How loyal hotel guests earn and burn their points

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 7, 2005

How loyal hotel guests earn and burn their points

InterContinental Hotels Group has identified six key groups of members of its Priority Club Rewards loyalty programme, and the most common behaviours of those groups. The result is a segmented analysis of how loyal hotel guests earn and burn their loyalty points.

The company's 2004 loyalty programme survey data, voluntarily submitted from its 23 million members worldwide, showed how members earn and redeem points for free travel and merchandise. Using the Points Psychology survey for the third consecutive year, Priority Club Rewards polled its members to find the main categories of behaviour.

Loyalty categories In return for their opinions, the survey also provided respondents with an analysis of their personality type and tips on how they could make the most of loyalty programmes across all industry sectors. The results of the survey were as follows:

  • Sherlock (32%): The bargain hunter, constantly searching for the best bonus programme - a true loyalty programme player.

    Behaviour pattern: Selects a programme with frequent bonus promotions and a large partner pool, or that offers the ability to purchase additional points or combine them with their spouse's points.  

  • Swinger or Sophisticate (26%): Wants both points and miles - a points connoisseur and a savvy points user.

    Behaviour pattern: Joins comprehensive programmes offering everything from hotel rooms and flights to merchandise - anything that will let them earn points or miles, and doesn't require them to cash in either right away.  

  • Stasher (18%): Saving for a rainy day, and aspires to a dream holiday.

    Behaviour pattern: Picks programmes with no point expiration, and joins a programme with personalised services, such as personal shoppers or travel planners.  

  • Snob (11%): Feels they deserve recognition, and wants special service and upgrades - a true perks professional.

    Behaviour pattern: Opts for programmes that count points (not just hotel nights or stays) toward 'Elite' status and that offer complimentary arrival perks or guaranteed room availability for top-tier members.  

  • Slacker (6%): Indifferent, and doesn't care about gathering points - most programmes are just "too much hassle".

    Behaviour pattern: Selects a programme with immediate perks, such as extended check-out times or free newspapers, and looks for easy-to-understand programmes with lower redemption targets.  

  • Shepherd (6%): Wants all their programmes to provide airline miles - a real 'miles junkie'.

    Behaviour pattern: Chooses global programmes that offer multiple airline partnerships, or those that can convert points into airline miles, while taking advantage of points bonuses (e.g. double or triple points offers).

Opposite extremes The largest category represented was 'Sherlock', comprising nearly one-third (32%) of respondents. These consumers are constantly searching for the best deals and are extremely price sensitive. 'Swingers' represented the second largest category with just over one-quarter (26%) of respondents, who say they jump from programme to programme seeking a variety of options for collecting and spending their points.

The smallest groups identified were 'Slackers' (6%) who say they don't care about gathering points, and 'Shepherds' (6%) who concentrate on converting any and all of their points into airline miles.

Psychological profiling Based on answers to questions such as "what's in your wallet?" and "why do you participate in loyalty programmes?", respondents were placed into one of the six distinct behavioural classifications, similar to the well-known Myers & Briggs personality test (which is often used in the workplace for team-building and management training).

Dr William G Emener, a licensed psychologist and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at the University of South Florida, who assisted Priority Club Rewards in developing the Point Psychology survey, evaluated the initial member responses and helped identify the six key classifications. "Behaviour patterns exhibited in the personalities of Sherlocks, Swingers, Snobs, etc., will occur elsewhere in these members' lives as they make important, everyday decisions - such as how to spend their money," explained Emener.

External relevance The six groups identified are not only relevant to InterContinental's own loyalty programme - they are broad behavioural trends that affect every consumer's approach to and choice of customer loyalty programmes, whether it's within the travel, retail or any other sector.

Whether using airline, hotel or other travel or retail loyalty programmes, members who understand their own behavioural tendencies can more appropriately choose and use the right loyalty programmes for their own goals - programmes that offer features and options matching their own preferences.

"Our members are learning that being smart about collecting points can be very beneficial," noted Steve Sickel, senior vice president of loyalty marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group. "As we improve and tweak Priority Club Rewards to be more valuable to our members, we find it helpful to determine the patterns for how they earn and use their points."

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