Airline loyalty programme members have been redeeming rewards since the 1970’s, when the first frequent flyer programme (as we know them today) was launched by United Airlines. And back then, the redemption of points and miles was nearly always flights related. Now, like many other industries, programmes have evolved to offer so much more in terms of variety, as consumerisation and digital technologies enable a “more, more, more” and “now, now, now” mentality towards consumption.

Our February ‘Value of Redemption’ SlideShare, however, suggested all is not well, with over nine in ten (91%) respondents (all members of travel loyalty programmes) believing that the reward redemption experience could be improved. A slightly worrying statistic, you might agree.

What really got me thinking though, and something that is is intrinsically linked to the above statistic, was the headline ‘eight in ten (77%) members have a clear redemption goal in mind before they start to collect points’. My immediate reaction to this was twofold: firstly, do programme owners always know what their members’ redemption goals are? And secondly, if they did, what a huge opportunity this could bring. To give some context, imagine you owned a high-street store, and you could accurately predict what 77% of your shop visitors wanted when they visited. You’d very soon be stockpiling large sums of profit and be opening a few more stores along the way!

It’s my belief that we don’t always know what our members want, and central to improving this is a focus by programmes on data and personalisation. This is of course a well-commentated path, so today I want to share some thoughts on perhaps some of the more ‘simplistic’ and, in some cases, ‘traditional’ methods for seeking out ‘redemption goals’ – in the hunt for greater redemption success.

Simple, yet effective…

The addition of a ‘wish list’ or a ‘personalised recommendation add-on’ feature, for example, is whilst albeit a relatively simple fix or development to your programme, quite often a very effective tactic in helping you to understand your members’ requirements more. And, at the same time, significantly helping to improve the ‘91% of people that believe things can definitely get a little better’ statistic. In respect to a wish list, if a member is saving for a specific reward, the programme then has the capability to update the member with their progression towards this goal, and, crucially, what they can do to get there. A member who receives a carefully crafted email upon touching down from a flight, for example, “Hi Mr Smith, we hope you enjoyed your flight and a quick reminder that you are now just 10,000 points away from your new iPad” is a simple, yet engaging tactic.

Power to the people

We can also take inspiration from other industries such as retail. Here in the UK we see both Waitrose and Marks and Spencer’s combining simple member dialogue with data analysis to enable their members to ‘shape their own destiny’ by picking and choosing their offers. A relatively simple concept which helps put the member at the heart of programme – treating each and every member as an individual, not a number.

Nurture your community

Social media is naturally a vehicle to build on this dialogue between member and programme manager. With loyalty programmes being a community in themselves, encouraging more dialogue online is a must. Social media is by nature a two-way conversation (or it should be), so if programmes spend the time to harness this community online, the insight that can be gathered is potentially endless.

Loyalty programmes are evolving at an incredibly fast pace, and as a result, member expectations have risen sky high. It’s increasingly important that airlines are able to meet these expectations, or risk even the most loyal members lapsing to a competitor’s programme. With so many members focused on a specific redemption goal with their favourite programme, it’s time we all look to address that 77% and offer them exactly what they came for; sometimes the best wins are the simplest!

Guy Deslandes

Guy Deslandes


Guy Deslandes is e-Commerce Sales Director at Collinson Latitude.