When the Marriott and Starwood Loyalty Program merger was first announced, I will admit, I was not happy. I quickly assumed that the initial fodder from the Marriott team on taking the best elements from both loyalty programs was nothing more than pleasantries and necessary PR. I predicted a path that ominously would lead SPG members (a.k.a. me!) towards diminishing returns. I had already made a decision between the two programs and I was committed to SPG, not Marriott. I took it personally.
By Aaron Dauphinee
It's now April 2018. I have my personal email informing me that the time has finally come to bring these programs together in August. I have clicked on the blue box stating "See What's New For You." I have arrived at a generic landing page with no prompt for me to sign into my SPG Starpoints account or my Marriott Rewards Points account.
For someone who took the initial announcement so personally, you would think I would be infuriated, but I am not. I am not infuriated because it is clear that this new program is all about "business" (a.k.a. business travelers) and that makes sense. Consider the following:
- Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, has indicated a desire to provide more value to guests while creating more cost-effective terms for property owners. Who has the propensity to travel more than 50 nights per year (the minimum for Platinum Elite)? Who is not terribly cost-conscious (i.e. will spend more than ~$130/per night average in the USA)? Business travelers.
- There is a clear step-change in benefits with Platinum Elite status. Gold Elite status in the new program no longer includes lounge access and extended check-out times have been shortened from 4pm to 2pm. Who wants a quiet space to unwinded at the end of the day or prep early in the morning? Who does not want to take their luggage with them to meetings? Business travelers.
- People are creatures of habit and both Marriott and Starwood Loyalty Program members are strongly committed to customer satisfaction plus customer experience. Who trusts that they easily can have someone solve any issues or concerns vs. the inconsistency from Air BnB owner to the next? Who is habit forming and values consistency? Business travelers.
I like this focus and their transparency towards being all about "business," both who they want as their core guests and enabling owners to better operate their hotels. For example, allowing flexibility to set points redemption amounts between off-season and peak season is a pro-owner business decision. Yes, this will likely be a negative customer experience for some guests, but I'm going to venture that it won't impact many of the guests they truly care about ...
Read more about Marriott's & Starwood's Loyalty Program here.
Aaron Dauphinee is COO of The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).