Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western International, believes that relationships are the currency of life. In our fast-paced world, the Internet has changed how consumers decide what to buy. Despite this shift, Dowling has found one important factor remains the same: “People do business with people they know and like.”
During her speech at Best Western International’s annual convention this week in Orlando, Dowling referenced “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth,” a new eBook by Google Managing Director of U.S. Sales and Service Jim Lecinksi, which addresses how our shopping habits are changing while marketing strategies are not keeping pace. According to the book, we are all “digital explorers” who seek out online ratings, social media-based peer reviews, videos, and in-depth product details as we make our purchase decision.
Dowling asked attendees to see the world from a customer’s point of view. “We need to move as fast as the customer, whether it impacts points awarded, our pricing, and our content,” she said. “We must try to stay with them or risk losing them.”
The greatest opportunity to build relationships directly with consumers, she said, is through rewards programs. More than 75 percent of travelers participate in loyalty programs and go out of their way to earn points, she said, and more than half of travelers say that loyalty programs are the number two driver of hotel choice, after location. “There is no question that loyalty points have become the third currency after cash and plastic,” Dowling said.
As with other hotel brands’ loyalty programs, rewards members pay a higher ADR and stay longer and more often than non-rewards members. Because of this, brands can’t afford to operate without a rewards program.
To keep up with the competition, Dowling expressed that Best Western members should consider expanding the brand’s qualified rate plans, and begin rewarding even customers who stay at more deeply discounted rates.
“If people do business with people they know and like and we choose not to reward customers for every stay, are we really investing in our relationship with them?” she asked.
— Megan Sullivan, Managing Editor, Lodging