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Building loyalty is critical during times of COVID-19

By Frik van der Westhuizen, Marketing Director at LoyaltyPlus

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the global airline and hospitality sector. Deloitte research has found that at the peak of the lockdown measures, several European countries experienced a staggering 99% decrease in bookings on popular accommodation sites when compared to 2019.

Sadly, things are not any better elsewhere in the world. Continued lockdown restrictions are resulting in the closures of many airlines, hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and the list goes on. The focus now moves to how operators can differentiate themselves by adding customer value instead of just trying to sell to them.

One of the central themes around this radically different landscape is how operators can make people feel safe. This has resulted in strict health protocols being enforced on all flights and at all eateries and accommodation venues. More than that, in these times of no-contact, those service providers who have the most engaging (and customer-centric) digital environments will be the ones that benefit most. Just think of those restaurants that provide “click and collect” services or even started doing their own deliveries for free.

Whether it is safety or a seamless online environment, everything points to how important engendering loyalty has become in these difficult times. Brands must do everything in their power to entice regular customers to return and provide much-needed word of mouth to create awareness. These loyal customers are influencers in themselves with their families and friends trusting their experiences and opinions of a particular airline, hotel, or restaurant.

Unsurprisingly, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions will become even more integral to the success of an organisation than before. The role these solutions and systems can play in creating more sophisticated and tailored loyalty programmes cannot be ignored.

Customers want to feel valued. If a brand can convey relevant messages to a regular customer with the potential for discounts or specials customised for that user, then it will start growing its business more effectively.

‘With physical interactions limited, people have become more open to digital marketing than in the pre-pandemic days. Receiving emails and SMS messages have become important touch points when peoples’ travel is limited. It is especially crucial for airlines and those in hospitality to create an emotional connection. The best way to do so is by using CRM and understanding customers on an individual level.

Not only does leveraging technology make this possible, but it also puts the organisation in control of making loyalty more rewarding for customers, improving engagement, and resulting in return business.

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