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Marriott is in a slightly different position than other consumer-facing businesses with loyalty programs. Its very best customers only stay in one of the chain’s hotels, at most, 100 nights a year. Many stay far fewer. That may seem like a lot, but that leaves, at least, 265 days to try and engage with the customer.
“I’m not going to get more share of their wallet,” Marriot’s Thom Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty, told attendees during his session, “Marriott Rewards’ Pursuit to Win Share of Mind, Because Loyalty is Greater Than Rewards,” on Tuesday at the 9th Annual Loyalty Expo, presented by Loyalty360 – The Association for Customer Loyalty. Loyalty Expo is slated for May 24-26, 2016, at the DoubleTree Universal in Orlando, Florida.
“People have lives, they’re not in hotel rooms every night of the week,” Kozik said.
So instead of trying to gain a further share of the customer’s wallet, Marriott has focused on gaining a bigger share of the customer’s mind.
“Share of mind isn’t only about thinking of us when you’re about to book a reservation,” he explained. “Travel is one of the most relatable topics out there when you think of things like social media.”
People are always chiming in on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms with their opinions of various travel destinations, airlines, and hotels.
“Engagement around travel as a topic, aspirationally and emotionally, is social currency,” Kozik said. “You’re always engaged in travel. Travel has this tremendous share of mind, even when you don’t have a vacation planned.”
One challenge Marriott faces is making people aware of its 19 brands, soon to be 30, thanks to a merger with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
“It’s a big challenge to let the customer know that we’re in their selection set,” he said. “When people think about travel how do we attach our experiences back to what that travel intent is?”
Establishing loyalty is key of course, but as Kozik noted in his talk, loyalty programs haven’t changed all that much in the past 20 years.
For Marriott, the four pillars of loyalty are recognition, simplicity, exploration, and connection. In that context, using points accumulated by the customer through the loyalty program must be simple to use.
“We have partners with which you can redeem merchandise,” Kozik said, “but that was buried in our loyalty program for far too many years.”
For a long time, in fact, that option was buried on the website.
“Move that to the front and merchandise it and treat it as valuable,” he added. “Use it for things people want and not as a dumping ground for points. That way you attract a whole new type of member. Yes, there are people who save up for that dream vacation, but there are just as many that want the quick turn.”
Marriott has gone further and created partnerships with companies like Universal Music, one of the largest record labels in the world, to give the loyalty program’s members free music on Fridays. No points necessary, you just have to be a Marriott Rewards member.
It may seem obvious, but having that two-way relationship with the customer is extremely important.
“We have a wonderful relationship,” Kozik insisted. “Our customers sleep with us. They spend a night in our rooms, compliment our beds, and if the room isn’t clean, we hear about it.”
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