SAN FRANCISCO: Orbitz, the travel website, successfully engaged customers and boosted the amount of hotel bookings made through its service by building a loyalty program which is easier to understand than many rival offerings.

Sarah Butterfass, Orbitz's VP/Loyalty, discussed this topic at The Social Media & Content Strategies for Travel track at EyeforTravel's San Francisco Summit 2016.

And she reported that a founding principle of its loyalty program was having one "Orbuck" – the branded currency earned by members upon making a purchase – equate to exactly $1.

That decision followed research undertaken with its own users and patrons of other travel websites, such as Expedia and Travelocity.

"What came out loud and clear was the fact that customers wanted something that was fast, that was simple, and that was easy to use," Butterfass said. (For more, including further details of this strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: How Orbitz built an effective loyalty program.)

"What we heard from our customers was, 'Points: I don't really understand them; it takes too long to accrue anything; I never get any benefit out of it'."

Rigorous financial modelling also informed its choice of one Orbuck representing a dollar, as the company needed to prove the business case for the structure of its loyalty to senior management.

"I think it gave our CFO [chief financial officer] a heart attack," Butterfass said. "But we really have committed to that, and it's something we feel strongly about."

The requirement for simplicity was even more pronounced for Orbitz, as many members of its customer base were not frequent, savvy travellers.

Alongside the simple exchange rate for Orbucks, the firm also made sure they could be reclaimed immediately, with no blackout dates or fees.

And since launching in October 2013, the program has attracted millions of members, driven up hotel bookings – a key area of focus for the brand – and enhanced vital metrics like the Net Promoter Score.

Data sourced from Warc