March 11 2014

A Thoughtful Digital Experience Builds Brand Loyalty

Travel brands have been slow adapting to new technologies because they are concerned it will negatively impact longstanding business models. Hotels have long relied on outdated loyalty programs, which sought to differentiate themselves from their competitors while offering perks to their customers. The original goal was to create an emotional bond with customers to keep them loyal.

It’s not working.

In reality, credit card issuers and other consumer businesses that profit from loyalty programs are making travel brands more money, and the customers are going elsewhere. According to Deloitte’s survey examining travel loyalty, only 8% of their survey respondents indicated that they stay at the same hotel brand.

Magnani Caruso Dutton (MCD), a digital customer experience agency for several of the world’s most recognized brands, interviewed 1000 U.S consumers evenly segmented as business travelers, leisure travelers and family travelers about their hotel digital experiences, expectations, and needs. Last week, they released their results. What they discovered is that a solid digital experience will increase brand loyalty, and consumers want to use mobile technology to customize their stay.

Q: Overall, how much of an impact does the quality of a hotel’s website, app or other digital tools have on your decision to stay?

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Q: Which specific mobile capabilities they would be most likely to use if offered by a hotel?

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If travel brands want to stay competitive, they need to step up their efforts in creating a memorable experience that is in line with the average traveler’s digital expectations – mobile tools, seamless integration, and personalized travel related data that is readily accessible.

Recently, travel brands have started to pump up their digital efforts to give their guests customized experiences. HomeAway, the vacation rental giant has recently acquired Glad To Have You, a relatively new mobile hospitality app. The app allows owners to communicate with their guests, and provides them with all their relevant info prior to their visit.

Loyalty programs have been digitally revamped as well. Hotels.com now allows users to access their account on their smartphone with all their information already stored. Worldhotels has launched one of the first all-virtual loyalty programs in the hospitality industry. Members of the program can follow their transactions, manage their personal profile and customize their virtual membership via the website or mobile app.

We should all be excited for this shift towards mobile tools, innovative hospitality startups, and a custom traveling experience crafted by the customer. The brands that embrace digital will be rewarded for their efforts.

(Graphics source: Principle MCD Inc. at mcdpartners.com)

By Ronnie Coleman, Sales Executive at StayNTouch.