• Kimpton pushes Karma

Kimpton Hotels & Resorts has revamped its loyalty programme to offer personalised rewards, as well as the chance to earn points through “engagement” factors, including tweets and attending hotel events.

The company is the latest operator to seek to make its loyalty programme a point of differentiation from the online travel agents, to help drive direct bookings.

Kimpton has launched Kimpton Karma Rewards, replacing the InTouch programme, where members may be recognised for booking directly, attending activities such as a hotel’s wine hour, mentioning an individual hotel or restaurant on social media or dining at one of Kimpton’s restaurants, bars and lounges.

Based on engagement and stay history, members move up in tiers, and each tier level provides associated personalised perks and experiences. In addition, with every stay, members enjoy perks such as free WiFi, a “Raid the Bar” voucher (a USD10 credit toward a Kimpton restaurant bar or the mini bar), in-room spa service discounts, a complimentary treat from Kimpton chefs, customised welcome amenities, room upgrades based on availability, and “occasional fun surprises”, like a make-your-own cocktail station with a guest’s favourite spirit or sports-themed treats with the guest’s hometown team as inspiration.

The company said: “The more Kimpton knows about members and the purpose of their visit, the more employees can make the experience unique, personal and fun.”

The move has echoes of recent efforts by Marriott International, which have included offering loyalty club points for sharing content about the company on social media. Enrolled members receive 25 points each time they share content about Marriott Rewards and the group’s hotels, and 250 points when they Like a hotel’s Facebook page or follow a property on Twitter.

“Our members have been supporting and talking about Marriott Rewards and our hotels on social media for years and we think PlusPoints will be a fun and innovative way to say thanks and to keep the conversation going,” said Rich Toohey, vice president, Marriott Rewards.

Recent weeks have also seen the company announce “two new ways for next generation travelers to enjoy instant gratification” through enhancements to the company’s rewards programme.

The integration of FlashPerks and LocalPerks, where users are informed of deals though their mobile devices, is likely to encourage greater use of the mobile channel as well as encouraging more interaction with guests on site.

Flashperks gives users the option to redeem points or use cash for limited-time, exclusive deals and experiences by visiting the Flashperks website, or whenever they receive push messaging to their mobile devices. For 12 weeks, Marriott Rewards will add about 10 to 15 flash offers each week, with each offer lasting for a limited time or until it is sold out.

With LocalPerks, Marriott Rewards claims to have become the first major hotel loyalty programme to offer geo-targeted mobile offers during a member’s stay. Participating hotels will send guests push notifications on their mobile devices as they move about the property.  Offers will be tailored to the property, ranging from food and beverage to spa to golf. Future plans for LocalPerks include Marriott Rewards offers available locally in the neighbourhoods surrounding participating hotels.

“With the best loyalty programme in the business, we are constantly innovating to provide our members new and compelling ways to engage with Marriott Rewards,” said Karin Timpone, global marketing officer. “With our global portfolio of brands and our ability to scale our mobile activations quickly, we are excited by these and other opportunities that marry new technologies and consumer benefits.”

Marriott is rumoured to be planning to further interact with its guests while they are at its property – or at least try to persuade them to interact with each other – with the development of the Six Degrees app. The app is thought to use LinkedIn to learn about each user’s background and professional and personal interests. It then matches up strangers who, for example, went to the same college, and sends them notifications about each other, so they can meet up during their stay.

Kimpton’s experience-driven offering was joined in the same week by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which has given members of its loyalty programme the chance to bid on experiences such as elite US Open packages, using their points.

Other operators have not been far behind. Accor has also relaunched its loyalty programme over the past month, offering more points and greater flexibility in their use. From 1 July, the company said that it offered up to 25% more points, fast-tracking guests to rewards and the programme’s more advantageous statuses (Silver, Gold and Platinum). Members can also use the “Booking with points” function to use loyalty points to reduce their bill directly when booking on Accorhotels.com and its brand.com websites without date or availability restrictions all over the world.

The programme was launched five years ago and now has over 15 million members. For every EUR10 spent, members earn 25 points, and as soon as they reach 2,000 they get EUR40 voucher that they can deduct from their bill at a future stay in one of the group’s hotels or convert into privileges with one of the programme’s partners, including airlines and car rental firms.

Deputy CEO Vivek Badrinath, said: “When guests arrive in an Accor hotel, they expect to be recognised and rewarded for their loyalty. They attach a lot of importance to the tailored service we provide. Developing our customers’ loyalty is key to creating a preference for our brands at a time when the digital revolution allows us to go further in adapting our welcome to their expectations.”

The company has previously said that loyalty club members spend on average 50% more than non-members, as well as staying longer (17% of Le Club Accorhotels members spend more than 10 nights per year in an Accor hotel), more often (three stays per year vs. 1.5 stays) and cost less to acquire (5% compared to 16% for customers who come through an OTA).

With the returns on loyalty schemes easy to see, customers can look forward to greater attention from the brands. This has not gone unnoticed by the OTAs – Expedia and Orbitz have both overhauled their loyalty programmes.

At Expedia, the company said that it had expanding the product range for which points could be accrued, offering rewards for customers booking activities and cruises, as well as adding an extra tier. The new silver membership status will allow regular customers extra perks such as 10% bonus points on selected purchases and an extra 250 points for eligible hotel bookings.

The loyalty programme will also be used to push mobile bookings, with users booking on mobile earnings three times as many points compared to a desktop transaction. The move follows that made in May by Orbitz, which announced that customers could earn 3% in Orbucks when booking on a desktop, but 5% when booking through the mobile app.

Starwood president & CEO Frits van Paasschen once referred to a loyalty ‘war’. It looks as though the battle is just getting started.

 

HA Perspective [by Chris Bown]: Luxury hotels have long recognised that a concierge who understands their guests’ requirements well can significantly enhance their experience, leading to greater loyalty and value from that guest. Rewards programmes were a one-dimensional support to that. There’s no reason why social media cannot provide a further dimension, but as with anything new, hotel companies need to experiment, and if something doesn’t work, then stop it and try something else. The OTAs are already in on the act, so alacrity is the order of the day.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter enable hotels to interact with their customers, and such feedback can prove valuable in understanding individuals, and tailoring the rewards offering. So far, so good, and a few in the hotel industry are getting it right; Kimpton seems to have broadened and started personalising the offer.

However, the responses to previous examples of soccer players “plugging” products on Twitter suggest users of social media are usually quite perceptive at spotting promotional tweets. So Marriott’s policy of effectively paying people to populate social media with good news could backfire, and serves to undermine the medium. If it works, fine – if it backfires, fix it fast.

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