NewsHotel loyalty programs can bring digital rewards in real lifeThis article was originally published onBy Viewpoints | April 9, 2015 Consumers are beginning to expect digital rewards as part of their loyalty to a brand.Simple rewards such as Twitter or Facebook mentions, responses to online messages and interacting with online content are becoming less of a reward and more of an aspect of online customer service.NB: This is an analysis from Nick Baker, community manager of Appy Hotel.There are advantages and disadvantages of incorporating digital rewards into your hotel loyalty scheme and they won’t always be a suitable replacement for traditional rewards.Advantages of digital rewards1. Cost-effectiveAs with all forms of digital marketing, the flexibility and the lack of real-life production costs means that digital rewards are incredibly cost-effective.In many cases a digital reward is completely free to produce, giving you the freedom to experiment as much as you’d like with which rewards produce the best response from guests.All it really costs is some of your hotel digital marketing team’s time and know-how and you can produce as many discounts and promotions as you’d like.2. Greater flexibility/more possibilitiesThe different types of digital rewards are almost endless and experiment with online communities or even asking your followers directly what they want as a reward; keeping your digital rewards relevant and effective.3. SpeedOf course an obvious advantage to digital rewards is that they can be delivered to your valuable customers within the blink of an eye.There’s no shipping and no waiting period for your guests when they win a sweepstake, collect a certain number of points or receive a promotional offer.Digital rewards are a great way for hotels to reward guests instantly for actions that help promote the hotel (such as shares and online feedback) or for being loyal to the brand.Disadvantage of digital rewards1. Still limitationsUnfortunately not everything can be delivered digitally and guests will still want a physical reward that cannot be beamed directly to their mobile device. (Not many orders for a digital daiquiri).2. Works best with a large networkIn order for digital marketing campaigns and rewards to be their most effective, the hotel brand needs to have a decent-sized following online.Therefore a hotel digital marketing plan that incorporates digital rewards, first needs to invest time and effort into growing its digital presence.3. Tech un-savvy guestsWhile most of us are pretty confident with an iPhone app or a mobile website, Grandma Jean may have more difficulty when it comes to collecting and then spending digital rewards.In some cases there is still a place for physical rewards, whether they be gifts on arrival or vouchers and cards sent via snail-mail.Some examples of digital rewardsOne of the main benefits of digital rewards for hotel loyalty programs is that hotels can reward whatever they want, however they want.There is a freedom that comes with digital rewards in which a hotel marketing team can experiment with different rewards and campaigns to see what their guests really want. Stuck for ideas? Here are a few classics:1. Badges, stickers & stamps (oh my)If you look inside most wallets you’ll find some sort of half-stamped loyalty card, constantly carried around in the hopes of finally getting that free coffee.Collecting stamps, stickers or badges is one of the most common old-fashioned ways of tracking customer loyalty; one that can be easily modernised and used when collecting digital rewards.Adding a social element to this can even encourage some friendly competition or social media bragging rights.This could be something as simple as assigning a hashtag and encouraging guests to share their progress. e.g. #platinumstatus #ananturabangkokDon’t underestimate the appeal of bragging rights.2. Online-only offersProbably the second most-common form of loyalty scheme involves offering discounts, coupons and exclusive offers.Whether you’re strategy is to reward loyal guests or to increase the size of your customer base, a few exclusive online promotions go a long way with guests and cost little to nothing to produce.Experiment with different offers and promote them on different platforms to find out which suits your demographic of guest the most.Your monthly newsletter could include a standard offer that pulls in plenty of bookings whilst at the same time encourages more guests to sign up for it. If it works, keep doing it.3. Content-creation competitionsCompetitions and giveaways have always been popular, and take on a new form in the world of digital rewards.While a prize could encourage guests to post their own content, often the act of posting to a larger audience than their own following is reward enough.Content-creation competitions are a great way to utilize social media and digital technology to involve guests and build a community around the hotel brand, whilst at the same time getting some free publicity.4. Suggestion boxMaybe the idea of dropping a hand-scribbled note into the suggestion box at your front desk is a little outdated, however technology has only made it easier to ask your guests for suggestions, comments and ideas.Always make it easy for guests to provide feedback, comments or suggestions; this can be implemented either on-site via your hotel app, through your mobile responsive website or across social media platforms.When their idea is implemented be sure to let them and other followers know about it, showing that you take their opinions seriously and you’re the kind of hotel that they should keep coming back to.5. Say thank youOne of the simplest and often overlooked ways of rewarding a guest is to simply say thank you.This could be anything from a thank you for staying with us email to a social media shout-out to a competition winner or one of your VIP guests.It wouldn’t feel out of place for your front of house staff to say thank your staying, so why should it be any different online?A simple thanks makes for a more enjoyable visit, and a feeling of appreciation, which will leave your brand with a positive sheen in that customer’s mind.As social media continues to grow there are ever more opportunities to connect and communicate with guests, and a thank you could be a nice way to get the conversation started.NB: This is an analysis from Nick Baker, community manager of Appy Hotel.NB2:Hotel digital reward image via Shutterstock.