programs, often more than one; and half as many belong to a casual dining restaurant loyalty program (40%). These figures have just been published in the 2014 Global Traveler Study, included with this October issue of HT magazine. The study uncovers traveler preferences for loyalty programs, social media and the use of mobile devices in their engagement with hotels and restaurants.

Consumer preferences for loyalty are changing, the results show. A program that provides high-value points is still favored, but consumers are also looking for greater flexibility for how those points can be earned and redeemed. They value personalization, mobile engagement with the brand, and status.
Getting loyalty “right” impacts the bottom line. Conventional wisdom tells us that it can cost anywhere from four to ten times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. Rewarding loyal consumers doesn’t come without cost, however, and for that reason it’s critical to reward the right population. Airlines are shifting their loyalty programs to better identify high-value travelers, rewarding based on spend instead of just frequency. Hilton just added value to its loyalty program through a global initiative that enables mobile check-in, digital room selection from a room grid, and eventually mobile room key access.

What both the study and the Hilton initiative reinforce is that, as loyalty evolves, mobile devices will be a critical part of the solution — they’ve become the remote control to a traveler’s world. And if consumers aren’t loyal to their mobile device, they aren’t loyal to much.

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