Is Your Redemption Program Meeting Consumer Needs?

Q&A with Jeff Zotara, Chief Marketing Officer at Arrivia

Arrivia’s CMO Jeff Zotara discusses evolving consumer preferences in travel loyalty programs and Arrivia’s innovative strategies for success, including flexible currencies and AI-powered tools.

Arrivia‘s CMO, Jeff Zotara, drives marketing for a leading travel technology provider specializing in loyalty, booking, and marketing solutions. With over 20 years of experience, he focuses on growth and tech-driven marketing to enhance member experiences. We discuss evolving consumer preferences in loyalty programs, emphasizing flexibility and personalization. 

Arrivia’s innovative approach includes flexible loyalty currencies and AI-driven tools like RateRover for post-booking savings. Zotara stresses the importance of educating consumers and improving communication for better engagement. He also highlights Arrivia’s data-driven approach to tailor loyalty experiences, ensuring personalized rewards and recommendations. Zotara offers valuable insights into the evolving landscape of travel loyalty programs and Arrivia’s innovative strategies to meet consumer needs.

Excerpts from the interview; 

Travel loyalty programs are constantly evolving. Can you elaborate on how changing consumer preferences are shaping this shift?

Today’s consumers prioritize flexibility, value, and convenience more than anything else. Their desire demonstrates this thinking for earning and redemption opportunities that give them greater autonomy and control over their rewards. We’ll see many more loyalty programs breaking free from the past’s rigid earning and redemption structures and moving towards a more flexible model to meet this demand. 

There has also been a shift in consumer expectations around personalization in recent years. We live in a world where every message we receive seems tailored to our wants and needs. Travel loyalty providers must ensure they have the technology to meet this expectation through their offers and at every level, including how they communicate with individual members.  

Consumer attitudes towards travel are changing. What innovative strategies can brands use to enhance loyalty program engagement in this evolving landscape?

The consumer desire for travel hasn’t waned since the pandemic; it seems to be getting stronger. However, as travel costs have risen, they’ve also been increasingly preoccupied with value and getting the best bang for their buck. Therefore, demonstrating value should be at the heart of their engagement strategies. 

Some innovative ways they can do this:

  • Focus on convenience: Leverage mobile technology and AI to ensure efficient and transparent communication with consumers across all touchpoints. Ensure they clearly understand the program’s value proposition every time they interact with the loyalty program. 
  • Boost redemption and earning opportunities: Members need to be able to earn and burn across a wide range of travel categories to derive value from their programs. For many loyalty programs, this means partnering with a loyalty technology provider that can deliver this variety at the right price, thanks to their longstanding relationships with travel suppliers.
  • Personalization: Leverage first-party data collected from loyalty program members via the loyalty booking portal, as well as third-party data, to customize offers, promotions, and communication channels based on individual preference. 

Arrivia utilizes flexible loyalty currencies. Can you share some examples of how this approach drives engagement and maximizes CLV?

Arrivia creates flexible loyalty currency by leveraging margins from travel products such as cruises and hotels. This currency is a powerful tool to boost engagement, foster customer loyalty, and maximize customer lifetime value (CLV), ultimately driving revenue growth for our partners by increasing transaction velocity.

We bundle this currency with enticing special offers to incentivize bookings and enhance the overall value proposition for our customers. Moreover, we utilize this currency to reward desired behaviors and encourage increased spending, strengthening the bond between our partner and their valued members.

One recent platform feature we are rolling out in 2024 is our AI-driven tool called RateRover, which actively monitors hotel rates post-booking, ensuring savings or upgrades to the stay. It seamlessly turns those savings into future getaway currency, thus growing travel funds with each booking and fueling the next adventure.

Effective communication is crucial. How does Arrivia communicate its loyalty programs’ value proposition to consumers?

Arrivia has developed a series of member educational videos that we seamlessly integrated into our nurture streams. These videos serve a dual purpose: they educate our members on maximizing travel benefits while reinforcing our value proposition. We enhance our platform’s overall experience and value by showcasing the potential savings.

Brands often struggle to bridge the gap between their loyalty program offerings and consumer awareness. How can brands improve communication regarding travel booking features and unique value propositions?

To bridge the gap between loyalty program offerings and consumer awareness, brands must first acknowledge the evolving expectations of their customer base. Our 2024 Travel Loyalty Outlook Report highlights a significant disparity between consumer desires and current loyalty program strategies. While brands often prioritize status perks, our findings indicate that consumers emphasize discounts and value more.

This disconnect underscores the need for loyalty programs to engage with their members actively. While data collection remains vital, direct communication is equally important. Loyalty programs should adopt strategies to regularly solicit feedback from their members, ensuring that their offerings resonate with consumer preferences. Personalized communication through preferred channels, whether chat, phone or across various devices, coupled with tailored and compelling offers that align precisely with their preferences and needs, enhances engagement and fosters stronger connections between brands and their customers.

Improving communication in travel booking features and unique value propositions relies on integrating loyalty technology, a priority now acknowledged by nearly 30% of program providers, marking a substantial increase from 16% in 2021. Collaborating with a loyalty provider empowers brands to effectively translate consumer feedback into tangible experiences. It allows them to curate tailored benefits and unique value propositions that deeply resonate with their members. Consequently, these initiatives position brands as the favored travel booking platform and foster stronger consumer loyalty, driving business growth.

How does arrivia leverage data-driven insights to tailor loyalty program experiences and offerings to individual consumer preferences?

By analyzing consumer data, including past purchases, browsing behavior, and demographic information, arrivia can personalize rewards, promotions, and recommendations to cater to each member’s unique interests and preferences. This personalized strategy enriches the member journey, boosts engagement, and nurtures enduring loyalty.

Utilizing a variety of data points, ranging from zero-party data voluntarily shared by members to offline interactions with customer service representatives, online chats, search histories, and historical transactions, we craft detailed member personas for our partners. This approach empowers them to deliver compelling content, significantly enhancing the chances of conversion and deepening brand loyalty.

Can you discuss any recent successful marketing campaigns or initiatives implemented by arrivia to drive loyalty program engagement and customer satisfaction?

Product and Behavior Personalization

Arrivia created a sophisticated personalization engine that “listens” to a buyer’s click, searches, and booking behaviors to serve the most relevant product offering(s) and prioritize deals that will be most valuable to that consumer (creating a 1:1 conversation). ​When this functionality was launched, marketing saw a 30% to 50% increase in weekly marketing-attributable bookings, outpacing pre-COVID performance by nearly 30% each week. 

As a result, we do not rely on archaic “spray and pray” marketing emails. Still, rather, our system has the intelligence to listen for a traveler interested in Miami and serve them Miami offers – or – a family searching for an Alaska cruise and serve them special promotions to Alaska aboard our suggested suppliers. ​This notion of “preference-based marketing,” driven by behavior triggers, has been critical in identifying buyers in the market and serving them very specific and relevant promotions for their needs. Additionally, we have robust geo-targeting capabilities that allow us to serve destinations and travel options close to a consumer’s location.