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Marriott Shows Strength in Loyalty But Skift Research Underscores Hospitality’s Challenges

Rebeca Stone from Skift observes that Consumer sentiment towards the majority of hotel loyalty programs has been improving over the past five years and the breadth of programs is also growing, but the path to real customer loyalty isn’t that simple. The road to real customer loyalty is not a straightforward path. Today, there are completely contradictory data points as well as ongoing debates regarding the overall success of loyalty programs, the value they create, and their ability to drive true loyalty.

Skift in their most recent report "Perspectives on Hospitality Loyalty Programs 2018: A Challenging Road for Real Customer Loyalty"; offers two analyses evaluating the success of hotel loyalty programs. The first ranks the programs according to seven quantitative metrics, while the other takes a look at consumer sentiment according to commentary posted on various online platforms. Both analyses rank Marriott as the most successful loyalty program currently, but, after that, differences arise, suggesting there is definitely room for improvement among all of the programs.

The seven metrics included in the Loyalty Brand Matrix are as follows:

  1. Loyalty Members: Brand chains with the largest loyal followings theoretically have the greatest population to target versus having to rely on OTA customers. Note: We are likely overly punitive in this category towards Hyatt, as Hyatt only discloses its active loyalty members.

  2. Loyalty Contribution: Either disclosed in the company’s 10-K filings, investor presentations, or other various filings, this is the percentage of room nights or occupancy (depending on how the brand defines it) that comes from loyalty members.

  3. Rooms per Member: A Skift metric that attempts to demonstrate the breadth of the portfolio offering available to loyalty members. The higher the metric, the greater the breadth.

  4. Rooms per Country: This is defined as the total number of rooms divided by the number of countries and territories that the major brand chain operates in. This is another metric to demonstrate the breadth of a portfolio.

  5. Direct Traffic: SimilarWeb estimates the percent of desktop traffic that comes via direct. Although this is not a perfect metric for the percentage of direct bookings, we assume the more direct activity on a website, the better the brand loyalty.

  6. Social Following Rank: We took the average rank of Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and Instagram followers for the company’s main corporate account, the loyalty account, and a couple concierge-type accounts for those that offered one. A stronger social following not only suggests that the brand has a loyal customer base, but that the company recognizes the importance of having a social media presence with guests.

  7. Average Consumer Sentiment 2013-2017: Discussed later in this article, we worked with Crimson Hexagon, an AI-powered consumer insights company, to perform an analysis of online consumer sentiment towards loyalty programs. We ranked the companies by the highest average sentiment over the time period of January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2017. Marriott’s average includes 2017’s average ranking for Starwood’s program, as the company was acquired by Marriott towards the end of 2016.

Skift Research worked with Crimson Hexagon, an AI-powered consumer insights company, to perform an analysis of online consumer sentiment towards these loyalty programs. They assessed consumer sentiment for eight hotel loyalty programs (Starwood was separated out as it has not been joined fully with Marriott) during the time period of January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2017. The sites or programs monitored included Twitter, Facebook, QQ, Reddit, Blogs, Comments, Forums, Tumblr, and Instagram, and the search was performed so that the commentary had to include terms such as “loyalty” or “loyalty program.”

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