Guest Post: Transforming travel rewards - Leveraging customer insights for year-round loyalty

Guest Post: Transforming travel rewards - Leveraging customer insights for year-round loyalty

James Berry, managing director of Valuedynamx, a Collinson company, divulges why consumer behaviour insights are so 'critical'

When it comes to creating loyal customers in the travel sector, customer data is key. Rewards and engagement programs have the potential to help brands nurture long-term, fruitful relationships, but understanding customer behavior is critical to delivering the right level of personalization and tailored experiences. To ensure customers are willing to share their data and engage, they must derive value from their brand interactions. Properly executed strategies can establish everyday relevance with customers, even during off-seasons, fostering strong relationships and long-term brand engagement. And it all starts with leveraging the technology that powers reward and engagement programs.

Why? Because the right consumer behavior insights are critical.

Transaction data tells you what your customers are buying, but that’s only part of the story. The technology behind a travel rewards and engagement programs offers a richer source of intel to understand the “why” behind customer behaviors. This includes monitoring when people take advantage of promotions to earn rewards and when they redeem points.

By leveraging this data, travel brands can reap the following benefits:

1. Stronger, more flexible promotional strategies

In recent years, consumers have heightened their expectations for the types and amounts of rewards and incentives they receive. People are actively searching for promotions and deals that offer the most value, making it crucial to provide a variety of offers through the right rewards and promotions at the right time and place. This strategy is key to driving customer loyalty and attracting new customers. Digital promotions offer even deeper insights into the customer journey, as real-time data about brand interactions can inform travel businesses to adjust strategy on the fly quickly

Successful travel brands are increasingly offering flexible rewards redemption that keep them top of mind and top of wallet. For example, Emirates Skywards now offers its loyalty customers the option to pay with points or miles earned via the ‘Spend Online’ section with Skywards Miles Mall. This redemption offering provides a convenient way for Emirates Skywards members to use their miles to spend on more everyday options.

2. 1:1 personalised offers

While the term "personalisation" is often used as a buzzword, your rewards and engagement technology presents a tangible opportunity to truly understand and connect with each customer. This is especially true if you are leveraging the right AI and machine learning technology to determine how customers interact with your brand, the frequency of their engagements, and which promotions or offers resonate most effectively.

1:1 customization is key. For example, several brands we collaborate with have observed that 30% of all transactions stem from individually tailored recommendations. And because AI can continually learn and adjust, customers benefit from enhanced, ever-evolving personalized offers over time. By understanding more than just your customers’ travel purchases and diving more into their personal preferences, you can create continuous touchpoints and relevant rewards that bolster engagement even during slower seasons, distinguishing your brand from competitors.

3. Strategic partnership opportunities

The insights derived from leveraging customer data can also uncover valuable partnership opportunities for travel brands through card-linked and even affiliate offers. Think airline or hotel co-branded credit cards with cardholder-specific offers that give people the ability to earn more rewards when shopping with select retailers in-store or online. By using such cards, consumers can accumulate points that can be redeemed for a variety of offerings. By understanding customer behavior and preferences, brands can identify complementary products or services that align with their audience's interests. Collaborating with other businesses to offer bundled deals or exclusive promotions not only adds value for customers but also expands the brand's reach and strengthens its position in the market.

Time is of the essence. One of the greatest risks facing the travel industry today is not responding to rapidly evolving customer preferences and behaviors. As individuals grow increasingly selective about where and how they spend their time and money, the travel sector must rise to the challenge of capturing and retaining their existing and prospective customers’ attention. By implementing smart, personalized engagement strategies on a regular basis, travel brands can cultivate more profitable and enduring relationships with their clientele.