Few sectors have been hit as hard by the decline of customer loyalty as the travel industry.
This was evidenced by premium hotel chain Mattiott earlier in the year, when it gave its rewards program an overhaul, offering customers the option of putting their loyalty points towards a new "experiences marketplace", which includes perks like tickets to a Broadway show or exclusive cooking classes.
Offering a free hotel stay is no longer enough incentive to build a base of loyal customers. Even Marriott's attempts may prove futile – customers will inevitably weigh up the money they could save from going elsewhere with the cost of building up enough points to pay for an "experience".
Maybe sweepstakes, coupons and points are no longer the right way to cultivate loyalty?
We'd tend to agree with that. We think that in order to build deeper relationships with customers, you need to do more than just have them sign up to a loyalty program which they will predictably forget about.
Could social media be the answer to building more loyalty with travellers? Considering the amount of time travellers spend on the platform, there's certainly an argument for it. However, you'll need to go the extra mile to achieve it – a simple 'post and share' strategy won't cut it.
Social Media Examiner offers up some tips for those travel brands seeking loyal customers on Twitter...
1. Don't go into auto pilot
Social media is meant for 'real' interactions and 'honest' engagements; by automating all your posts, you become a bit robotic in the eyes of your followers. Trust us when we say they can spot an automated post from a mile off. So, save automated posts for when a lack of time makes 'in the moment' posts an impossibility. Otherwise, remain in the present, engaging followers in matters that are happening now.
2. Don't wait for customers to contact you
Waiting for customers to contact you on social media is hardly a good tactic for building loyalty – it doesn't give them the impression you're a proactive travel brand. In fact, it creates the notion that you're only using the platform to sell your services. So, get into the habit of initiating conversation with the people that matter to your business: prospects, influencers, etc.
3. Reply with a video
Loyalty is built on brands showing their customers they're prepared to go 'above and beyond' for them. By using Twitter Video Reply, you're doing exactly that – they expect a simple, written response, but get a more comprehensive reply in the form of a video, which also has a more personal touch.
4. Set out to make friends, not followers
It might sound a little mawkish, but if you treat your followers like your friends they're much more inclined to show loyalty that is befitting of a friendship. To take your relationship with customers to the next level, consider sending out presents to a handful of them every now and again (it works for Starbucks) and encouraging one-on-one conversations in the form of direct messages (this will require you to enable settings to allow any users to send you a direct message).
In order to build loyal customers you've got to be on their radar at the right time, i.e. when they're looking to purchase a holiday or trip abroad. That means having a presence on social which is 'real', fun and attentive. Only then will you stand a decent chance of benefitting from some brand recall. For more information on how our own technology solutions can help, visit Digital Trip