Loyalty Programs To Be More Loyal
Article first published as Loyalty Programs To Be More Loyal on Technorati.
After moving to Dallas, TX, I realized if I wanted to leave the state and fly direct, it was going to be on American Airlines. So I signed up for their “loyalty” program and like other loyalty programs, was bombarded with email offers, vacation packages, and the like. I will admit, I did look at them, but I was disappointed; not based on the prices, they were good; and the packages were decent, but I wanted something more personal. So when I started receiving emails saying, “Your personalized AA offers”, I was stoked. I mean, based on how far we’ve come in tracking, data segmentation, data purchasing and monetization, cookies on sites, etc. I was pretty certain I should be receiving an email that offered packages for activities I liked or services I frequently used. Nope. The emails were the same and they were offering one personalized thing; flights out of Dallas. Well, there’s a no-brainer – so they booked me coming out of Dallas. Why not take the time to make more personal?
With the advent of all listed above – the segmentation possibilities, the data research, etc. why would AA not make it a priority to send something more personal? I had used their site and their credit card to book hotels, golf packages, spa packages, car rentals, and many other specific items; and I had done so more than once. Why not send me specific emails? Or even better – why not hand written letters?
I contest that loyalty programs will have to become far more personal and individualized over the next year to compete. Certainly, the psychological benefits of the programs work – they make people feel special, entitled even. But to continue to compete with other loyalty programs in the market place, they are going to have to be a bit more strategic.
Let’s take Marriot Rewards as an example; I’ve booked golf getaways through Marriot and every month I receive “golf getaway special offers”. I may also receive an upsell or cross sell from time to time. Because of the implied endorsement, that the up sell is coming from Marriot, I frequently click through these specials – even if I don’t need something. I’m “loyal” to Marriot and their partners and in return, they show me that they are loyal to me by taking the time to track specific activities.
To become and remain a “player” in the loyalty space, investments must be made in strategic partnerships, business development, and more than anything, analytics and data segmentation. I’ve flown 190,000 miles on American this year and guess how many targeted emails I’ve gotten that target different things other than flying from Dallas? None. So, I added Expedia to my credit cards and programs; why be loyal to a company that does not invest in the time / research / resources to be loyal to me, individually?
A letter in the mail would be nice; these days, that insinuates some effort. Even more so, what about a package when you get to the airport when you hit a milestone number of miles? Maybe a travel bag that says “AA” on it? Or a blanket / pillow set? We know the cost involved with these, because we can purchase them – about $10. Am I not worth that $10 investment after spending nearly half a million dollars on your flights? You would even get free branding out of it.
Sure, I like the perks and the free flights, but whichever loyalty company finds the way to differentiate their offers utilizing data segmentation and tracking will be the loyalty program of choice over the next couple years. Come on American, I don’t want to have to choose another program.