Three key travel loyalty trends for 2012
There are three trends that have surfaced recently in the loyalty industry and which will affect the development of the market during the coming year, according to Christopher Barnard, president and CEO for loyalty rewards management platform operator Points International.
The first trend that Barnard observed is that 2012 will be 'the year of distribution and integration'. While this change will be partly driven by the pace of technology advancement in areas such as mobile platforms, social networks, digital wallets, and e-commerce platforms, the real driver will be the consumer.
Loyalty rewards and e-commerce will become increasingly more integrated as partnerships are forged between loyalty programmes and e-commerce platforms such as Magento and Shopify. As part of the trickle down, consumers will receive loyalty rewards when making purchases at smaller online retailers to sweeten the deal.
The second trend is simply one of consumer convenience. Loyalty programme members are increasingly looking for their programmes to show up where they happen to shop, rather than the other way around. The company's research has shown that 73% of loyalty programme members, when given a choice, always choose a retailer that offers points or miles. It was also noted that, following an airline merger, almost all consumers want seamless transitions and ease in navigating their revamped and merged frequent flyer programme memberships.
The third trend is that the 'loyalty horizon' is broadening rapidly. The loyalty industry has evolved greatly from mere status levels and redemptions for airline tickets or hotel rooms. As programme members adapt to widely distributed services (e.g. mobile offers, daily deals, apps, and social networks) they will become increasingly more engaged in loyalty programmes that follow suit.
Moreover, consumers will expect to use their travel-related points and miles for purchases other than travel. Supporting this idea, Points.com recently launched its range of 'Low Balance Offers', allowing loyalty programme members to redeem small numbers of points or miles for various online services and subscriptions. At the same time, the site's Gift Registry service also allows consumers - in the same way as a wedding registry - to give the gift of travel in the form of US Airways Dividend Miles or JetBlue TrueBlue points.