WalletHub recently published a comparison of the 12 largest U.S. hotel chains’ rewards programs to help consumers navigate the confusing realm of points and status tiers. The results of the comparison, which looks at 21 metrics, including point values, expiration policies, booking blackout dates and brand exclusions, reveal which hotel loyalty programs are the most beneficial for consumers in particular areas and overall.

Among the hotel chains evaluated, only a few were called out for being the best in all or some categories. Wyndham Rewards was the best hotel loyalty program for travelers of all spending levels for the second year in a row, while La Quinta Returns offers the most in rewards value per $100 spent, and Best Western is the only major hotel chain whose rewards points do not expire due to account inactivity.

Even the best can be better though, and we’re here to tell you how. Keep reading to learn three ways to take your hotel’s rewards program to the next level.  

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Non-spend Activity Tracking and Recognition

The vast majority of hotel loyalty programs are tied only to spend, so individuals that travel less frequently are unlikely to reap many benefits. As a result, they have little incentive to pledge their allegiance to a particular brand, and tend to be more opportunistic when choosing their accommodations. Hotel brands can overcome the fickleness of consumers by delivering value and incentives in other ways, one of which is non-purchase recognition. In addition to rewarding guests based on how much they spend, hotels can also give incentives for interacting on social, location-based activity or guest experience activities like a restaurant reservation, show tickets, valet services and more.

By awarding non-purchase activity brands can also uncover additional insights about guests, drive deeper engagement and provide better customer service. For example, hotels can leverage reward points to ask guests about their experience. If an individual rates his experience as positive, offer him additional points when he shares his review on social media. On the flipside, if a guest rates her experience as negative, the hotel’s response should be personalized based on the customer’s value, how negative the experience was rated, etc.

Consistent Experience Across Properties

Large hotel chains own multiple properties. For example, Marriott's portfolio includes several properties such as Marriott, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Renaissance, Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton. Guests, especially those that are frequent travelers, may stay at different properties in a variety of locations, which is great for the Marriott brand, but there’s one big issue--there are different profiles for the same user at each property.   When guests make reservations at a property at which they've never stayed, they may be prompted to build a separate account even if they've previously been a guest at another property affiliated with the hotel's portfolio. This results in fragmented profiles and inconsistent experiences across properties and channels.

In order to provide the seamless, personalized experience today’s consumers expect, it’s crucial that hotels recognize an individual as the same person no matter where he is or what channel of communication he’s engaging on. Hotels need to store a profile for a guest that can span multiple properties. For example, this would mean that Marriott and Ritz-Carlton could both access the same guest’s profile and update a guest’s preferences for a particular hotel independently of each other, while maintaining a single source of truth for that guest. Those preferences might include things like contact opt-in, from which properties they wanted to receive communications, mailing address, age, gender, and more. Additional profile attributes like loyalty tier, visit frequency, visit recency, or spend amounts could also be stored for guests to be leveraged to send specific offers or upsell marketing.

Think Mobile-first

Travelers rely on their smartphones travelers rely on their smartphones for just about everything. To keep up with consumer demand and behavior, large hotel chains have released apps that enable guests to make reservations, check in, check-out and track rewards points. However, that’s not enough. Most hotels are sorely lacking the capabilities required to deliver the real-time, contextually aware experiences that consumers crave. Providing members with this type of individualized experience, especially while they’re on-premise, not only drives engagement, but also presents additional marketing opportunities to upsell and cross-sell guests while they are on property.

A timely, personalized offer can make a passive guest a loyalist for life.  For example, upon check-in after a long travel day, a guest who has never eaten at an on-premise restaurant receives a SMS message with a $25 dining offer, resulting in her visiting the hotel restaurant for the first time.  Afterwards, she receives an email from the hotel general manager thanking her for dining.

With the technology to act in real time based on any customer datapoint, hotels can take that personalized offer even further. For example, when a member checks in at 8pm, your system recognizes that she historically dines at the hotel restaurant between 7pm-9pm and usually has a drink with her meal. Now, like magic, the system can notify the receptionist to let the customer know that there’s a free drink waiting for her at the hotel restaurant. With that kind of tailor-made service, she’ll want to stay forever!

Deliver the Best Rewards Program AND the Best Customer Experience

With the proper technology to build a single cross-property profile, both hotels and their guests win. As guests visit properties over time, engage with more content and redeem specific offers, their profile becomes richer.  With richer guest profiles, the database becomes smarter and insights can be generated to automate, optimize and predict contextually relevant interactions to upsell, cross-sell and market to guests on a one-to-one basis. 

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