One presumes the marketing agency that came up with Sainsbury’s original Nectar card scheme hoped ‘nectar’ implied a nice sweet treat for being loyal.
Sixteen years later, the nectar seems to me to have rather soured: I receive coupons for groceries I don’t buy, and it seems to take four years to earn enough points for a bottle of prosecco.
Many consumers feel the same about loyalty schemes run by travel brands – a challenge addressed in a recent Traveltech Lab debate.
Airlines have relied on frequent flyer programmes to retain passengers within their network in the past, we heard, but consumers now want instant gratification, and respond better to personalised rewards that match their behaviour – rather than “book nine nights and get the 10th free”.
The most successful loyalty programmes are more relevant to their customers – beyond the brand’s core product or function – and become easily embedded in their customers’ digital lives. The panel concluded, however, that delivering a seamless customer experience and good service remains just as important in retaining customers.
What might this mean for travel agents, then?
The best agencies already do “personal rewards” very well: treating clients with a bottle of their favourite wine or tickets to see their favourite band, instead of “save 5% next time you book”.
But since some clients will only book with you once or twice a year, could you tie in with other businesses, perhaps, to reward your customers in different ways? And not just one-off gifts, but rewards that make you relevant across the year?
Delivering award-winning service and expertise (à la the winners of last week’s TTG Travel Awards) is hands-down the best way for agents to win repeat clients. But understanding how cleverly other brands are building loyalty might just inspire you with some extra ways of keeping yours sweet.