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While most “loyalty” programs in hospitality these days don’t truly equate to true customer loyalty, stash rewards seems to have a model that might actually engage travelers and compete with the big players.

What do you think? Would you be likely to participate in this loyalty program amidst independent resorts & hotels? What independents are you a Zealot for currently that you’d like to see in the mix?

As shared from reveries.com…http://www.reveries.com/stash-rewards

Stash Rewards
A former Expedia executive is launching a loyalty program that enables independents to compete with the big hotel chains, reports Elizabeth Olson in the New York Times (8/3/10). Jeff Low, along with “e-commerce veterans of Amazon, Microsoft and Zillow … has signed up 79 hotels in 63 cities” in Stash Hotel Rewards. All of the participating properties have three-star ratings or higher, and the idea is to give travelers more choices.

“Travelers said they often felt forced to make a frustrating trade-off,” says Jeff. “An independent hotel offers a more memorable, personalized guest experience, rather than the same bland room and identical bed in the big-box hotel just to earn points.” The concept is poised to work equally well for the hotels: “Independent hotels can now say that we’ve got what you’re looking for, and there’s also something in it for you, the traveler,” says Jan Freitag of Smith Travel Research.

The independents certainly could use a boost. Occupancy at independent hotels dropped 8.9 percent last year and rates dropped by 9.5 percent, according to Smith Travel. The Stash Network is less expensive for hotels than other online booking sites, which typically charge 25 percent per booking, versus seven percent via Stash. Jeff Low says he hopes to have signed an additional 200 upscale independents by next year, which would put Stash in a league with Hyatt, which has 240 properties, and on the trail of Starwood, which has 500 in the US.

The airlines frequent flyer points program was hailed as the marketing program of the decade when it was introduced. Their program is held up by many as the ultimate “loyalty” program.  Is that really so?

Airline frequent flyer programs and other similar points or frequency programs don’t really drive zealotry action.  Why?  Consumers understand that they must perform – take certain actions, make certain purchases, jump through proverbial hoops in order to earn rewards.

On the other hand, think about the last time you received something unexpected. The waiter who comes to the table with an appetizer “compliments of the chef?” The fresh flowers upon check-in to your hotel room?  Your car freshly washed and detailed after a service appointment?

Which action engenders more loyalty – collecting points for a purchase or the unexpected touch?   Which one are you more likely to talk about or share with others?

The name of the game in Zealotry Marketing is referral.  It is clear to us that unexpected delights (or rewards) are much greater motivators of true guest retention than most so-called “loyalty” programs.  Consumers understand that earned programs offer value.  If I make multiple purchases, I gain additional value.  But, touches or actions that are unexpected create delight that is the basis of referral and Zealotry action.

Frequent buyer programs are frequently misdefined as loyalty programs.   Zealotry is not about “frequency of purchase”.  Your best Zealots may not be heavy spenders or most frequent customers.  But, they remain extremely valuable in terms of referral.   True loyalty is earned by the brand, not bought by frequency of purchase.  Read on …

From Reveries.com

Let’s just get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as brand loyalty. Each of us likes certain brands and may even love them. We may buy them most of the time, or perhaps even every time. But the idea that we have a true bond with any brand, like the kind of commitment we have in real life with our friends and family, is a farce. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create that kind of loyalty; most of us tell ourselves that’s the end game and it’s always important to aim high.

What it does mean is that we should take a harder look at how we go about creating what we call loyalty. We need to admit that coupons, discounts, points and prizes are just beanbags. We ought to spend more time thinking about the stuff that really matters to people, and serve that up each and every day.

That means products and services that really and truly solve problems and help people live happier lives. Providing a helping hand when someone really needs it, and smiling because we truly mean it. It’s not because the customer is always right (nobody’s perfect). It’s because it’s up to us to make it right. We may not get the same kind of loyalty we enjoy with our family and friends, but we’ll have more fun, and so will everyone else. Loyalty is what we make it. Your thoughts? ~ Tim Manners, editor.

A recent survey from Cool News indicates Starbucks is slipping in its zealotry appeal.

“The encouraging news for Starbucks was that roughly the same percentage of respondents said that they “liked” Starbucks about as much as they did five years ago. However, the percentage saying they “loved” Starbucks dropped precipitously, from 33 percent who said they loved it five years ago to just 10 percent now.”
Interestingly, recent marketing efforts at adding food product, loyalty programs and other conventional marketing seems to have mis-fired, at least among zealots.  Cool News’ respondents indicated a drop in sense of “community” as a primary reason for the drop in appeal.  Starbucks acknowledges it is about experience, not product.   But, has the drive for short-term revenue gains started to impact the long-term potential?

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