As part of the slew of updates revealed at Expedia Group’s Explore partner event last week, the online travel giant unveiled additional details of its unified loyalty program, first announced in September of last year.
Called One Key, the program will allow loyalty members to earn and burn points across all of Expedia Group’s brands, such as Expedia, Vrbo, Hotels.com and Travelocity, for any travel product including air, hotel, vacation rental, car and cruise.
The redesigned scheme – allowing a traveler to, for example, earn points on a Vrbo stay to later use on an Expedia flight – is designed to create connectivity across all Expedia Group brands as well as establish long-term customer loyalty.
“The industry has trained travelers to go search for the lowest price. We’re trying to make a pivot here to create long-term customer loyalty to get people coming back, so their first thought is to come to one of our brands because of the benefits we offer,” says Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands.
“[Expedia Group] brands competed in the past. Travelers don’t understand we’re a family of brands. That connection is our superpower.”
According to Gieselman, Expedia Group loyalty programs have 154 million members and are adding about two million every month. “To put that into perspective, if you add up all of our rewards members, we’d be the ninth largest country in the world by population,” he says.
“That’s [currently] across four programs each with different currencies, different benefits, different rewards mechanics,” he continues, noting that some brands such as Vrbo and Travelocity don’t presently have loyalty programs.
“It’s confusing, limiting and not in the best interest of travelers.”
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By uniting the programs under One Key, travelers can earn more by accessing rewards across Expedia Group’s entire portfolio, while partners stand to see not only revenue gains (high-value loyalty members book 15X more than non-loyalty customers), but also increased brand loyalty.
Gieselman says Expedia Group will be “intentional” about moving people over from existing loyalty programs to the new One Key currency. “Yes, [points] have to be revalued because across all our different programs are different values,” he says.
“We will migrate people in a way where it creates additional value to them. Nobody needs to worry about their points. They’re our most loyal customers, and we’ll do what’s right for the customer.”
While declining to get into more specifics on how points will be revalued, Gieselman says the first priority is to get people onto the new platform, which will launch next year.
On the marketing front, though the average consumer may not realize brands such as Vrbo, Hotels.com and Travelocity are all part of the Expedia Group family, Gieselman says the company has already started messaging the relationship, pointing to its recent Super Bowl ads as an example.
For Expedia Group’s Peter Kern, the vice chairman and CEO likens its family of brands to the Marvel universe. “We don’t want to fight over the last traveler,” he says. “We do better if we help each other.”
* The reporter's attendance at the event was supported by Expedia Group.