For travel brands, customer loyalty is up for grabs

As Covid-19 restrictions fluctuate around the world, the travel industry is still seeing high demand from customers. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism in the United States will reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

However, that doesn’t mean the ways travel brands connect with customers will be the same as before. Many travelers have seen their points expire and their status decline, and they view this time as a fresh start to re-evaluate what they value in a brand and in travel experiences. According to Accenture, competition to win back old clients and win new clients will be more intense than ever before, giving travel brands a second chance to make a first impression.

Loyalty doesn’t quite look like it used to – in fact, it’s up for grabs. As the world opens up again, marketers can maximize loyalty while focusing on revenue acquisition and growth, which is crucial after years of industry disruption.

Partner with creators to reach new audiences

Travel marketers are looking for new ways to reach people earlier in their trips to create lasting connections with customers. This first point of contact can begin and be sustained through partnerships with creators.

A growing body of evidence shows that consumers turn to creators as trusted sources when making purchasing decisions. In a poll conducted by Morning Consulthalf of Gen Z and Millennial adults surveyed followed at least one trip creator, and 84% of them used trip creators for recommendations.

Additionally, a 2020 Gfk study commissioned by Facebook found that 58% of consumers surveyed had purchased a new product in the previous six months due to a creator’s recommendation. Consider partnering with creators and building awareness of your brand within their communities.

Broaden your definition of the loyalty program

When it comes to loyalty, think beyond points and programs. Brands can connect more closely with customers through personalized offers such as flight upgrades, discounted airport taxi rides, local activities or special gifts upon arrival.

According to Phocuswire, a recent Salesforce survey found that 73% of travelers surveyed expect companies to understand their travel needs and behaviors. Consider using Meta’s Lead Ad suite of products to help you grow your customer base and expand your reach through more personalized communication and offers.

Complete the loyalty loop with a seamless customer experience

Your app is the central point of contact for converting potential travelers into reservations, communicating with them during their trip, and sending them offers for future trips when they return home. Keep in mind that your application only has value if it is used by your customers. It is therefore important to also invest in organic and paid channels to drive installs of your app and continued engagement with your app; it’s a proven strategy for attracting high lifetime value customers.

For people who haven’t downloaded your app or want a quick interaction with your business, it’s also important to maintain a presence on business messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger. The ecosystem of Meta trading partners can support large-scale business messaging to meet customers where they are most comfortable interacting with brands.

Building for the Future of Loyalty

As we’ve seen during the pandemic, brands that were able to respond with agility and embrace new technologies in the face of uncertainty were better able to manage ambiguity.

One of the ways brands have embraced the new technology is by taking advantage of Instagram Reels, a content format that allows brands to drive customers into their experiences with playful, short videos. The coils are the fastest growing content format on meta technology and, according to the fourth quarter 2021 meta earnings call, the biggest engagement driver on Instagram.

Augmented reality and virtual reality, the building blocks of the metaverse, are another way for brands to grow their future experiences. For travel, visits to your hotel or restaurants, member-only loyalty events or experiences, check-in, and shopping could all take place virtually in this new digital realm. To illustrate how brands are already integrating the metaverse into their marketing plans, Wendy’s recently created a virtual restaurant where people can get together with friends, place virtual orders, and play games for the chance to win real-life discounts.

Take the path of loyalty

With years of travel disruption due to the pandemic, loyalty programs are making a comeback. The good news is that while travelers’ expectations have been drastically reset, they are open to new experiences and definitions of brand loyalty.

Travelers’ points may have expired, but their bags are packed and they’re ready to explore the world once more. Brands that meet expectations for seamless, personalized enjoyment are likely to win hearts in the long run.

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Visit the Meta Travel Webinar Series for more resources and travel recommendations.

Joseph P. Harris