The Mass Affluent is an important customer sector within the travel loyalty industry – so why is it that so many Mass Affluent members seem short-changed and disengaged by their current programmes? James Berry, E-commerce Director at Collinson Latitude, explains why and how travel brands can look to revive their loyalty programmes for the Mass Affluent member.
Loyalty and travel: the state of play
It’s no secret that recent technological and digital advances have resulted in a huge shift in consumer attitudes and behaviours. With digital communication in its prime and mobile knowhow at the forefront of the customer experience, the travel industry is rife for potential disruptors.
With the likes of Thomas Cook utilising 360 video to bring to the user experience a “Try Before You Fly” proposition, Marriott offering a virtual reality platform and brands like Booking.com leveraging artificial intelligence within their mobile apps, brands are realising the need to connect on an increasingly personal level with their customers to maintain their interest.
2016 research from Collinson Group, repeated after an initial 2014 survey into 6,082 mass affluent consumers from all over the globe, investigates consumer attitudes to loyalty programmes, revealing just how much has changed two years on.
Mass affluent consumers (the top 10-15% of earners, globally) are an important segment of any travel loyalty programme; it’s this demographic that takes an average of 2.9 return flights for business and the same for pleasure per year, and 56% of whom opt to stay in a four or five-star hotel on a leisure trip. These consumers expect advanced digital experiences and brands that they can identify with - but it seems loyalty programmes aren’t yet meeting these expectations and indifference is settling in as a result.
The need for change
Collinson Latitude’s recent eBook which explores the Mass Affluent in relation to travel loyalty programmes reveals that the past two years have seen a huge leap in apathy towards programmes. 35%, 17% more than in 2014 (18%), of the mass affluent consumers questioned said they ‘couldn’t be bothered to participate’ with programmes. In fact, a significant number of respondents think travel loyalty programmes have specifically decreased in value:
20% think that airline loyalty/FFP programmes have decreased in value over the last two years
14% say hotel loyalty/FGP programmes have done the same
The apathy spurring disengagement with such programmes isn’t too surprising when considering the wider context. Mass affluent consumers are clear on what it is they want from loyalty programmes; choice of rewards (67%), offers (61%) and the ability to collect points and miles (66%). But with many of the opinion that there is nothing of relevance on offer (20%), it’s understandable why this indifference exists. This particular demographic is not being offered what is desired, which naturally leads to greater apathy. It’s time brands revamped their programmes to offer greater choice, breadth and depth of rewards, to avoid losing out to a competitor’s programme.
What can brands do?
I’d advise programme managers to look at their loyalty programmes through the eyes of a mass affluent consumer and work to enhance the loyalty experience and encourage engagement by:
1) Using data to improve personalisation
No consumer wants to be thought of as a number, they want to feel recognised and rewarded for their loyalty, with benefits that are relevant and desirable to them. A recent London Technology Week event, Envision, revealed new research that tells us UK consumers are willing to spend significant sums on personalised travel experiences.
Using transactional, contextual and behavioural data from their programmes, coupled with leading edge technology, airline and hospitality brands can create more personalised environments, communications and rewards that resonate and treat members as individuals, not numbers.
2) Embracing technology
Advances in technology have created the opportunity for consumers to interact with companies in the way they want, when they want and how they want; both online and off. Increased use of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets mean that your consumers are never really out of reach – so it is essential that loyalty programmes take advantage of this.
Booking.com, for instance, has recently revamped its mobile app to utilise both artificial intelligence and machine learning, and is offering an enhanced user experience as a result. The new service makes suggestions based on the personal experiences of users, providing them with recommendations in terms of the best suited local events and attractions, which can be booked and accessed from within the app.
3) Embracing loyalty commerce best practices
Ask yourself, is your loyalty programme embracing the latest e-commerce best practices that we see from the latest and greatest e-commerce brands? For example, do you send one-click emails to members? Have you given your members the ability to earn points on their redemptions? Can members redeem rewards using points and cash? If the answer to these points (and more) is no, it’s time to make some immediate changes.