New School Incentive Programs: Data, Insight, Sustainable Behavioral Change

By Mark Johnson President, Loyalty 360 - The Loyalty Marketer's Association | December 04, 2011

Since the launch of S&H Green Stamps in the 1930's, loyalty marketing has blossomed into a $4 billion industry. And while the traditional collect now/redeem later points scheme had proven effective for years, social media and new technologies have made it well within the capability of marketers to use data intelligently to build strong customers relationships and gain a long-term sustainable advantage.

As I explained recently on FoxBusiness.com, this shift is moving the market away from the old school mentality of looking at what their "customers have done for me." Traditional cookie-cutter loyalty programs were focused on the short-term developed either as a defensive strategy or in hopes that they could incent a certain (usually not measurable) behavior.

Instead, the market is rightfully evolving to a new school mindset that is focused on data, insight, and sustainable behavioral change. In this new customer centric world we live in, actionable insight that can effectively drive sustainable behavioral change is the "caldron call" of the market, it is the areas where brands are asking for "help." To sum it up, the new school mindset focuses on two key elements: transparency and relevancy.

Transparency:

Today's customers want their brands to be vulnerable and almost compliant to them. They want to know that if the brand makes a mistake they recognize it, are accountable and address it in a pro-active manner to the individual to restore effective engagement. Brands cannot be afraid to show the good, bad and the ugly. They need to have a free-flowing two-way conversation --- letting their customers vent or praise and then letting customers know they're listening and that they care and most importantly respond relevantly to them in the time, medium, and message they require.

Southwest Airlines recent incident with famed filmmaker Kevin Smith is a great example of leveraging the transparency of the web. When Southwest escorted Smith off a flight because they claimed he was too heavy for a single seat ticket what did Smith do? You guessed it. He pulled out his cell phone and tweeted about his experience --- venting his anger and frustration throughout cyberspace.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.