Reshaping a loyalty program for a post-pandemic world -
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Reshaping a loyalty program for a post-pandemic world

Ai Editorial

10th September, 2021

Lockdowns and restrictions have had a profound impact on how people live. Travel brands continue to assess the same and accordingly have to incorporate several aspects – emotional connection, tangible benefits etc. in their respective loyalty programs.

One clear message is – our lives are more digital than ever before.  So in addition to simplifying the entire earn and burn cycle, adding contactless buys or experiences (for instance, high-frequency activities like food delivery), along with other travel-related benefits, and all of it via digital interactions must be looked into.

Also, we prioritize our safety, data security and trust. So loyalty specialists must look at data-related areas, be it for personalization as well as data security, to ensure they don’t fall off the radar.

Key initiatives taken by established carriers:

  • Why consumers’ love an app or a loyalty program?: Air Canada conducted a research to redesign Aeroplan and align with members’ expectations. The airline found that members wanted more opportunities to earn and redeem points in their everyday lives and hence brought in a “favourite” brand, Starbucks, to keep Aeroplan “top of the mind”. This week the airline shared a partnership with Uber, offering eligible Aeroplan credit cardholders savings on rides, food and grocery delivery etc. Be it for members availing such options by linking their existing account to gauging what can be done with the points gained and so on, all of it does show signs of “continuous engagement with members. This acknowledgement related to shopping or other activities is associated with a consumer’s daily lives. So if on one hand the program thrives by enabling members to dream and plan for aspirational destinations/ dream holidays and on the other, create everyday engagement and let them make the most of their loyalty currency or the earn and burn cycle by indulging in high-frequency activities.

Speaking during Ai’s MegaEvent21 a couple of months ago, Marcus Puffer referred to the power of partnerships in order to keep customers engaged. For many airlines, creating and bringing these partnerships to life hasn’t been a straightforward task. Agility is of paramount importance. In order to address the long tail with new partners, an entity has to act fast to offer a luring proposition to their customers. Also, the value of the currency, especially in terms of it can be used for means other than flights, should be understood by the customer.

  • Safety and technology: Travellers, especially a loyal base, expect a brand to deliver on routine things. If a loyal customer has already an app, how to deliver a touchless experience is something travellers would expect. Stig Williams,Head of International Travel & Partnerships, Avis Budget Group recently explained how the company has worked on “contactless” interactions at various touchpoints. The group has worked out partnerships to enhance the cleanliness and disinfection of its rental facilities and vehicles, plus it is also expanding contactless rentals for customers through its app, (digital check-in and a streamlined way to collect a rental vehicle). Also, there are paperless rental agreements at most locations and one can avail a personal QR Code for exit. For its part, American Airlines decided to simplify the entire experience, right from planning, shopping and the actual journey by undertaking technology-related projects, some of them only because of the pandemic.
  • Paying with loyalty currency: Brands must dig deep to understand how consumers are looking at financial planning today. They are looking at flexibility (for instance, pay when you fly or buy now pay later) and being in control. Letting members pay via miles isn’t new, but as, Jonathan Silver, CEO, Engage People, points out the ability to spend loyalty points as a currency at checkouts like cash or a credit card increases the likelihood that consumers will spend more online or in-store than on travel.

Looking at the bigger picture

All the talk around renewed commitment, including taking the best care of their loyal customers when they travel and sustaining a bond when they don’t, means airlines have had to dig deep to keep their loyalty offering relevant.

In this context, a critical aspect has been how to keep members engaged and at the same time focus on revenue generation, too.

“Managed correctly, loyalty programs should be both – meaningful contributors of short term revenue and drivers of long term engagement,” stated Erin Murray, Vice President, Marketing at Points.

By Ritesh Gupta

Ai Team

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