The last blog I wrote here was a little bit of a rant about airlines, and I started thinking about this one as a rant about hotels, but then cleaned out my wallet and thought about loyalty in general.

I’ve got cards for Starbucks, Cafe Nero, Costa, a local coffee joint, Club Carlson, British Airways, Air France, Walgreens, Starwood, Rite Aid, Foodtown, Best Buy and a whole host of others I can’t remember.

Throw in the emails I get from most of the above plus Hotels.com, Verizon, Uber, Capital One, AMEX, Lastminute.com, Expedia, Avis et. al. and it’s all seems pretty pointless.

For instance, I’ve flown a lot on BA and spent thousands on their BA credit card but can’t redeem it due to a million Terms & Conditions. That means instead of being loyal to the OneWorld alliance I’ll use Star Alliance or SkyTeam carriers instead. So much for loyalty.

On a recent project we tested a rewards element with partner brands in Canada like WestJet or Chapters. It tested off the charts in quantitative surveys but during qualitative user testing, there was a common statement ‘What’s the catch?’. 

Further, in particular for airline, hotel or credit card loyalty is the bias towards business users. You could fly with the same airline or stay at the same hotel chain several times year, with your own money I might add and receive pretty much nothing at the end of it. Meanwhile the business traveller spending his employer’s money picks up all the perks. How is that fair?

In the retail world I can fill my wallet with every card under the sun, only get the discount if I have that card or collect 7 coffee stamps and lose the card before I get my free one. Alternatively, I can bloat Passbook or other loyalty apps with all these cards and slow down the check out process. All in all, it’s a pretty dire experience that damages the brand more than anything.

A recent McKinsey study showed those that spend more on loyalty, or have more visible loyalty programs, grow at about the same rate.

While brands do this to try and make you loyal they also want your data. That’s great for them but why can’t someone make this work for me? After all, that’s what will make me loyal to you!

Thankfully, there are a few good precedents here for companies doing this well.

Hotels.com 

Hotels.com Rewards is pretty damn simple. Book 10 nights, get 1 free.

I don’t need to stay at the same hotel 10 times or at the same price. Hotels.com takes the average value of those 10 stays and gives me that as a credit towards a future booking.

I’ve just spent an incredible amount of time staying at the Calgary Airport Radisson for a project and gained no status with Club Carlson but redeemed lots of rewards with Hotels.com. To book direct was always the same price or more with the hotel itself — bizarre given Hotels.com as an aggregator will take anywhere between 10–30% commission.

If only this existed with airlines…..

Boots

Recently Market Gravity worked with Boots to launch ‘Thoughtful Inspirations’.

Thoughtful Inspirations provides customers with a little extra something as a part of their online order. A recent trial inclued a No.7 beauty product for customers to try.

This initiative aims to reinforce Boots’ unique authority in beauty product range, encourage trial and re-purchase in store as well as re-introduce some brand love loyalty reward.

What I love about this example is that a reward feels so much more special to customers when they aren’t expecting it vs. when they are waiting for something good to happen. There are so many times with the latter when the customer is ultimately underwhelmed.

EasyJet

While most airlines offer a points based rewards scheme driven by how far you’ve flown or how expensive your tickets are, EasyJet offer a more simple solution.

Initially a bare bones budget airline, EasyJet started to develop as a business airline due to low fees and convenient routes. To better meet the needs of business travellers and maintain their business, EasyJet introduced the Plus card. With an annual fee of £170, EastJet Plus members get their choice of seat, fast track bag drop, security clearance and boarding as well as an additional cabin bag.

While £170 may be steep for ad hoc travellers, it makes sense for those who take frequent short breaks or travel for business without the need for a cumbersome, expensive backend system allocating and redeeming points here, there and everywhere.

American Express

 American Express have made the age old reward mechanism of points a little bit more accessible to customers. Customers enrolled in their Membership Rewards scheme can use their points to pay for small purchases like a McDonalds or a Uber ride. 

I like how this makes it easy to spend your reward points but the challenge is that I’m never sure if I’m actually getting a good deal on the points I’ve earned. How much are my points worth and what is the monetary value of paying for my cab in points vs. cash?

Apple

And remember, at the end of the day, if your product or service sucks….a loyalty program is not the right answer. Great products and experiences will develop a loyal following.

Because no blog these days doesn’t throw in an Apple precedent….