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13 July 2021 | Blog

Why exceptional experiences have become the leading driver of customer loyalty

First published Feb 2020

Back in early 2020 we first wrote about a seamless, digital-first approach becoming the key to driving customer loyalty; overtaking more traditional factors such as monetary rewards. Post-pandemic, this could not be more true.

Beyond Rewards report by Harvard Business Review and sponsored by Mastercard showed that financial incentives – such as points, miles or cashback – had become only the fourth most important factor in building loyalty among customers.

Five years earlier, they were the most important determinant of a loyalty scheme’s success, but now just 42% of business executives surveyed believe giveaways are essential, with experience-led features filling the top three spots. 

What do businesses consider the most important components for building loyalty?

53% believe that by 2024, digital and omnichannel access will be the most important driver of loyalty, while financial rewards are set to drop to eighth place. With self-serve and touchless technology now being such an important part of the customer journey, all travel companies need to be looking at how the digital experience - not just at booking, but at all touchpoints of the journey - can give customers what they need, with a boost in loyalty as your reward.

So what other factors should you consider?

  • Personalisation is the most effective way to build first-class customer experiences. 57% of business leaders say creating strong emotional connections with customers is a reason to prioritise a loyalty strategy.
  • Focus on experiences to create value and drive loyalty. While upgrades, lounge access and transfers may have had a greater impact on the way passengers felt about your brand than air miles or discount codes, post-pandemic passengers want real-time updates on COVID restrictions, support booking their PCR tests for both the outward and return journey, and self-serve re-accommodation options. 
  • Become digital-first to give customers the instant, real-time access they expect. 44% of executives at companies that have made (or are planning) changes to their loyalty strategy say their primary focus was to offer a more digital experience.

“As loyalty becomes a more digital experience, we want to ensure that we’re delivering a more personalised experience for our loyal members.”

Olivia Wirth
CEO, Qantas Loyalty

The best travel providers are now going further to engage with passengers and leave a positive lasting impression of their brand – often over a much longer period than ever before. With COVID-19 restrictions changing on a mind-blowingly regular basis, disembarking the aircraft is no longer the endpoint of your relationship with customers.

Those who help their customers to book PCR tests before they return home and keep them up to date with real-time changes to requirements will build trust and ultimately loyalty.

For more tips on how to delight your passengers while achieving key business aims, view our on-demand webinar on the suite of COVID Solutions we've developed to keep your passengers informed and empowered at every touchpoint.