The travel industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation to keep up with new ways of people planning their trips, interacting with travel services and providers, as well as experience travel.
According to Global Loyalty Organisation, loyalty programs have recently been active in reinventing themselves by tapping into and integrating digital technologies, Big Data Analytics, gamification, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other innovations to address new consumer preferences and lifestyles and to create personalized and engaging experiences that foster customer loyalty.
While the landscape of technology is constantly evolving, some key technologies that are making a significant impact on loyalty in travel and hospitality currently are:
Data Analytics, Generative AI and Chatbots are driving personalisation and sales
Loyalty programs leverage data analytics and AI to gain insights into customer preferences, behaviours, and spending patterns. This information allows travel companies to create personalized offers, targeted promotions, and rewards tailored to individual travellers, increasing their engagement.
AI plays a pivotal role in personalisation, enabling businesses to analyse customer data and understand individual preferences. By harnessing AI algorithms, brands can tailor marketing, rewards, promotions, and offers to match each customer’s unique needs and interests. As a basic proposition a hotel chain can utilize AI to recommend in a real-time location, resort, room based on a customer’s booking history, browsing behaviour, and profile. Loyalty & rewards can be personalised by offering tailored “reward” perks (dining, spa treatments, sport activities or cooking classes, or extra night stay etc.). Such personalised loyalty strategy not only enhances the overall customer experience but also drives higher return visits, sales conversions and delivers stronger connection with customers.
According to Global Loyalty Organisation’s publication Loyalty and AI, the potential of AI in customer service lies in its ability to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness. An intelligent chatbot can help customers with product and loyalty rewards discovery, evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase support. It can also provide customers with the information they need, increasing their satisfaction with their experience. Within travel and hospitality companies the use of AI and chatbots in customer service can drive more efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to significantly cut operating costs.
Latest technologies in personalisation are transformative and are leading to increased customer engagement, satisfaction, and efficiency. Applications such as Jarvis or AdCreative use AI to create content for marketing and engagement purposes. By leveraging AI techniques, companies can reduce cycle time and expense by over 90%. The use of AI in marketing personalisation provides marketers with the ability to create content, respond, and engage with customers in real-time, with personalization in terms of colour, tonality, product, character content, and offer inclusion.
Moreover, personalisation is being integrated into the physical traveller journey. GLO reported earlier this year on Delta’s debuted Parallel Reality experience at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality, which allows multiple people simultaneously looking at the same display to see their own uniquely personalized content, is a powerful and simple-to-use step forward in personalizing the customer experience. After passengers opt into the experience by scanning their boarding pass, multi-view pixel technology directs different-coloured light to specific viewing zones, which allows multiple people looking at the same display to see personalized content like gate or baggage claim numbers.
Mobile Apps & Gamification
Loyalty programs have increasingly moved towards mobile apps and digital platforms, making it easier for travellers to access and manage their rewards and benefits on the go. These apps often offer gamification elements to encourage users to earn and redeem rewards actively.
Gamification is transforming loyalty programs by making customer engagement more frequent, interactive, and fun. Through the incorporation of game-like features such as challenges, rewards, competitions and raffles, brands can encourage active participation, repeat engagement, and foster loyalty.
One of the leading Turkish airlines, Pegasus Airlines, for example, has introduced a weekly game on their App where loyalty programme members have to find 3 objects hidden in a landmark in a city Pegasus flies to (for example the Colosseum in Rome). The faster you can find the objects the more miles you are awarded.
Etisalat’s Smiles Loyalty App is another example. In a recent interview with the Head of Etisalat Smiles, we discussed how they keep their members loyal and engaged. One of the key things that they found that their customers love to do was to interact in a more fun way through games that they introduced on the app. The most popular game is called “Spin the Wheel” where every Smiles member can go and play every day and get something that is personalised – a prize that will make them feel happy and motivated to do something extra. They found that this has been an extremely strong tool to drive engagement and is popular not only with the youth segment but also with the older generation.
Emarat, one of the leading fuel retailers in the UAE, have introduced an EmCan Millionaire raffle campaign, meaning one lucky EmCan customer will receive 1 million AED in cash, by just going on the EmCan app, scanning their QR code to enter the raffle. Emarat is the first in the UAE market to ever do such a raffle.
Augmented reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR), Metaverse & Web3
AR and VR technologies are used to create interactive loyalty experiences. For example, travellers may receive exclusive virtual tours of hotels or destinations as part of their loyalty rewards, offering a unique and immersive incentive to stay engaged with the program.
The rise of the Metaverse and Web3 provides new opportunities for loyalty programs and engagement strategies. Brands can create immersive and interactive experiences in virtual spaces targeting especially Gen Z and younger customers. For instance, Starbucks launched a collection of NFTs called ‘The Siren Collection’ inMarch 2023. The NFTs issued were limited to 2000 and priced at $100 each. According to CoinDesk the “stamps” sold out in just 18 minutes. These stamps are currently trading for an average value of $450. Virtual reality and immersive experiences with the added benefit of value creation such as NFTs can help strengthen the brand-customer relationship and foster long-term loyalty.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT devices are being integrated into hotels, airports and other travel infrastructure to create smart and connected environments. This includes smart room controls, automated check-ins, real-time tracking of luggage and real-time loyalty rewards accruals. Real-time car face and plate recognition allow automatic digital payments (GLO on Face swipe) and loyalty rewards collection.
Digitalisation and new technologies have become a game-changer in loyalty programs and engagement strategies, offering unmatched personalisation, gamification, and immersive experiences. Businesses can create customer-centric loyalty programs that resonate with individual preferences, foster engagement, drive long-term customer loyalty and undoubtedly give brands a competitive edge in the digital era, ensuring continued growth and success.
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