Does your hotel website help improve guest loyalty?
A brand website is an important tool for the hotel. It is the face of the hotel; the first consumer touch point. It is the means to drive direct bookings and reduce new customer acquisition cost. It can also be the most cost-effective medium to increase customer engagement and guest loyalty. However, are most hotels optimising their website to build stronger guest relationships?
Leading global brands across the world are leveraging loyalty programs successfully for customer retention and guest engagement. According, to our survey, 90% of Indian travellers stated that they will book on the hotel’s website if offered loyalty points or benefits. But 65% hoteliers said that they don’t have a guest engagement program.
How can hotels address this gap?
First, design your hotel’s loyalty program.
Look at your guest profile – what is the purpose of people visiting your hotel and what do they seek? Early check-in and extended check-out is a common request among business travellers. Wi-Fi, breakfast, airport transfer are certain services that can benefit everyone. Based on common guest trends at your hotel, create your loyalty program. For instance, your loyalty program can include reduced room rates and complimentary breakfast or free upgrade and extended check-out or discounts on stay and other facilities at the hotel.
Next, make your loyalty program exclusive.
People who become a part of your loyalty program should feel special. Think of a unique name for your program, such as Platinum Member, Core Member, Preferred Customer etc. The name of the program should immediately set the guest apart from other guests as a preferential customer. Create a different look-and-feel (brand image) for your loyalty program to build a distinctive community image. Then start promoting it as an exclusive club for the elite guests. You have now created a reason for guests to seek to be a part of your loyalty program.
Extend your benefits carefully.
Grade your loyal customers based on the number of times they stay at your hotel in a year and their spending patterns. High value customers should be nurtured to drive a long-lasting relationship. New customers or low value guests should be coaxed to indulge more into the services offered by the hotel. So, while a high value customer can get a free upgrade to the best suite in your hotel, the low yielding guest could be offered a discount on the spa session or on drinks to prompt him to try out your services and spend more.
Communicate your loyalty benefits upfront.
Popularise your loyalty program and the benefits a loyal customer can enjoy. Make a splash about it on your website and across social media channels. Send out personalised emails to guests informing them about the benefits they can get on being a repeat customer and booking direct through the website. Create time-based programs – such as anniversary or birthday package – based on guest profile or on special days like Valentine’s Day or Christmas to help guests get the best value from the loyalty program.
Encourage booking through the website.
The whole intention of a well-crafted loyalty program is to make people see value in associating with your hotel, improving repeat business and driving direct bookings. Hence, ensure your website can be aligned with your loyalty program. If a loyal customer has been extended a special offer that can be availed through a promo code, your booking engine should be able to support it. The booking engine should also have the functionality to upload packages which are exclusively built for your loyal customers. A seamless experience when availing special offers through the website improves the guest’s perception of the hotel and strengthens the brand association.
Capture guest analytics.
A crucial part of your loyalty program is to ensure the right offer is given to the right customer. Do not offer discounts on conference hall to a leisure traveller. Hence capturing guest data, analysing them accurately and then designing the right program is important for higher profitability. Personalised marketing is the core of loyalty programs. To be able to tell a guest that ‘You praised our dessert during your last visit, and we thought of offering it complimentary to you this time’ can take your loyalty program to the next level as this establishes a personal bond with the guest.
Are loyalty programs only for the bigger brands?
It is only a myth that big brands need loyalty programs. Independent and mid-scale hotels can leverage loyalty programs exceptionally well to drive higher direct bookings. In fact, lowering the cost of customer acquisition and improving repeat business is more crucial for budget hotels. It is not necessary that the hotel has to offer free upgrades or complimentary Wi-Fi. Loyalty program is all about making the guest feel special. An airport drop, a customised meal, flexible check-in, arranging a local sightseeing, could be more than enough to attract a guest repeatedly to your hotel.