The following is the transcript of an email QA with Whitney Cripe, senior director of loyalty marketing at Wyndham Hotel Group.
What’s the goal? Recruit new customers? Sell rooms? Keep existing customer informed? A mix of all of these things?
A total mix – through our hotel brand email outreach, we want to acknowledge their experiences and past visits and better tailor our offers to speak to their individual behavior and preferences. We also want to keep them informed of great deals and discounts and encourage them to be part of our loyalty program so that everyday travels can be rewarded for what they want most, a free night! Giving customers a “reason to believe” through our hotel brands and a “reason to return” through our loyalty program is key to our success.
It’s working too. Wyndham Rewards was just ranked the #1 Best Hotel Rewards Program by U.S. News & World Report for 2016-2017. Our guests love the generous and rewarding nature of our program. It’s simple and it makes loyalty work or them. So many loyalty programs are designed to make sure the benefits are tough to realize. Ours is the exact opposite of that. It’s built to reward and our email dialogue with our customers really underscores that. We highlight for members all the ways the points and the program work for them.
What is your normal frequency of communications?
It varies. For our hotel brand-specific emails, we may reach out three or so times a month with offers, news and insights. For our Wyndham Rewards members, we provide a little more frequent communication including a monthly e-newsletter that aggregates our most important news along with offers, member perks, announcements and more. We try to strike a good balance, giving information about places members love to stay, rewarding them for their loyalty and inspiring them to come back to enjoy more nights with us. Recently, we’ve been enjoying a lot of success with a series of aspirational emails about all of the great locations Wyndham Rewards members can redeem their points. It really fires people up and motivates them to consider us again when planning their next trip for work or pleasure. And we’re making great strides on how to customize those offers to really speak 1:1 to the recipient. Our partnership with Olson 1to1 is a huge part of what makes that possible.
How you do get people to sign up? (e.g. an offer? only customers? a prompt at the website to learn more? all of these things)?
How we go about attracting new members is something we’re always refining and we are thrilled to see how many more people are joining the program—we’ve added nearly 7 million since re-launching the program last May. They’re joining fast on property at our front desks, and online too, often as a result of an email. Unmissable reminders – like a certain life-size magical Wyzard greeting you in the lobby don’t hurt either. The magic of Wyndham Rewards is that it’s really designed to reward our guests. Our hoteliers believe that and many of them are members themselves. They sell our loyalty program because so many of them are enthusiastic members of Wyndham Rewards and they want to share the goodness. We want everyone to join (for free!) and start earning and redeeming those points.
Are you using marketing automation? What tools do you use overall for email marketing?
How many people work on email marketing at the company (you can specify and differentiate between core (more or less their full time job) and those who work part-time on it.
We have a team of more than 10 core people who work on email technology project management, design, functionality for our hotel brands and for Wyndham Rewards. Lots more people contribute on branded content, editorial development, project and graphic design, reporting, technical project management, data analytics and more. We also work hand in hand with our digital marketing and e-commerce teams internally as well as with our vendor partners, like Olson 1to1, who really help bring email to life.
How would you describe the editorial operations? I.e. who decides what should be in the emails?
Content decisions and directions are based on lots of input and we’re constantly refining. We want our emails to not only be read or noticed but acted on. Bonus points if they’re enjoyable and easy on the eye! We work with a cross-functional team to make decisions on content based on qualitative and quantitative data. We write our emails with our brand voice(s) and with our guests in mind. We want the language and content to be memorable and effective, but also very immediate and telegraphic. People have so little free time. We want to reach them, quickly share a message or convey value, and show them simple ways they can act on that value. Our hotel brands have so much personality, from iconic economy brands like Days Inn and Super 8 to our brands at the other end of the spectrum like Dolce and Wyndham Grand, we like our communication to mirror those personalities. And of course, we have endless fun with the magical tone of the Wyndham Rewards Wyzard and how he “speaks” to our loyalty program members.
What sort of ROI metrics do you look at to determine success?
For us it’s beyond clicking. It’s real engagement. That means bookings at our hotels, enrollments in Wyndham Rewards and guests taking advantage of offers. Seeing our guests return to us is the truest success. We want people to sign up and join our Wyndham Rewards program and stay at all of our hotels and we want them to do that often. Member nights or stays are fantastic indicators of success because we know our Wyndham Rewards members stay more AND spend more with us. We love rewarding them and seeing that activity translate to free and/or discounted nights. Our guests have earned it.