What does a loyalty programme mean for a travel company? It drives repeated user transactions and provides for long-term interaction with a brand. Travel loyalty programmes proved their effectiveness long time ago, but the challenge now faced by many companies is that they have lost their relevance in the digital era.

Here are a few tips that can help travel firms to tackle the problem and make their loyalty programme really work, as set out by Epsilon's Dominic Powers in an article for Campaign Asia-Pacific.

First of all, it is important to be relevant to users. Today, marketing success is contingent on relevance and customisation in order to boost user engagement and generate return on investment. For this reason, travel companies need to target users with the rewards they want. Understanding user motivation is key, which makes it imperative for brands to look beyond user behaviour and transaction history. If a customer visited a particular destination a month ago, this does not necessarily mean that the same location will be interesting to that particular customer today.

Travel companies need to move away from the practice of segmenting customers based on their expected behaviour as their interests are constantly evolving, influenced by other people and the world in general around them, with a major role played by social media. It is critical for travel firms to recognise the difference between affinity and customer intent, because affinity will always last longer than intent.

Brands must be prepared for the fact that their loyalty programmes and the benefits they provide to consumers will be compared to other incentives and this is no surprise. Hence, travel companies need to promote the experience they provide, rather than just the perks. Showing users integrity in how the brand delivers the message and how it offers the loyalty scheme is crucial. Never promise the consumer something that you cannot deliver.

Finally, travel brands need to be consistent. As people flock to various research channels to analyse brands and loyalty schemes, the consistency of the message your travel brand sends out across the many communication outlets is vital. Social media offerings and e-mail promotion messages also need to be visible to agents and other staff so that they are prepared to answer questions and address issues that may occur. Nothing can be more frustrating to a user than realising they know more about a brand's offering than the staff.

So what's the bottom line? In order to build a strong relationship with consumers, beyond convenience and costs, travel brands need to invest time and effort to understand the customer. This way they can build a great brand experience, which might eventually result in a life-long relationship.