Audio Transcript

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Welcome to “Let’s Talk Loyalty”, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals.

I’m your host, Paula Thomas and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas for loyalty specialists around the world.

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Welcome to today’s episode of “Let’s Talk a Little Loyalty”.

In August, 2020, I interviewed Kim Hardaker, the managing director of Etihad Guest, the loyalty program from Etihad Airways based here in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the UAE.

At the time, the world was six months into the global pandemic and the impact on airlines was of course devastating, yet out of that, some of the greatest challenges come, the greatest ideas and Etihad Guest was certainly innovating in fascinating ways that have since won numerous loyalty awards worldwide.

As a self-confessed data nerd, Kim shared her love of loyalty that spans a career in a number of marketing agencies and Qantas Airlines before joining Etihad, and eventually leading the Etihad Guest program, which at the time had just crossed the milestone of over 7 million members.

The two main topics we discussed were firstly, the critical business metrics in order to operate a successful loyalty program but secondly, we also talked about campaigns designed to drive emotional loyalty, which were perfectly timed and beautifully executed, especially at that low point in the world of airline travel.

So on the data statistics and KPIs, Kim first quoted a statistic.

She had learned at the 2020 loyalty awards conference she attended, which reported that even in North America, the market that is perhaps the most advanced airline loyalty industry, 45% of people were not aware how to earn or burn frequent flyer miles.

A really disappointing statistic to those of us in the industry in order to realize just how many people still don’t understand the value of the membership programs we create for them with this in mind.

Etihad is laser focused on simplicity, a key pillar in both their external communications with passengers and members, as well as internally sharing the right metrics around the business.

For example, Kim and her team have created an internal score, which measures member engagement across key channels. It combines the numbers of active members with their accrual and redemption behavior, as well as how they engage with their various communication channels in order to bring together a clear picture of what success looks like for the division.

This intentional simplification helps the visibility of the program with airline colleagues, many of who may not have an immediate understanding of loyalty industry terms that we use such as passenger penetration on revenue contribution.

In many cases, other departments fail to realize how powerful the loyalty proposition can be in terms of its contribution to the overall airline.

And yet of course they are all essential in delivering the proposition for members alongside these metrics. Kim was most proud of the new mobile app that Etihad Guest had launched in the recent months.

In particular, the opportunity for members to engage when they’re not flying. One key feature that members love was the opportunity for seamless redemption and accrual of Etihad Guest Miles in the three biggest shopping malls in Abu Dhabi, something which truly changed the game at a time when members really needed new ways to connect with the brand.

And then on the softer side, Etihad Guest had run a new brand campaign called “Moments of Thoughtfulness”, essentially a platform for people to share stories and say, thank you to family and friends and colleagues, all of whom were quietly doing amazing things for each other amidst the chaos.

The guys created a dedicated hub for this user generated content, which culminated in many of the lucky nominees enjoying beautiful thank you gifts for their extraordinary contributions to their communities. And all of this was on top of a number of local and global charity initiatives that both Etihad Airline and Etihad Guest were already supporting, showing a real focus on fostering community to create customer loyalty.

So that’s it for this short summary of my conversation with Kim Hardaker, someone I’m looking forward to having back on the show soon to share all of her latest insights and loyalty awards.

So as always, please do join me again this Thursday.

Thanks a million guys for joining me today on “Let’s Talk a Little Loyalty”.

This show is sponsored by “The Wise Marketer’ – the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news insights and research.

The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 170 executives in 20 countries as Certified Loyalty Marketing Professionals.

For more information, check out The Wise Marketer.com and Loyalty Academy.org.

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