Achieving the next evolution of travel loyalty

Loyalty program technology is constantly improving. The most robust travel loyalty programs already feature plenty of advanced technological capabilities, and even basic programs have progressed a long way from simple points accrual mechanisms with a few standard redemption options. While further technological advances will certainly influence the development of travel loyalty programs – ChatGPT and other AI applications will play a role, for instance – these advances alone don’t drive the real value or personalization companies are looking for from their loyalty strategies.  

Companies are seeking solutions for their travel loyalty programs that enable them to be better tailored to their customer's needs and align with their broader business strategies. But out-of-date, limiting technology is holding them back. 

In order to engage and retain loyalty members, these businesses need a travel loyalty platform that is flexible, responsive and, most importantly, configurable; that supports advanced personalization and customizability of rewards and content. They will also need a platform that integrates easily with their existing technology stack, as loyalty is often just one aspect of a larger customer engagement strategy.   

The era of one-size-fits-all travel loyalty is officially overcoming to a close. These are the three key areas that will drive loyalty’s next evolution: 

#1. Flexibility and scalability that enables loyalty programs to keep pace with the market 

As recent years have shown, the ability to quickly adapt and expand reward or booking options, integrate new suppliers, or change inventory vendors and customize the user experience across channels is crucial to maintaining relevance and customer engagement levels.  

A scalable travel loyalty platform also provides the flexibility to expand the program’s offerings as needed and pivot to meet member demand. Elemental air, hotel, and car rental options may be sufficient to start, but as a loyalty program matures and member expectations grow, a company may want to offer a broader selection of lifestyle options that complement core travel services, like restaurant reservations or tours and activities,. Even further down the line, the program may want to integrate gift cards, or live events into its earning and redemption framework.   

Without a scalable platform, this phased approach to expansion can be clunky and resource-draining, requiring a series of one-off integrations that need consume development time and may fit imperfectly alongside existing options. But with an agile platform, these changes can be implemented seamlessly and at a pace aligned with growth. This way, the travel loyalty platform can deliver scalability and flexibility, a critical advantage ensuring sustainable success. 

#2. Support for personalization and dynamic content  

 While travel loyalty programs have been on a long quest for greater personalization, the next evolution in travel loyalty will be partly defined by their ability to complete that quest.    

That said, travel loyalty programs still have a long way to go in their current state. According to our recent report, The Tipping Point for Travel Loyalty in 2023, only 37% of consumers say they get personalized recommendations via their travel loyalty program’s website, while 36% get them through email, indicating that most loyalty providers offering travel rewards aren’t yet personalizing their travel content.   

The penalty for not providing personalization is steep: less than half (44%) of respondents who receive no personalized content say their current loyalty programs provide them with the value they want.    

A travel loyalty platform that supports personalization is a critical component of responsive, effective loyalty programs. And it should support variable display recommendations, dynamic content, advanced retargeting, and multi-channel marketing engagement. These capabilities are powered by data generated by the program and enacted according to configurable business rules that ensure the right members encounter the right content and offers at the right time. Both personalized rewards and interactions contribute to higher retention rates as members find their engagements to be more meaningful to them, and rewards more valuable because they’re calibrated to their specific needs or preferences. A loyalty technology platform that features these competencies will help companies achieve the next evolution in travel loyalty.    

#3. Ability to connect the loyalty program to valuable first-party data   

However capable the loyalty technology platform is, it needs to play well with other systems in the marketing tech stack, including content management systems, customer relationship management systems,  point banks, and more.     

To create a coherent and positive experience for members, travel loyalty platforms must integrate with these secondary systems and offer a convenient, single sign-on (SSO) process that keeps members on the booking path. Seamless connection with existing systems – especially CRM systems – is also the key to leveraging first-party data which allows brands to create a 360-degree view of the customer and deliver truly personalized content. Travel loyalty programs function best when they can combine members’ preferences, purchase history, and historical activity across all touchpoints to create a holistic experience.    

Connecting with (and integrating data from) existing systems is possible when a travel loyalty platform is built on a flexible, API-first framework. This approach also helps support a variety of fintech tools - like price freezing and BNPL - and payment options that are quickly becoming table-stakes in today’s landscape.   

There will always be demand for travel rewards, and loyalty programs that feature travel will always be effective at attracting, retaining, and rewarding customers.   

But travel loyalty is evolving, and it’s trending toward more tailored experiences for both brands and members. Underpinning this evolution is a new generation of configurable, data-driven travel loyalty technology platforms that support advanced personalization and integrate seamlessly with existing systems.     

For brands that want to take their travel loyalty programs to the next level, they need to find tech platforms that feature these core capabilities and create the kinds of experiences their members want, expect, and reward with their loyalty.  

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