Many hotels have existing strategic partnerships with other brands, including other travel providers. These third-party partnerships are valuable, helping extend a hotel’s brand equity across multiple touchpoints and creating channels to offer guests products or services they might find useful.
When it comes to integrating those partnerships into a cohesive loyalty and booking experience, it can be complicated for many hotels to manage. Loyalty members want and expect a seamless process with multiple options, and hotels need a way to both provide a large selection of travel product inventory while still leveraging their valuable existing partnerships.
So how can hotel loyalty programs more effectively highlight the brands they partner with, and get the most out of those relationships?
There are four main tactics hotel loyalty programs can employ to maximize the value of their partnerships, and most hinge on implementing a loyalty platform with the right set of technological capabilities.
Have a configurable loyalty platform
The most straightforward way to promote partner options and rewards is to present those options to members in a featured, highly visible way. That is, when members interact with the program’s website, app, or other touchpoints, like marketing emails, the partner options are highlighted, framed by an eye-catching image, or placed at the top of a list. To achieve this, the loyalty platform has to offer a high degree of configurability, allowing hotels to feature partner options in a way that will catch members’ attention.
A good example of this is the way Amex Travel features flights from its partner, Delta. The flexible Amex loyalty platform leverages business rules to pull available Delta flights to the top of search results, surround them with a highlighted callout, and pair them with a special members-only offer. Hotel loyalty programs can include similar features for their car rental partners, for instance, but only if their platform is configurable enough to execute this tactic.
Offer a range of partner options that complement the core product
Third-party brand partnerships are often ideal for microburn strategies, allowing hotels to provide redemption opportunities to members who might not have accrued sufficient points to redeem for a room night or would be otherwise inclined to bank their points. Unredeemed points represent a liability for all loyalty programs, so strategies that encourage greater burn rates are important to implement when possible.
For hotels, the best of these strategies is to offer complementary earning and redemption options to create connected journeys. Coupling travel-adjacent rewards or lifestyle rewards with core room night offerings can ensure that a hotel’s loyalty program is useful, utilized, and top-of-mind both before and after a stay. Ensuring that a loyalty platform has the range of both travel-specific and lifestyle reward options – including smaller microburn options – helps hotels both achieve higher redemption rates and uncover new opportunities to showcase their partner brands.
Support partnerships with points bonuses and other incentives
Ensuring that partner-aligned rewards and booking options are available and featured through member touchpoints is important. But members will often need an additional incentive to choose them. Discounts, points bonuses, and exclusive access are common incentives, and can all be used to encourage redemptions and conversions and ultimately increase the value of the partnership. Again, a configurable loyalty platform is required to deploy these incentives dynamically to maximize uptake.
IHG’s loyalty program, for example, features an integration with the restaurant reservation service OpenTable, enabling members to book a table at nearby restaurants. The IHG loyalty platform allows on-property restaurants to be featured and offers members a point bonus for booking a table at those outlets.
Invest in personalization capabilities
Even with effective incentives, the best opportunity to boost bookings and redemptions with third-party partners comes from matching the right options to the right members. This is where a hotel loyalty program with advanced personalization capabilities can distinguish itself.
Simply presenting partner-aligned offers to different segments of members based on status tier or points thresholds can have an impact on redemptions and bookings. But if a loyalty program can make full use of the first-party data at their disposal – member preferences and purchase history, browsing and planning tendencies, etc. - it can generate insights that fuel sophisticated personalization techniques. For instance, ensuring that partner-aligned Electric Vehicle options appear high in the car rental sort order to a member who has consistently opted for sustainable choices during previous stays. These kinds of customized offerings that account for and integrate partnerships can help hotels get the most out of their partner relationships.
Partnerships are important and profitable aspects of hotel loyalty programs. By implementing key strategies – having a configurable loyalty platform, offering a range of complementary redemption and booking options, effectively incentivizing members to choose partner options, and investing in personalization capabilities – hotel brands can maximize the benefit they receive from their bilateral relationships. At the same time, they can improve the experience for loyalty program members and boost their brand perception through the power of their partnerships.
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