Für Starwood beantwortete Stephan Croix, VP Marketing – Europe, Africa & The Middle East den Fragebogen zum Thema Kundenbindungsprogramme.
Top hotel: Why did you launch a customer loyalty program?
Stephan Croix: Starwood Hotels & Resorts operates 1,200 hotels globally across a portfolio of 10 distinct lifestyle brands including St Regis, Westin, W Hotels, Sheraton, Le Meridien just to name a few. Our brands provide differentiation through unique and compelling experiences. Our loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), acts as a powerful overarching platform that builds relationships with our guests across all our 10 brands globally. SPG has become an incredibly powerful business asset for Starwood; to the extent that today everywhere around the world 1 guest out of 2 who stay at our hotels globally is a member of our loyalty program. SPG is the life blood of our hotels and drive immense value to our hotels and owners.
Top hotel: More and more hotel groups make use of customer loyalty programs. To what extent does this mean competition to you?
Stephan Croix: Over the past few years our industry has become increasingly more competitive. Whether this is traditional competitors evolving their loyalty programs or Online Travel Agents (OTAs) launching new programs, consumers have more brands, more options and more deals to choose from. Empowered by technology, they can easily switch between brands in a heartbeat – depending on pricing and new product launches. In this competitive environement SPG acts as a strategic asset to acquire new guests, maximise share and drive customer retention.
Top hotel: What makes your program different from the ones other hotel companies offer?
Stephan Croix: SPG is the single most honoured loyalty program in the industry. Our loyalty program offers a truly global portfolio of lifestyle brands and aspirational destinations. Our members enjoy the richest elite benefits and have access to unique redemption opportunities. By delivering personalised experiences on property and working with exclusive innovative partners, our program focuses on creating emotional connections with our members and driving loyalty beyond reason throughout the travel cycle.
Top hotel: To what extent could you record changes in guest behavior as well as in the growth of revenue and in the number of guests since starting the customer loyalty program?
Stephan Croix: We are seeing a clear shift in behavior when guests enroll in SPG and engage with our brands. They stay more often, stay longer, spend more and are more engaged.
Top hotel: What are the benefits for your guests?
Stephan Croix: SPG is a free loyalty program and recognition starts on day one. Our SPG members earn Starpoints when staying at our hotels, can enjoy complimentary WiFi access when booking direct through our online branded channels and save up to 30% off when dining at 1,000 restaurants and bars globally. As they stay more with us, our elite members earn more Starpoints, enjoy additional on-property benefits and greater rewards designed to provide travellers personalised and seamless end to end travel experiences.
Top hotel: In your opinion, why is a customer loyalty program essential nowadays?
Stephan Croix: Things have evolved at an incredibly fast pace over the last decade with the proliferation of social media channels and the growth of mobile adoption. Consumers are totally wired and their expectations are on the rise. They‘re more demanding, more sophisticated and more hedonistic. It’s all about them as unique individuals. As a result, brands find themselves in a race to provide an increasingly smooth, engaging and personalised customer experience. In the customer experience battle, loyalty programs act as invaluable and effective assets to engage with customers, drive truly personalised experiences and foster brand advocacy and loyalty.
Top hotel: What are the criteria you choose cooperation partners?
Stephan Croix: We focus on fostering strategic partnerships with organisations which help heighten SPG’s competitive differentiation, create innovative benefits for our members throughout the travel cycle and deepen engagement through unique experiental experiences. Amongst our most recent partnerships, we launched Your World Rewards at the end of 2014, a strategic alliance with Emirates Skywards. This partnership offers registered members reciprocal benefits when they travel with Emirates and stay at SPG hotels. Earlier this year, we also introduced an innovative partnership with Uber which provides our members the opportunity to earn additional Starpoints on every Uber ride, making their travel experiences with SPG even more rewarding.
Top hotel: Are there any enhancements planned in the near future?
Stephan Croix: SPG as a successfull track record of driving industry firsts and reinventing the way our guests experience the world. Since its inception in 1999, SPG has been a pioneer and since then we have been continuously striving to innnovate to ensure our program remains ahead of the game and deliver long lasting value to our members, hotels and owners. Over the past 12 months alone, we’ve introduced a series of meaningful enhancements including the launch of SPG Pro, an integrated loyalty offering designed to deliver greater control, recognition and reward to our customers. We have also implemented SPG Keyless – the hospitality industry’s first mobile, keyless entry system allowing guests to use their SPG app as the key to their room at W, Aloft and Elements hotels.
Top hotel: How important will customer loyalty programs be the next ten years? What could they offer in addition to the existing programs and what additional value could they create?
Stephan Croix: I think loyalty programs will remain critically important. However, in today’s fast changing environment, competition is fierce and customer loyalty has become harder to build and retain. Brand proliferation, product parity and disruptive technology are forcing organisations to rethink their approach to loyalty marketing. Digital technology is transforming every phase of hospitality – from finding a hotel, to checking in, to unlocking your door and personalizing your stay. As the middle class continues to rise and global travel increases, technology innovation will enable our properties to deliver a new range of personalized experiences in hotels from Boston to Brussels to Beijing. As travel is inherently mobile, travelers expect to use their mobile devices to enrich their travel experiences. By developing and releasing SPG Keyless, Starwood will deliver the same mobile-first experiences for our SPG guests to expect in their daily life wherever their global travels take them.
Top hotel: What do your guests think of your customer loyalty program?
Stephan Croix: Our guests are passionate about our SPG program and do value the exclusive benefits and unique travel experiences that come with it. Above all, our Members continue to position SPG as their #1 program of choice and value our commitment to deliver personalization and create with high emotional loyalty.
Top hotel: How cost-intensive are launch and maintenance of customer loyalty programs?
Stephan Croix: As a policy we don’t discuss these figures but providing loyalty beyond reason to our most valued guests is and continues to be priceless.