Since the launch of its ALL (Accor Live Limitless) in 2019, Accor has taken loyalty to another level, increasing direct bookings on all.com by 3 to 5 points.
Accor’s Director of Loyalty and Partnerships Mehdi Hemici spoke exclusively to HM about the leading loyalty platform, the changing rewards landscape and the power of data in creating unique personal experiences.
How has the hotel loyalty landscape changed over the past five years, from your perspective?
Loyalty has evolved from being largely transactional to being all-encompassing, emotional, and recognition-based. In the hospitality industry, we were largely replicating the airline industry’s rewards point system, but decided to capitalize on our own strengths. We have a unique view of the guest when they enter our hotel, we have access to first-party data, and we can use it to create exceptional and memorable loyalty moments.
Customers say three things. They tell us: “Make my life simple”, “Make my life special” and “Take care of me”. The [latter] was especially true during COVID where we had to have specific hygiene measures, but also the implementation of new insurance schemes to ensure that we have the backs of our most loyal customers when on the go.
Accor has signed a global partnership agreement with AXA through which we have set up different insurance plans for members, but also medical teleconsultation services available in 70% of our global network free of charge for members. It’s something we introduced five months ago, and it’s being rolled out gradually and will soon be in the Pacific region.
“Simplify my life” is about making loyalty a little more readable by reducing the complexity of the points and making it simple to use. This has largely been digitally enabled. While “Make my life special” is about moving from the transactional to the emotional.
I think on those three fronts, loyalty in the hotel space has taken on its own shape. We now have a very different offering from airline loyalty programs – we are creating new experiences inside and outside the hotel.
How do you use this information to create personalized experiences at Accor?
One thing that OTAs will never be able to know is how consumers behave in a hotel, what they like and what they don’t like. Through knowledge of the clients at the property level, we are able to provide the best service to our unique client. And we deliberately seek their consent to do so. Customers want to be exposed only to the things they would like to receive. They want to stay in control. Our members give us the right to communicate with them quite freely because they see the value in it. This consent is provided globally and is transmitted to a global data bank which enables us to meet the global needs of customers during their travels.
It takes time to earn points for the best experiences. How does the Accor loyalty program attract new customers right from the start?
One thing that is very important, and specifically in this market, is to be able to reward our new members and have an element of rational value that would encourage them to stay longer before earning the right level of points to be able to enjoy the experiences. That’s why, a few months ago, we introduced a member rate which is a commitment to provide our members with the most attractive and competitive rates compared to alternative channels. As a member, you can book with confidence and get an additional 5% discount on your reservation compared to a non-member. We guarantee this is the best price they will find, otherwise we will refund them 25% of the price they were able to find through an alternative channel. It is a very strong commitment to make and is available from the first level – by registering you can access it. From there, the more you spend, the more you earn. We have five different tiers, where you can earn up to 75% more points than a regular tier if you’re a Platinum member or above.
Have you seen an increase in direct bookings as a result of this?
Yes, luckily all.com vs 2019 is up at least three points. Our direct channels have increased by three to five points since our launch. People are booking more on all.com than they used to on our old e-commerce platform. We are better promoting our brands and building a better relationship with our customers who choose to download the app and book on our website.
How important is the loyalty offer to attracting new customers to Accor in a competitive hotel landscape?
At its core, you need to have the best brands in the industry, and I sincerely believe that Accor, today, through all.com, our e-commerce booking platform, and Accor Live Limitless, our loyalty platform, provide the best hotel brands in the industry. Beyond that there’s the personalization aspect of digital, which is really important, and we’re making great strides in making sure we speak to our customers in a very personalized way, providing opportunities to attend events or to be exposed to specific services, new benefits or new openings. The last is the emotional aspect that we have developed. I think in Australia today, if you look at our competitors, we’ve developed our experiential portfolio in sports and entertainment in a way that none of our hotel partners have and that’s a fact. Accor Stadium, Qudos arena, NFL, AFL… we give access to our members and we keep this promise. Loyalty is not a destination, it is a journey.
A big part of Accor’s strong loyalty offering is excellent global partnerships. How are they selected?
We look at the customer journey and we look at the data. From a customer journey perspective, we’ve mapped from home to hotel how our members can interact with ALL every day – in their hometown, on the go as they transition to our hotels, and when at destination. . That’s why we introduced credit cards for daily expenses. We introduced credit cards for the first time in Indonesia and France, and we are going to launch them in Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
There are also daily experiences, for example, using points to access a masterclass with a chef, a trip to the theater or the cinema. We’ve introduced a new platform, Everyday, where you can earn and burn points in 70 cities, 25 experiences that are constantly refreshed through the app.
When ALL started, airlines were fundamental as we needed to acquire new members looking for hotel experiences and working on this symbiotic relationship allowed us to do that. But I also believed that we could be the best airline program in hospitality. In 2019, we signed an agreement with Air France KLM which has a double dip. We duplicated this with Qantas recently, we now have a new partnership with Qatar Airways, and we are already working in the Americas on a similar relationship, so we have one designated strategic partner airline per continent that will allow our members to accelerate their points and their earned miles which are incomparable.
When you have a symbiotic partnership, you mind each other’s business. With Qantas we have an operator agreement where we operate their airport lounges, it’s completely white label, so those relationships go way beyond loyalty, they go into all organizations at the highest levels .
Apart from car rental, we have launched a mobility solution integrated into our application which currently only covers Europe. In 490 cities, you can ride, hail and book a taxi by earning points or using your points. Next, in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, we will introduce a one-stop mobility solution from the moment you leave the airport or go to the hotel, where the last mile is covered and you are rewarded if you booked through the app. Having this entire “On the Go” quadrant, facilitated by preferred partners who reward you along the way, is a fundamental part of our loyalty proposition. And it has grown dramatically over the past two years.
For Accor, entertainment and sport are a major focus of the loyalty offer. Can you explain a bit about the importance of these partnerships?
When I arrived, we started signing agreements with AG, which owns the Qudos Bank Arena, the O2 in London, the Staples Center in LA – they are a major operator of venues where we have access rights to tickets and hospitality spaces for our best members. We looked for where we had the greatest concentration of members to satisfy and we chose the best places to satisfy our customers.
Just before launching ALL, we asked our customers what we could do better? And universally, they said they were looking for experiences in sports, entertainment and food.
Football, dare I say it, is the most popular sport in the world. And being a French company, Paris Saint-Germain – one of the best teams in the world – was a natural fit for us. It was great exposure for us, and that relationship continues today. When we signed Accor Stadium here it was also a fantastic opportunity to provide access to the best stadium concerts in Australia as well as fantastic sporting opportunities. We have also signed an agreement with IMG, which organizes the Taste food festivals in France, London and San Paolo, and we are looking for new operators and partners where we can also expand our culinary experiences.
What are the members’ feedback on these exclusive experiences?
It’s fantastic. Guests who have had ALL return to our hotels 2.5 times more than other members who have not had these experiences – the more engaged they are on these non-hotel reward elements, the more likely they are to return to our hotels at to accumulate points and experience. What we call augmented hospitality – everything we build outside of hotels – is fueling the growth of our core business, so it’s incredibly powerful.