Updated: Expedia launches free customer loyalty program

Travel website's MD of custome experience says the program opens up a rate of opportunities to personalise customer engagement via data insights

Having a loyalty program will give Expedia the systems and data it needs to drive a new level of personalisation and high-value customer engagement, according to its MD of customer experience.

Expedia launched its customer loyalty program, Expedia+, in Australia and New Zealand last month, giving consumers the ability to earn points across a range of third-party travel products and services online.

The program sees consumers earning two points per dollar spent on booking flights, hotels, hire cars and other travel-related services on the Expedia website. The loyalty program is broken into three tiers – blue, silver and gold – with all members having access to VIP benefits such as bonus points, priority customer care and exclusive hotel amenities. Points will also be able to be used for booking award travel for others.

Customers will also be still able to earn points on other programs such as frequent flyers and credit cards across the one transaction, as well as bonus points on different bookings.

Expedia MD of customer experience, Justin Lee, told CMO local customers had been crying out for a loyalty program for the last three years and said adoption locally was a direct response to this feedback. The company has not previously had any formal recognition programs for its high-value customers, he said.

Lee also noted the relative lack of such programs in online travel.

“It’s a good business opportunity to engage our most loyal customers and drive engagement,” he said. “The challenge for us in the past is targeting these loyalty customers and understanding them better. It’s easy enough to tag them in our database, but having a mechanism and back-end systems to manage and maintain that, and to have loyalty status, has meant a lot of work and complexity.”

This included working with Expedia’s 500,000 or more hotel accommodation and 400 airline partners to come up with a system for redeeming points and benefits.

The Expedia+ loyalty platform was first developed and deployed in the US but Lee said the Australian team is localising it for this market. This will include how teams merchandise, promote loyalty and conduct special promotions.

Having a loyalty program also opens up a raft of opportunities around personalisation, Lee said.

“We’re at the very early stages but thinking differently about how we do business,” he said. “Without this in place, we couldn’t specify talk and engage with these customers in a specific way. We’re now brainstorming how to use the loyalty program with these high-value customers.”

Expedia is already looking to the loyalty program to up engagement with its mobile app, and customers can earn triple points if they use the mobile app to make bookings. Lee said once a customer starts using the app, they get additional benefits including push notifications around flight delays, their travel itineraries in the one spot, contacts for hotels and maps.

Expedia customers can join as entry-level (blue) members for free and access the online site’s hotel price guarantee along with members-only pricing and limited travel deals. Silver status will then be granted to customers that spend more than $5000 on eligible bookings or staying at a hotel for seven qualifying room nights, while gold status will be reserved for those spending at least $10,000 or staying 15 qualifying hotel room nights.

Each of these levels offers priority customer service and concierge benefits as well as exclusive travel offers available for the next calendar year.

In a statement, Expedia A/NZ’s marketing director, Lee-Ann Googan, said the program was about helping consumers earn and redeem points that get them closer to their next holiday.

“We’re encouraging customers to start earning points right away by booking through our mobile app, where they can earn triple points on their bookings,” she said.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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