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What Your Travel Loyalty Program Marketing Needs in 2018: Personalization, Relevancy, and Direct Mail

Michelle Peel

While relaxing and recapping summer vacations with a group of friends recently, one family said traveling with their three daughters was stressful because one of the children always felt left out. Another couple mentioned that traveling with their teenage daughter was difficult because she complained she was bored and didn’t have anyone her age with them. So we came up with a solution: three couples, six daughters—let’s vacation together next year!

As we chatted, Joe, who travels often as a business owner, was looking through his wallet, pulling out all of his loyalty cards from hotels, airlines, and car rental companies. Over the past few years, we all became travel loyalty program members when taking vacations requiring air travel, hotel stay, and car rental. Joe made one request—we had to fly Southwest because they mailed him a complimentary drink coupon “as a token of appreciation” for his loyalty (see “recommendations” below). So a travel loyalty program direct mail campaign is influencing our big vacation plans!

Travel Loyalty Programs and Direct Mail

When I focused on travel loyalty programs in my 2014 blog, the twelve-month direct mail volume was only 64 million pieces of mail. I say “only” because companies in the travel industry more than doubled their loyalty program direct mail volume over the past four years! These companies mailed more than 128 million pieces of direct mail to loyal customers during the last twelve months (August 2017—July 2018), according to market research firm Comperemedia. The highest direct mail volume occurred from January through May of 2018; the average total direct mail volume per month was more than 14 million pieces.

Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Class) encompassed 90% of the direct mail volume, while the package type preference for travel industry mailers was close between self-mailer type packages (45%) and letter type packages (36%). The top five mailers mailed more than 82 million direct mail pieces over the last twelve months and made up 64% of the total travel loyalty direct mail volume. Top mailers include Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Line, United Airlines, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and American Airlines.

Here is something that has remained the same since my last blog: consumers expect personalization. In fact, personalization and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. Seventy-nine percent of customers indicated that they are very satisfied with loyalty programs with high personalization, and loyalty programs make customers feel special, according to a Marketing Land survey. Their research also found that consumers are willing to share personal data to get personalized experiences. This is great news for marketers as they develop and refine their direct marketing strategy. By leveraging customer data (while ensuring data is safe), travel brands can make personalized recommendations and offer relevant promotions to consumers in their welcome materials, brochures, newsletters, and reward summaries.

Current Trends for Travel Loyalty Direct Mail Programs

We know travel loyalty program direct mail volume has increased, but how are marketers using direct mail to highlight their offers? Here are the highlights of airline, cruise line, and hotel loyalty direct mail program trends from Comperemedia:

Airlines are using direct mail campaigns to ensure customers can get the most out of their loyalty program membership, whether offering a small in-flight perk, or a last chance to redeem expiring miles.

  • American Airlines offered members of their frequent flyer loyalty program the option to convert expiring miles into magazine subscriptions through a magsformiles.com promotion. This is a great option for program members to redeem the miles they earned.
  • Thanks to Joe, we know that Southwest sent complimentary drink coupons to Rapid Rewards members “as a token of our appreciation.” Even small perks can make a big impact on loyal customers.

A J.D. Power study concurs and found member satisfaction is 31 times higher when loyalty points can be used for other rewards such as shopping and special event tickets. Business travelers prefer to accumulate points to redeem during their vacations, while tourists prefer immediate gratification, such as complimentary upgrades, welcome drinks, or gift cards.

Cruise lines kicked off the year with special offers and promoted new destinations and amenities to loyal customers.

  • Norwegian Cruise Line highlighted its Caribbean destinations with a Free at Sea promotional offer by listing all of the “free” amenities included.
  • Holland America Line promoted a limited time Private Sale for loyal customers while showcasing destinations and promising “exceptional savings.”

Loyal travelers feel special because of the “free” amenities or “exceptional savings” they are receiving, and millennials expect transparency and want to see they are receiving “value for money,” according to Deloitte.

Major hotel companies shifted their marketing focus from acquisition to loyalty campaigns recently. Their direct mail offers encouraged loyal customers to plan their next vacation in a warm-weather location.

  • Starwood’s highest volume loyalty campaign invited its loyal customers to the Sheraton Vistana Villages Orlando. The offer was for a five-day trip and included a brochure highlighting family activities to “spark your imagination.”
  • Hyatt’s highest volume loyalty campaign encouraged recipients to “escape” to the Wild Oak Ranch at the Hyatt Residence Club San Antonio. The campaign featured images showcasing rooms, a pool, and outdoor space.

These companies should be sure to reinforce their brand image of quality and luxury with sophisticated printing and digital marketing techniques. It’s important for welcome materials, brochures, newsletters, reward summaries, and highly personalized statement summaries to really “wow” prospects and new customers.

Recommendations for Your Travel Loyalty Direct Mail Programs

Travel marketers can incorporate some of these trends to make their travel loyalty direct mail campaigns a success:

  • Luxurious travel destinations deserve luxurious direct mail to promote them. To reinforce your brand image of luxury and quality on your loyalty program direct mail campaigns, use full-color, variable-data digital printing technology to create the high-quality, personalized customer communication loyal members are expecting of your brand. Digital printing allows travel providers to speak more personally and provide more relevant offers to their loyal customers.
  • Engage in omnichannel marketing. Direct loyal customers to your website or set up a PURL or specific landing page with content tailored to the loyalty program member. Once they visit your site, follow up with a triggered direct mail campaign highlighting what they viewed or searched—images of the hotel viewed, beach, activities, restaurants, etc. Some travel brands are giving loyalty program rewards to members who share content on social media, refer friends, or read emails
  • Coupons, perks, and rewards: Did I mention the complimentary drink coupons?

As we plan the big, three-family vacation over the next few months, we will be checking our mailboxes to see what offers, perks, and rewards are available to us.

If you have any questions regarding the best way to increase the effectiveness of your travel loyalty programs, contact us today!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/09/12/travel-loyalty-program-marketing-tips/
Michelle Peel


Michelle Peel

As Sales Content and Research Manager, Michelle enhances the customer experience for our clients by keeping her finger on the pulse of key consumer trends, new vertical market developments, and competitor insights that impact their business. A graduate of Elizabethtown College with more than 20 years of direct marketing experience, she brings the “make it happen” attitude to IWCO Direct every day. She is a dedicated Pittsburgh Steelers fan who enjoys shopping, crafting, and spending time with her family.

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