#LEAwards 2020 highlight: Why Millennium Hotels and Resorts revamped its loyalty programme

Winning the gold award for Best loyalty programme - travel and hospitality and bronze award for Best regional loyalty campaign at the Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2020 is Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

With more than 2.4 million members around the world, its My Millennium guest reward programme is based on members earning “My Points” from every qualifying hotel stay at over 110 participating hotels in key gateway cities across Asia-Pacific, UK, EU, USA and Middle East. My Millennium guest reward programme was relaunched on 19 March 2019 as a single tier platform that prioritises inclusivity, value, access, and transparency.

Guests earn 10 My Points for every US$1 spent and they can use points across a variety of rewards, including room upgrades, amenities, services, F&B discounts, celebration treats, exclusive experiences and shopping vouchers provided by market-leading brands.

Key features include member exclusive rates got hotel rooms when booked online, double points every 10 nights and discounted rewards available at the point of booking, such as room upgrades, discounted amenities and services (club lounge access and laundry services), as well as digital F&B vouchers to enhance the experience of the stay.

The team also hands out gifts and vouchers from international market-leading brands worldwide such as Spotify, Uber, Apple, Amazon, Marks & Spencer and Macy’s, along with celebration treats.

Challenge

Before the relaunch of My Millennium in 19 March 2019, the programme had been struggling with five key challenges:

  1. Low brand awareness and visibility of My Millennium
  2. Non-intuitive user interface which meant that redemption of rewards was difficult
  3. Limited rewards available for members
  4. Limited offering and value for members
  5. Lack of coherent strategy in enhancing value

Previously, there wasn’t a unified discount pricing strategy. For My Millennium members, there was simply a tag-on additional loyalty discount (5% more). In fact, My Millennium brand was often relegated to the backseat and sometimes, not even present in the campaigns or promotions.

However, this proved to be a successful strategy to drive bookings and revenue as members were mostly attracted to the additional loyalty discount that they were entitled to, but it failed to connect with the tangible benefits of the programme and the value it could potentially bring.

Therefore, building a loyal base of members became a struggle.

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Given that many hotel brands are also offering loyalty and reward programmes, Millennium hotel knew it was critical to relook My Millennium’s positioning and value in the ecosystem to determine the programme’s value. Many of its members typically hold memberships with multiple programmes for the sole purpose of enjoying exclusive member’s offers, but have no strong loyalty toward any brand.

Therefore, My Millennium needed to introduce an innovative and experience-led programme across various touchpoints to deepen engagement and brand loyalty with members.

Strategy

To tackle these challenges, My Millennium aimed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Building the brand awareness of the My Millennium programme and for members to recognise the tangible benefits
  • Increase the number repeated purchases by My Millennium members
  • Improve user interface and experience by making redemptions simple and seamless
  • Increase the members’ share of revenue on the brand website by improving the user experience and interface

My Millennium was repositioned with a core strategy anchoring around four key strategic pillars of simplicity, value-led offers, an intuitive and seamless experience, and relevancy.

These strategic pillars were vital in building a meaningful and rewarding programme.

Simplicity: On 19 March 2019, the new My Millennium was launched and positioned as a game-changer by moving away from a traditional tiered membership programme to a single-tiered membership programme. This aimed to consolidate the benefits for all members in a manner that was simple to understand.

In the previous programme was a three-tier membership that offered a list of different rewards and benefits based on member’s status. Members found it complicated as it was difficult to remember the various benefits and rewards across different tiers. Furthermore, members were only rewarded when they stayed more and attained a certain membership status. Redemption of a free night under this programme required a member to stay for at least 40 nights. This proved to be rather difficult and was something that was only available to top-tiered members.

With the new My Millennium, members could now receive double points for every 10 nights, which made the redemption of a free night easier and more accessible to all members, regardless of status or tiers. Given the previous My Millennium programme had complicated benefits and criteria, members were frequently unable to keep track of their benefits. This led to an eventual disassociation with the programme as it was not simple and required additional cognitive load to process.

Value-led Offers: To ensure that all members were treated exclusively, the team focused on planning global offers that provided value added benefits that were intended only for members. These value added benefits included: double points for every night, free breakfast, F&B credits, free room upgrades or early check-in / late check-out.

The team had developed global offers that prioritised the member experience. This demonstrated its member-first commitment and sent a clear message of the various types of benefits one could join beyond discounts.

An Intuitive and Seamless experience: Often, members and potential members tend to gain interest in a loyalty programme where the experience is intuitive and seamless. If the experience continued to be complex, brands run the risk of being forgotten and disassociated.

To improve the user interface and experience, the team adopted a customer-first mindset and found innovative ways to enhance its offerings through existing technology and websites to make redemption and enrolment easy. This included providing visible and focused call-to-action buttons and only presenting critical information at key touch points on the user booking journey.

Relevancy: With its CRM systems in place, the team leveraged on data to understand its members and integrate an overall communication strategy. This helped the team to map out key touchpoints of a member and enable it to send out relevant communication. This strategy also enabled the team to move towards presenting messages and offers to members that are meaningful and relevant based on their transaction history and membership profile rather than a generic one-size-fits-all approach.

Understanding that members were looking for rewards above and beyond that of a typical hospitality reward programme, in an attempt to differentiate itself from other hotel loyalty programmes, My Millennium introduced an exciting array of rewards spanning technology, dining, wellness, lifestyle amongst others.

Offering gifts and vouchers from over 100 international market leading brands, My Millennium onboarded brands such as Spotify, Uber, Apple, Amazon, Macy’s, Marks & Spencer, NTUC and Takashimaya into its redemption catalogues. Aside from the typical point redemption for stays and in-hotel benefits, members could now browse a wide catalogue and select the rewards that resonated best with them and their lifestyle needs.

Meanwhile the My Millennium operations and training team is one of the key factors in ensuring the success in hotel level and delivering the experience to members and enroling new members. During the training, front offices are updated on the key changes, enhanced benefits, changes in the CRM system, how to navigate the new CRM system, the website and the new app.

Execution

From March 2019, the team has focused all efforts into launching member-first offers. For its “Stay like a millionaire” campaign from 19 March 2019 to 30 September 2019, My Millennium launched a global lucky draw to create buzz around its relaunch.

During this period, members who stayed at any of the participating hotels could stand a chance to win one million points. All global and regional offers leveraged on the campaign to elevate their offers to entice members and increase booking conversions.

To amplify awareness of the new My Millennium programme, a digital marketing strategy was adopted across Google and social media platforms to advertise “Stay like a millionaire”. Around 20% of the budget was spent on prospecting and 80% of the budget was anchored on remarketing to visitors who had visited My Millennium page in the past 60 days. This helped in increasing brand awareness and acquiring new members. Most importantly, the remarketing strategy allowed the team to follow up with potential guests who displayed intent by visiting its website. This not only increased brand recall, but also managed to convert abandoners into hard leads and revenue.

Also, leveraging off CRM capabilities, the team identified members who indicated interest in the opt-in lucky draw form but did not make any bookings. This allowed it to further retarget them by sending a reminder email to complete their booking(s) and stand a chance to win one million points.

The “Book It to Double It”,  a double points promotion, was launched in July 2019 with the objective of highlighting points. This allowed My Millennium members to translate points into tangible benefits. During this promotion period, members would enjoy double points for every qualified booking.

The key messages of "Double Points, Double Rewards", and "Earn more Points = More Rewards" were critical to demonstrate the value of Millennium Hotels and Resorts' programme and rewards that members could enjoy when booking a stay with the company.

In the last quarter of 2019, “Love, My Millennium” a brand engagement campaign was launched to bring life to tagline “Let’s Journey Together” and sought to increase brand awareness. This tagline was a commitment to guests that My Millennium would be part of every moment from casual dining experience, to memorable family holiday, and business trips or even celebratory milestones such as anniversaries and weddings.

“Love, My Millennium” sought to focus on three main areas: “Love, My Millennium”, “Love Food” and “Love Weddings or Events”. The intent was to lift engagement rates by encouraging past and existing guests to actively contribute to the brand narrative.  “Love My Millennium” was an exercise to solicit user-generated content by getting audience to share their past/existing travel images on social media. This was accomplished by a social media contest where we award these postings through weekly prizes and grand prize of SG$1,000 worth of points.

“Love Food” was the second content pillar under “Love, My Millennium”. Aside from also driving incremental revenue, it also wanted to drive the message that Millennium Hotels and Resorts could also be the go-to place for heritage, modern and fusion dining experiences. A series of Instagram polls which simulated quick-fire type of “this or that” questions were created and a daily budget was set aside to have these polls advertised within a 5km radius of the restaurant.

“Love Events or Weddings” was the third content pillar in featuring ballrooms and meeting spaces. The team engineered a series of social media posts as part of its lead generation exercise and to increase awareness of its venues for hire. Several of its hotels had undergone extensive renovation and it was critical to highlight the new state-of-the-art facilities.

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To gain the interest of members and potential members to enrol into the loyalty programme, the user experience had to be seamless. Therefore, enhancements were made to some of the key touchpoints on the website to ensure loyalty enrolment and point redemption was a seamless process.

To reduce cognitive load of user experience, it was paramount that the call-to-action had to be prominent. This was to avoid potential members to pause, rethink and question their decision, which will ultimately disrupt the user journey and experience. Hence, the team embarked on a redesign in mid-October 2019 that promoted visual and content clarity across key touchpoints focusing on:

  1. Improving and setting up a clear call-to-action buttons
  2. Avoiding visual clutter by not adding too many information on a single screen
  3. Clarifying relationships by organising similar content into groups
  4. Using clear headers to improve readability. "Profile icon" was replaced with "Sign in or join" to ensure the company displays clear call-to-action on the navigation bar.

Results

My Millennium proved its success in generating awareness and membership enrolment. In 2019, there was a 40% growth in membership as compared to 2018 at 29%. This was coupled with growth in member’s booking revenue, number of bookings made, and number of nights booked as compared to 2018.

The redesign of user interface and user experience in mid-October 2019 also proved its success within just one month from launch where member share of revenue by 15%. This greatly validated efforts and affirmed that members found the changes meaningful.

With the total redesign on the booking journey (smart pricing features, new quick sign up feature as well as increasing the number of call-to-actions across the booking flow) and global offers that provide value-added benefits that are only for My Millennium members, the team has seen immense success in conversion rates of first bookings made by new sign-ups.

Lastly, during 2019, My Millennium saw excellent results in room redemptions using points as it introduced the "pay with point" feature. The room redemption count increased by 190%.