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Loyalty Programs: What Are the Benefits for My Vacation Rental Business?
Where does a loyalty program fit into my vacation rental sales funnel?
Getting guests to find your property takes time and a lot of efforts.
” Acquiring new customers is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining a customer. “
Taking this into consideration, we will walk you through the benefits of a loyalty program for your vacation rental business, how to implement one, promote it and discuss some online loyalty platforms out there.
As we have mentioned in one of our articles, brand loyalty is an important factor in retaining your direct booking guests; this is something that you are not able to do when you promote your properties through other channels. So you have to create strategies to retain your customer base and ultimately make them into your advocates for your own brand.
As mentioned beforehand, getting new customers and leading them till the end of the sales funnel is a long-term strategy that you have to take into consideration, and ultimately will lead to loyal customers.
Below you will find the different stages of the sales funnel, and use it as a guidance and to understand where in the funnel you can apply a loyalty program:
☑ General Awareness
The first step is creating general awareness of your vacation rental business. There are various actions that you can take in this case, but the most important one is generating traffic to your website → you will achieve this by working on your SEO strategy.
Have in mind that the starting point of the travel decision process starts with an initial phase of search on the internet to gather as much information as possible about the desired destination and prices.
Right now the best way to rank high in organic search is to start building your content strategy, and your blog is the best tool to start doing so.
➜ The good thing about creating content is that, not only will you have the benefit of being able to appear in the first page of Google, but if your blog has content that is valuable, you have a good chance that they will subscribe to your newsletter.
Other ways that you can also promote your vacation rental properties is through travel influencers and via social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Always take into consideration your target group and the spaces where they are having conversations so you can get better results.
☑ Specific Awareness and Attractiveness
Going back to attracting traffic through content, if you are able to get travelers to visit your page, you have half of the battle won, but make sure that your website reflects your brand assets.
“You can have a look at some tips about working on your brand loyalty through your website here. “
Another way of creating specific awareness, is through the newsletter subscriptions you get to your blog articles.
This is your chance to promote your destination and your properties, but make sure that you work your topics with a content strategist so you can get better results.
Here is an example of a list of topics from the Vacasa Blog:
☑ Proximity and Purchase Intent
Once you have a chance to get direct contact with your possible guests, the gap between the first step which was creating awareness and the purchase intent becomes smaller.
Now you have started to create an initial relationship with your guests, which increases the chances of getting direct bookings.
☑ Purchase and Advocacy
This is your chance to shine. The guest has made a reservation and you have to give them the best seamless guest experience from start to finish.
Make a list of all the different touchpoints of your guests and set yourself KPI for each touchpoint.
Here’s the stage in the sales funnel where a loyalty program can make a big difference and you can create a long term strategy of your loyalty program to make sure that happy customers become repeat customers.
What are the benefits of a loyalty program for your vacation rental business?
Consumers, nowadays, have high expectations and many choices and brands have to differentiate themselves from brands that offer a similar service.
Wunderman, the global advertising and marketing agency, coined the term ¨Wantedness¨ to explain what consumers expect from brands and the key findings were the following:
A loyalty program can deliver the benefits that Wunderman found consumers want.1| Get to know me: Data from the guest
One of the benefits of loyalty programs is that you are able to get data of the preference of the guest, in this way you can better target promotions that you might want to offer them.
For example, if you base your loyalty program, on offering experiences to the guest upon the next reservation, you will already have some data of their personal choices that you can target.
2| Deliver for me: Rewards their loyalty with special offers
You are able to win over the guest staying at your vacation rental by delivering special experiences such as dinners, spa, museum entrances. Numbers show that 67% of customers place value on surprise gifts from brands.
On the other hand, you can also reward their loyalty with special discounts for their next stay. Data shows that 57.4% of customers join a loyalty program to save money.
3| Keep winning me: Fostering long term relationships with your guests.
One of the main benefits of having a loyalty program, is that you are able to foster a more solid relationship and create engagement synergies with the guest.
According to Bond Brand Loyalty, in their Loyalty Report 2019 that surveyed over 55,000 consumers across 900 programs within more than 20 different markets, they mention that: ¨ To leverage the full power of Loyalty, Programs need to work harder to improve the customer experience, help the Brand deliver on its promise, and drive member engagement.¨
4 Types of Loyalty Programs That You Can Use for Your Vacation Rental
There are different types of loyalty programs, below you will find some of the ones being used, but before you make a decision you have to analyze which one best fits your brand promise and values:
✔ 1. Points Program
The goal of this program is point collection, so the more times a guest makes a reservation with you, they will receive points. Once they have a number of points collected they can redeem the reward.
✔ 2. Tier Programs
This are the typical programs used by hospitality or travel brands, whereby you create levels of loyalty ex. Gold, Silver, Preferred etc. The more points they get, the higher level they will reach and depending on their level they will get more benefits.
✔ 3. Partner Programs
As mentioned beforehand, guests expect you to deliver and go beyond their expectations. Creating a program based on strategic partnerships to offer extra services can be a great way to offer amazing experiences that will stay in their top of mind even after the trip.
✔ 4. Hybrid Programs
You are able to combine any of the other programs mentioned before, for example the points based system with the partner program.
Remember that whichever program you consider, make it easy for your guest to register for the program and that it is easy to understand.
How do you promote loyalty programs?
If you are already thinking about starting a loyalty program for your vacation rental guests, here are some tips on how to promote it:
- Train your staff – One of the best ways to promote the loyalty program is your staff that is in direct contact with the guest. They will be able to better explain how it works and be able to offer it to the guests that have had a good experience staying at your properties.
- Your website – Another communication channel is your website, you can create a dedicated landing page, where you can market your loyalty program and explain the benefits that they can find. For example, in our specially designed vacation rental websites, we have an offers section which redirects you to a landing page.
- Social media channels – If you create a dedicated landing page in your website with a form to subscribe to the program, you can promote your new loyalty program across your social media channels, it is free and you are already targeting followers who already have a relationship with your brand. Your webpage can even include your Instagram account, where you can share your stories even with a short video explaining like the example below of our websites:
- E-mail marketing campaigns- This is also a good way to promote your new loyalty program to the database you already have of existing guests (always having in mind that they have opted in to receive information from you) without incurring on spending a high amount on communication campaigns.
- Blog posts – If you have a company blog, it is a fantastic channel to give detailed information about the loyalty program and its benefits. You can use an e-mail marketing campaign where you can link to the blog post you create.
What to consider before I choosing a loyalty platform provider
There are many different types of loyalty platforms out there, so before you start to fish out there for one of them, you have to have the following points clear to choose the right one for your guests.
▶ Consider your buyer persona.
Analyze the personality of your buyer persona, so that you are able to choose a program that will truly be able to engage them. If you have a Vacation Management System like the one that we have at Avantio, you will probably be able to gather data about your customers to begin with, for example if the system that you have uses a guest area that offers extra services and experiences, you can already have data of the extra services that your guests prefer.
▶ Make sure the loyalty platform that you choose reflects your brand promise and values.
You have to be coherent across all your communications with your guests, and this includes your loyalty program which is yet another way to engage guests. The platform that you choose should be aware of your brand assets so they can offer the best possible experience with the program to your guests.
▶ What are your business goals?
The loyalty program will impact your revenue directly, so you have to make sure you have clear business goals.
Write down the reasons why you want a loyalty program as well as the metrics that will be used to measure the results.
▶ What are your financial and human resources?
Take some time to figure out, how much time you will spend on maintaining the loyalty program and also if you want a dedicated person from your staff to handle it.
If you do not have too much time on your hands, make sure to choose a plan that is simple and easy to use.
Ask yourself how much you want to spend on the program and if you will get the return of investment you need from your guests.
You can check out some loyalty program platforms here and evaluate them.
In conclusion, if you are struggling to get repeat guests and want them to become your brand advocates, a loyalty program has many benefits, as we have seen, and can be a good option to create meaningful and engaging relationships with them and offer your guests the best experience.
You only have to start by choosing the type of loyalty program that you want (make sure it is simple to use) and create a communication strategy to promote it, starting off with your own channels (Website, Social Media, Blog, Newsletters).