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On the second day of Customer Expo 2018, Christine Bardwell, Global Strategy Lead of Oracle, led a workshop session that dealt with international loyalty. Her presentation, much like her brand, was a bit out of the ordinary. “This is going to be very different,” she said. “Participation is required.” She asked the initially spread-out audience to gather at a few tables for round-table discussions.
Once everyone had greeted each other, she pulled up infographics that were based on research conducted by Oracle. The data highlighted commonalities in loyalty trends around the world. “Generally, in the hotel industry, rewards are just not of interest,” said Bardwell. She noted, however, that Brazil and Mexico show some interest in hotel awards. “So why is that? Well, in Brazil and Mexico, the thing they like most from hotel rewards is discounts.”
She indicated that hotel consumers in those two countries report being happy with the hospitality industry overall. This satisfaction contrasts with the experience of consumers in the United Kingdom, who tend to be less-than-happy with the hospitality industry. Bardwell noted that the data shows, however, that offering discounts to British consumers does not improve their level of satisfaction with hotels.
This was a key issue in her presentation—the fact that the programs that cultivate customer loyalty in some countries will not necessarily do the same in others. Before giving the room time for discussion, she explained that there are three features that are common to all hotel loyalty programs. “One, they must be relevant. Two, [they must be] redeemable. Three, they must be reliable.”
Bardwell asked the audience to consider what these terms meant to them and where they had seen them applied successfully. A representative of Western Union, when asked what she considered “relevant,” suggested “things that make sense to us,” such as a hotel offering loyalty in the form of dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Bardwell agreed with this and noted that there were many aspects to maintaining relevance. She cautioned that, throughout the world, irrelevant rewards are the primary reason that customers drop out of loyalty programs.
For instance, Dutch customers (a travel-prone people) are attracted to airline miles as rewards, even if the product or service that they’re purchasing has no connection to airlines. The miles are, nonetheless, relevant to them. However, Bardwell stated that “money off” is the only reward that is relevant worldwide, so brands that want to keep a consistent loyalty should stick to that.
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