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Hands On

The Upgrade We All Dream About

Business class loyalty programs are an upgrade anyone would desire. Here are the elements you gotta keep in mind in order to make your plan stick out from the rest

Matt McAllister
December 30 2017

In the travel industry, business travelers are highly sought after, and with good reason. They buy in greater volume than their leisurely peers. They’re more likely to convert on upsell offers. And they’re also usually paying with company funds, which makes them less hesitant to part with compared to their own.

Business travelers are one of the most valuable customer segments in the world, and travel institutions know it. In an effort to capture and protect their share of this valuable pie, hotels and airlines have made loyalty programs synonymous with business travel culture.

A 2017 joint study by Phocuswright and Acxiom found that among business travelers, loyalty program adoption was on average 9% higher than those traveling strictly for pleasure. This includes 8% higher adoption of hotel loyalty plans and 10% higher adoption of airline loyalty programs. In total, an average 61% of business travelers are enrolled in some type of loyalty program, driving incremental revenue towards an estimated $189.62 billion in digital travel sales in 2017 alone.

Switching costs for loyalty plans, however, are minimal. After redeeming their remaining points, there’s little keeping a high-value traveler from trying out a new vendor. Hotels and airlines need to ensure the consistent quality of their loyalty programs if they hope to hold onto these valuable customers. That means adapting technologies and practices to maintain an ideal customer service experience that gives them what they want. Here are the aspects that matter most to travelers when dotting your I’s on your business traveler’s program.

Omnichannel Support

Business travelers are a relatively small yet, exceedingly valuable customer segment. Most are aware of the value they represent and they expect to be accommodated accordingly. It’s the marketer’s responsibility to offer programs that are compatible with whatever technical infrastructure their customers prefer. They do this by investing in hardware and software support for as many channels as possible. For mobile, that means apps for Windows and Blackberry computing environments, not just iOS and Android. Full support ensures the loyalty programs are able to capture 100% of the high-value business that top-tier travelers bring to the table.

Ease of Use

Business travelers value their time above all else. Any loyalty programs, platforms or services should be simple, intuitive and reliable. When scoping product development, these programs allocate extra resources for usability tests and user experience research for all products with a high-exposure to their most valuable customer segments. They look for ways to make interactions clean and concise, with no extraneous functionality that could trip travelers up. These customers operate on the go—if there are small details tripping them up, they’re going to leave your company and take their suitcase and business to one that seamlessly fits their needs.

Discounted Leisure Extensions

Most business trips only see travelers going to and from airports, hotels, and maybe a conference center. By that point, a few extra days of discounted fun would be hard to turn down, especially if those days are paid for by a rewards program. A survey of over 2,000 travelers by the marketing analysts at Colloquy found that 76% of business travelers said they would “extend their business trips for leisure if their hotels offered discounts for additional nights or if hotels provided the opportunity for a friend or family member to join them at a discounted rate.” By allowing travelers who are looking to mix pleasure with business to do so on reward points, traveling-related loyalty programs greatly impact their bottom line.

Flexible Redemption

Any seasoned traveler has dealt with a rewards plan that promises savings, but limits their options when it comes time to cash in. It’s become such an omnipotent pain point that 92% of business travelers said that ease of redemption would get their attention when choosing a loyalty plan. Fortunately for customers, many brands, have learned from their mistakes, and are starting to relax these restrictions.

Reward Packages

While some travelers prefer to design their own unique experiences, many enjoy the simplicity of having it handled for them. By combining all stages of the points-based travel experience, travelers’ loyalty program make their program more appealing to busy first-class flyers. Many offer an option early in the redemption process that combines as many of the standard travel elements as possible. This includes planning, booking, flight, accommodations, ground transport, entertainment and return. By minimizing the number of qualified decisions business travelers have to make, they save more of their customers’ time. Time they’d rather not spend on these decisions anyway.

The demands may be high, but so are the stakes. Maintaining positive relationships with business travelers result in enormous payoffs over the course of customer’s lifetime. Loyalty programs are at the center of those relationships. By keeping them intuitive, value-driven and flexible, travel-related marketers capture the high-end market share they need to take their business to new heights.

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Matt McAllister

Matt McAllister is the CEO of Fluid PR, Inc. and twenty-year marketing veteran. Matt most recently ran marketing for Tapjoy, a mobile ad-tech platform. Matt also served as VP of marketing and content for High Voltage Interactive, an online ad network that was acquired by Aptimus, Inc. He started his career as an account executive for the PR agency Niehaus Ryan Wong.

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