IHG's views on the future of loyalty and creating a perfect rewards programme

Every year since 2014, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has held their global campaign called Accelerate that gives IHG Rewards Club members an opportunity to earn points in a fast manner. Accelerate engages members by rewarding those who register with a suite of tailored offers through IHG’s owned channels. With Accelerate, IHG  hoped to drive member activations engagement and ultimately have increased revenue.

This won the brand a gold in Best employee engagement strategy; silver in Best regional loyalty marketing campaign and a bronze in Best use of rewards and incentives in the recently concluded Loyalty & Engagement Awards.  We sat down with IHG's Samantha Llewellyn, vice president for channels and loyalty marketing, Asia, Middle East & Africa, to find out more about its marketing strategy.

This post was done in conjunction with Marketing. 

Marketing: Can you share a little bit about the Accelerate programme and the results you have attained from the programme?

IHG’s Accelerate programme gives IHG Rewards Club members an opportunity to earn points faster when staying at one of IHG’s 5,174 hotels/resorts around the world. In 2016, the campaign was based upon an important insight, which is that 70% of members sign-up to Accelerate whilst staying in our hotels.

It is the "in-hotel" environment that most influences our members, thanks to the face-to-face interaction they have with hotel team. This finding informed our strategy, which is to make IHG hotel colleagues the "faces of Accelerate", which was activated through a region-wide colleague engagement campaign.

The campaign saw participation from 80% of IHG’s hotels across Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA), driving the campaign to a new level for 2016. Member registrations went up by 60%, contributing to a significant increase in incremental revenue when compared to the same time during the previous year.

Marketing: What were some of the challenges of the programme?

The AMEA region is a large and diverse region with 280 IHG hotels spanning seven brands, and operated by multiple general managers and stakeholders. To achieve success, we had to ensure that the campaign was easily accessible to all hotel colleagues and that we were delivering the right tools and platforms in the best way to drive participation and engagement across the region.

Marketing: What is one thing to remember when creating a loyalty and rewards programme for your industry?

As a hotel company with a diverse portfolio of brands, our focus across all of our hotels and resorts is on building long-term, meaningful relationships with our guests. This begins with understanding who they are and what they like, and ends with a consistently well-delivered, personal experience before, during and after their stay.

Every touch point is an opportunity to build loyalty.

This is from the moment our guests search for us online, to the moment they get home and beyond.

Marketing: What do you think is the future of loyalty in the hotel industry?

Loyalty programmes continue to become more sophisticated to cater for guests’ increased desire for inclusivity and individuality (whereby people want to belong but without losing their individuality).

The increasing use of digital, particularly mobile technology (More than 50% of IHG’s web visitors now come from mobile channels) is now driving interactions between travellers and hotel brands. How (hotel) brands optimise their digital channels and deploy content that creates an emotional connection with online users will remain crucial for building loyalty and advocacy over the long term.