Social media is an interesting topic among loyalty marketers. Some leverage it more heavily than others, and at Preferred Hotels, social media is high on the list of priorities for customer engagement.
“Social media is a great tool for us to continue our connection with existing customers,” Michelle Woodley, executive vice president, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, told Loyalty360. “We have social media presence on all the major channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest), as well as accounts on Chinese social media channels Sina Weibo and WeChat.”
Woodley offered an example of how Preferred Hotels uses social media.
“We always encourage guests at our member hotels to share photos and videos from their travels by tagging #ThePreferredLife,” she explained. “By doing this, we can follow along with our customer’s experiences, engage with them in real-time throughout the stay, or even share their photos with our audience−all of which makes them feel like they are part of our community.”
Preferred Hotels also uses social media to reward new and existing customers through consumer contests.
“We host seasonal contests on our brand pages and followers can enter to win iPrefer points,” Woodley said. “The prize could range anywhere from $100 in points to $1,000, and we find that’s a great way to make sure our social media followers are signed up for our loyalty program and give our existing loyal customers a chance to earn extra rewards for a future stay.”
As a hospitality brand, Preferred Hotels sees customer engagement and feedback as extremely important to continually improve the services it provides to guests and member hotels.
“We want customers to feel like they can reach out to our brand from the minute they are dreaming about their next fun trip or need a great hotel for business, book a hotel stay, check out from their room, share their experience, and make the decision to book another stay with us,” Woodley explained. “To achieve this level of engagement, we are continually monitoring feedback, ensuring guests can reach us at any time and have developed an engaged membership database through the iPrefer hotel rewards program. Our team is dedicated to consistent communication across digital channels such as email and social media, live channels like our call centers, and click to chat, and printed collateral such as brochures and the Preferred Travel magazine.”
Mobile is a burgeoning element at Preferred Hotels.
“We developed a native app that launched in April to create an easy, one-stop-shop to manage all iPrefer touch points, benefits, and bookings,” Woodley explained. “We also have on-property specific modules within the app that allows guests to interact with hotels during their stay, including the ability to chat with a hotel representative and order on-site amenities directly within the app. We’ve seen an amazing lift in member engagement through this channel since the launch, with over 9,000 downloads and over 300 bookings made in-app to date.”
What’s more, Woodley said Preferred Hotels & Resorts will debut a new website by the end of the year, designed with a mobile-first strategy that streamlines the user experience with a clean, responsive design. 
Preferred Hotels launched the iPrefer points-based loyalty program in 2013 to better meet the needs of the independent hotel guest.
“It is now the world’s largest points-based program for global independent hotels,” Woodley said. “We continue to make enhancements to the program and evaluate the member benefits to ensure we are creating a memorable customer experience throughout our portfolio of over 600 hotels around the world. We are also hyper-focused on the customer experience on our website through web personalization tools, which allow us to serve unique content based on visitors’ behavior, demographics, and geolocation. Through research, we understand that if a page takes more than three seconds to load, a potential customer is more likely to go to another website or leave entirely, so we are also developing accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for optimal load times on our website–thus enhancing the overall customer experience with our brand.”

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