US Airways, despite all its well-documented problems, continues to fly and also continues to maintain a very high passenger load. I've been on as many as a dozen of their packed jets just since Christmas, and it's not for lack of an alternative carrier.
In my opinion, air travel is a commodity among our big-ticket service items. From point A to point B, a choice among the five largest carriers will usually come down to schedule, convenience, and price. So, why do so many people still fly this troubled carrier?
Could it have something to do with their mileage program? Anyone who's flown US Airways will tell you that their mileage program is pretty strong. These programs are utilized by airlines, credit cards, and multiple other service providers as "points" or "rewards" to keep their consumers close at hand.
Some of the more savvy companies, such as American Express, may not provide such great values for cashing in their points. But, the flexibility of their offers provides AMEX with regular and ongoing reasons to touch their cardholders. It's CRM, taken to the masses with a strong brand affiliation and high-gloss opportunities.
How can such a program work to foster brand loyalty online? One company that's decided to leverage these programs and make it easy for cardholders to capitalize on their brand loyalties is MediaNet Group, whose BSP Rewards program signed brands from Target and Wal-Mart to Macy's and Overstock.com. In fact, there are so many major brands participating in this, and multiple competitors among given sub-segments, that the company is essentially creating a points credit card for consumers that accumulates an additional 15 percent beyond what they're already accruing for any purchase.
"As so many corporations have begun to expand their Web presence, we're hearing that many have struggled with building and maintaining brand loyalty. Some of our clients have told us that it can be their most expensive task online," said Martin Berns, MediaNet's CEO. "This system is designed to help companies turn this operational cost into a profit center by making them redemption centers themselves for consumers who earn points all over the Web. Given consumers reasons to return this way is proving to be remunerative for our clients."
Think of being able to add reward points to any credit card purchase, and use them across multiple retailers, cruise ship lines, restaurants, and other enterprises and you get the idea. While affiliate marketing programs and other interactive inventions have received a ton of airtime - and justifiably so - this rewards program may be worth watching.
While individual retailers have been doing this for years, and supermarkets have leveraged all kinds of CRM-inducing discounts, the growth of this Web-centric version (how wrong can all these brands be?) makes me think there's probably something there.
I wonder if they'll let me redeem the gazillion frequent flier miles I still have on my preferred airline.