Loyalty programs have become a necessity to compete for the fleeting interest of the frequent traveler. Hotels are increasingly using loyalty to attract the “right” guest, rather than just trying to fill rooms. Advocacy, on the other hand, can be as simple as a word of mouth referral or a powerful testimonial. Like loyalty, it can be used to attract the right customer—only this time, it does so by reaching like-minded customers through their social networks. But, in the end, not all loyal customers are advocates, and not all advocates are loyal customers. So how do loyalty and advocacy work together?
The time-tested approach of creating programs and incentives that reward loyal customers, though struggling, can still be effective. Re-thinking this model to combine advocacy with loyalty creates an environment in which there’s no incentive to book anywhere other than directly.
Flip.to is doing just that. By turning guests into engaged advocates, trusted brand connections are built, and frequent travelers become key promoters for your hotel. Here are some of our key findings to successfully bridge the gap between loyalty and advocacy:
- Membership: For loyalty programs to flourish it’s crucial there be network growth over time. Members tend to stay longer, spend more, and return more frequently. Additionally, loyalty programs cost real dollars to implement, and hotels understandably wish to drive enrollments wherever possible. By integrating loyalty into a guest engagement or advocacy strategy, not only will network membership grow, but it will do so in a way that is largely automated and, therefore, far more scalable.
- Engagement: Combined, a hotel’s guests have far greater reach than any marketing effort it could ever undertake on its own. Hotels that focus on driving engagement are able to put this massive reach to proper use. By putting loyalty points on the table as the incentive, a hotel can boost or maintain already high engagement while also directly linking loyalty and advocacy in the guest’s mind. It demonstrates that loyalty can be an engaging pathway for turning hotel guests into advocates and reinforces the value of the loyalty program for the guest.
- Member Value: Measuring and understanding the value that loyalty program members bring back to the hotel is clearly important, and it can help define which enrollment initiatives should be pursued more aggressively. Guests who enroll in loyalty programs through advocacy initiatives, on average, return equal value to the hotel as those enrolled elsewhere. Considering the ease of implementation and the time-saving automation available through this approach, the integrated method can deliver real value to the hotel’s bottom line.
- Automation: Behind the attractive veneer of any loyalty program there are real costs, both in hard dollars and human capital. Besides facilitating scale, automation can reduce these costs and free up the hotel’s associates for valuable guest interaction. An integrated approach to loyalty and advocacy means the member enrolls prior to arriving. The hotel is now capturing meaningful data about the guest before they even arrive, creating opportunities to enhance the guest experience and a compelling path to up-selling.
Both loyalty and advocacy have their place in a hotel’s toolkit. Combined, they represent something greater than the sum of their parts. By implementing a guest advocacy strategy that incorporates loyalty, hotels are able to engage with their guests in a natural and meaningful way that drives results. And the best part is that everyone walks away a winner!