Beyond airmiles – building customer loyalty that goes the distance
Beyond airmiles – building customer loyalty that goes the distance

Beyond airmiles – building customer loyalty that goes the distance

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Travel planning

The travel industry is facing a loyalty crisis. When customers are able to search multiple sites to get the best prices for the same travel experiences, and the differences in these prices becoming ever more negligible, how can travel brands hope to generate repeat business?

The traditional loyalty schemes, pioneered in the travel sector, no longer hold the same sway among customers that they once did. When many companies offer loyalty schemes, it becomes harder and harder to get members to engage. A 2015 study by Bond Brand Loyalty found that the number of schemes that the average consumer is enrolled in is 13.3 – up from 10.9 the previous year. When they looked at the number of loyalty programs that customers were actively engaged with, however, they found that the average had decreased from 7.8 to 6.7 over the same period.

While there are a number of ways to create a successful loyalty scheme, there are also plenty of other tactics to help engender customer loyalty that you should be investing in.

The psychology of loyalty

The well-researched psychological principle of operant conditioning suggests that when a desired behaviour is rewarded with a positive result, the person is more likely to repeat the behaviour.

It’s a straightforward principle – give your customer a great experience, and they’re much more likely to come back. The concept that businesses in the travel and tourism industries should note, is that the experience doesn’t start when customers arrive at the hotel, or board the plane. It starts as soon as they begin evaluating their options and potential purchase – a process which now typically starts online, making digital experience management a crucial part of any customer loyalty strategy.

Building loyalty through customer experience

Customer analysis

A deep understanding of your customer base is key for identifying ways in which you can provide the best possible digital experience. Segmentation based on demographics and purchase behaviour is a good start, but in this age of big data there’s much more that can be considered to give you a more rounded picture of your customer base.

Where do they enter your site? How did they find you? How many (and which) pages did they visit? How soon is their proposed departure date? Where in the world are they and where do they want to go? A robust data management platform can help you store, sort and analyse the vast amounts of data that can be gleaned not just from your website, but any other channel they utilise, in order to build out some useful customer insights.

Segments of one

Following data collation, the next stage is to contextualise all available data via a single customer view – an SCV is not just about having visibility of all of your customer data, it’s about connecting up every potential customer touchpoint and bringing all that data together in one place, where it can be viewed and actioned holistically. That’s a true single customer view – and it’s becoming more and more essential as companies look to gain competitive advantage.

A single customer view allows you to view the entire journey for any individual customer, helping you to understand the interactions at each touchpoint and identifying opportunities to improve the customer experience. Without this 360 degree view, you’ll be making decisions without all the available information – restricting your potential.

The single customer view also forms the foundation of one of the key aspects of a successful digital experience – personalisation.

The use of personalisation in driving loyalty

Experian claims that 86% of brands in the UK utilise some form of personalisation in their marketing communications. This doesn’t cover, however, whether this goes beyond simply including a personal salutation – “Hi, Bob”. Personalisation has evolved so much further than this, but an Econsultancy report found that only 3% of businesses are operating at this top level, able to use rich data to personalise communications in real-time across all channels.

Personalisation based on a single customer view allows businesses to provide each customer with a truly unique cross-channel experience that’s tailored just for them. This one-to-one marketing approach not only provides a better more relevant experience for the customer, but inevitably increases conversions and retention too – so it’s a win-win. It’s perfectly possible to either replicate or complement the one-to-one travel agent experience online, with tailored recommendations and timely offers that influence customers at exactly the right moment.

Seamless omni-channel experience

Providing a seamless omni-channel experience is a lot more than just ensuring that your message is consistent across channels. As far back as 2012 (a long time in digital terms), Google data showed that 67% of consumers were using multiple devices in their customer journeys – now that many consumers are using as many as four devices, the journeys are becoming even more fragmented.

Omni-channel customers are especially valuable to businesses, with a 2015 report focused on retail finding that they have a lifetime value 30% higher than average. Despite this, only 23% of businesses are reported to be doing multi-channel marketing well. Customers expect to get a great experience whatever device they use, and when they switch devices, they want to be able to pick up where they left off. In that sense, they’re channel neutral – so this should be a target for organisations too.


Instead of relying on discount schemes and reward programmes in isolation – deliver relevance to your customers, take the effort out of buying, save them time and they’ll come back to you anyway, reducing the need for constant incentives.  Make service the differentiator by proving to your customers that you know them and want to deliver value.

Intrigued? Find out more about developing a digital customer experience that keeps your customers coming back.

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