Do travel programs still have value during a once-in-a-century global pandemic? How is the travel industry coping?
A recently published New York Times article explores these questions. However, it fails to discuss some important truths about travel programs and their significance to the consumer-brand relationship.
The Truth About Travel Programs
However, the article, brilliant as it may be, missed a few important things regarding the truth about travel programs.
One issue is populist grievance. Economy fliers at the back of the plane feel like they are subsidizing the luxury of the upper classes, which doesn’t go down well.
Of course, this is a business reality. People get what they pay for. Frequent travel programs are focused on the consumer-brand relationship with regular fliers, not occasional leisure fliers. Part of the customer relationship strategy of airlines is to provide different levels of service to different types of customers. Travel businesses will always, always, prioritize those they consider most valuable to their bottom line.
But it does raise the question: What can airlines and other travel companies do to improve how they relate to their non-premium customers?
The other issue with the New York Times analysis is its lack of discussion around customer data. The real, unspoken purpose of a travel program is to garner data. This customer data is what allows companies to optimize their offerings and upsell better.
In the current era, companies should strive to be transparent with customers. They deserve to know how marketers are using their data. Moreover, consumers need to exercise their rights to privacy, security, relevance, and a fair value exchange.
Increasingly, what will matter is not exciting and exotic travel program perks. It is how travel businesses redefine the consumer-brand relationship so that it is more symbiotic, honest, and humane.
Key Lessons to Learn
Conventional loyalty programs, especially in travel, have become one-way, and too extractive. Companies should consider rethinking their customer relationship strategy to respond to modern consumers.
Creating mutually beneficial partnerships between brands and consumers, protecting the privacy and security of the customers’ data, and empowering consumers to take control of this data should be a top priority for brands. Only then will consumer-brand relationships flourish, even for a travel industry beset by a global pandemic.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts.