As a frequent traveler, I have strong brand loyalty to a specific airline, car rental company and hotel chain. One of the few perks of business travel is collecting rewards and using them for great family vacations. As a marketer I’m keenly aware of the benefits loyalty programs provide as well as the customer experiences I receive as part of these programs. This includes understanding the ways in which travel companies market to me when I am in flight or on property. During one recent stay at my favorite hotel brand I noticed a missed marketing opportunity that I thought was a good lesson for all marketers. Here’s what happened.
One evening when I returned from dinner, I found that an envelope, addressed directly to me, had been slid under my door. After reading through the letter, it was evident that the hotel was trying to gain information about the company I worked for so that they could contact them, hopefully create a relationship with them and as a result gain more business. There was an incentive for me personally to fill out the form: 1,000 points. The information requested was minimal and straight forward – my name and rewards number were pre-printed – I appreciated the personalization and low barrier to entry. They asked for company name, company address, company phone number and travel coordinator information. Because I love to get points, I diligently filled out the form and turned it in the next morning.
I’m sure the information collected was put to good use, but the brand missed a great opportunity to gain more information about me, my loyalty to their brand and my experience with their brand by focusing only on my employer.
In general, loyalty members are much more engaged with their brands, 56% of consumers in loyalty programs attribute spending to these programs and 20% are more likely to consider a brand for future purchase as cited in this recent Colloquy article. So using every opportunity to gain additional feedback is essential. Rather than just focusing on my employer, they could have asked some very simple questions about the specific hotel’s best and worst features, about brand perception for this specific chain and the superchain, about the loyalty program rewards, communication strategy and offers, or about my specific preferences as a traveler like room location and hotel amenities desired. I would have freely given my feedback as part of the information requested –in fact, I would have welcomed the opportunity to provide specific feedback because it is rare that we as consumers have the direct opportunity to give our opinions unless we have a poor experience with a brand. They should have used this opportunity to try and better understand me.
How could the hotel have maximized this opportunity?
The information was collected in writing, which means there had to be someone that keyed my information into a database. Utilizing digital capture could have sped up the response process including delivering the thank you email and processing the points I was due. A text or email incenting me to fill out the information during my stay also would have been much easier for me.
It would have allowed the brand to do a much quicker analysis on the number of employees from my company (or lack thereof) regularly staying at their hotel. Digital would have also allowed the brand to standardize the information capture and easily augment customer profiles with additional information.
Leveraging their entire audience
I also wondered how the hotel chain presented this opportunity to non-loyalty members. It would have been a fantastic opportunity to reward people to sign up for their loyalty program while providing extra incentive to sign up and get their customer’s company information for B2B marketing.
Typically a customer must be offered some sort of incentive to provide information to a brand – whether it is PII, preferences, or opinions – points are a great way to reward some but you should use data to understand what motivates your customers on an individual level.
When deciding what information to capture, make sure you have actionable plans to talk to your consumers regarding the information they have provided. Don’t collect information if you have no ability to act on it. I’m guessing that the information that was captured on me was never sent to a central repository to update the personal profile that the brand has on me – my profile hasn’t reflected it.
As a brand, when you have your customer’s attention, you have to make sure you capture as much information as possible. Better understanding your customers is what will enable you to modify your global marketing and more importantly, be able to personalize your future interactions between your customers and your brand.