This is a guest post by TallOrder POS, a rich Point of Sale solution for short-term rentals.
Your guests loved every minute of their stay at your short-term rental. How do you get them to visit again?
The answer: you need a loyalty program.
Loyalty programs are reward structures that offer benefits to returning customers. Building a strong loyalty program that differentiates your brand can be a massive game-changer if done correctly. While large-scale accommodations and hotels have used loyalty programs for years, players in the short-term rental and vacation rental industry have only started to adopt this strategy more recently.
Brand loyalty increases the likelihood of repeat and direct bookings. Loyal customers not only have a higher retention rate and lifetime value but serve as ambassadors and promotors of your rental through referrals and word-of-mouth.
Here are some essential tips on how to set up a successful loyalty program:
Decide what type of program to build
Most loyalty programs fall into one of four categories: points, tiers, social media, and paid programs. Consider what your program will look like and which approach would work best for your business. Point-based programs allow guests to build up points based on their stays and purchases, while a tiered model enables guests to qualify for different levels of the loyalty program based on their booking behavior.
Alternatively, you could look to implement a simpler model, such as giving loyal members first access to peak-time bookings or offering discounts. Find unique discounts that reflect your brand’s values and cater to the preferences of your customer base.
Knowing your audience is crucial – your loyalty program should reflect what your guests actually want. Research loyalty program structures and speak to loyal customers so that you can set up the loyalty program that is right for your business.
Make it easy to sign up and use
If your loyalty program isn’t a smooth, convenient experience, your guests simply will not participate. Customers must be able to sign up and access their points and rewards effortlessly. To do this, use a clear and measurable structure with simple rules, and avoid expiration dates.
It’s important to ensure that you implement rewards as promised to create a sense of credibility and trust around the program.
Make it guest-centric
Guests are at the heart of your business, and an effective loyalty program should be no different. They should perceive the program as flexible and meaningful, and feel that they are benefiting directly from being a part of it. You should also communicate regularly with your loyal guests to keep them informed and engaged.
Traveler behavior and preferences are dynamic, changing and adapting for various reasons ranging from the pandemic to personal preference. In turn, your loyalty program should be flexible enough to adapt seamlessly and capitalize on these changes.
Embrace a digital approach
Gone are the days of stamps and cardboard loyalty cards in your wallet; the future is digital, and so are your guests’ lives. A digital loyalty program allows guests to track points, rewards, etc., with an online account or mobile app. Travelers can redeem points for free stays, discounted dining, and other experiences.
Digital also means data; a digital loyalty program can facilitate data collection around guest behavior and preferences. You can use this valuable guest information to drive enhanced guest experiences with personalized rewards and offerings, which leads us on to our next tip…
Make it personal
Unlike many larger accommodations, short-term and vacation rentals have the sweet luxury of being able to offer incredibly personalized loyalty programs full of emotional and personal elements. Base the rewards, offers, discounts, and promotions on the guest’s preferences, values, and booking habits. Go local by partnering with regional vendors or partners—such as neighboring restaurants or stores—to offer your guests local, authentic experiences, while promoting sustainability by supporting local businesses.
Tell the world
If you create an amazing loyalty program and none of your guests know about it, did you even create a loyalty program?
The first step is to let your current network know about your loyalty program. While it may seem obvious, this is a major blindspot for many short-term rental companies. Use your email list to spread the word like wildfire, and ensure that your loyalty program is advertised across your website and social media platforms. Your staff are also a huge asset when it comes to word-of-mouth promotion, so make sure your loyalty program is top of mind and tip of tongue for your customer-facing teams.
For future guests, make them aware of the program by offering rewards shortly after their stay, either In person or via email. In this case, a reward can be offered in return for a review and a referral. And on that note, referral programs (which offer rewards to customers for referring their friends and family) are another effective method of making your loyalty program more personalized.
If you are struggling to drive repeat bookings, then a loyalty program may be the key that unlocks the door to returning customers and direct reservations.. Start by doing research on different loyalty programs to decide how your own program should look and function. Remember that ease of sign-up and ease of use is essential.. Streamline surrounding operations with a digital platform or app. Adapt the program to your guests’ behavior to make it personal and meaningful. And lastly, remember to advertise and promote it.
An effective loyalty program should thank your customer base for their support, encourage repeat bookings, and entice future guests.