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Cobblestone revamps rewards program to adapt to end users

NEENAH, WI—Moving away from the old way of doing things, Cobblestone Hotels has revamped its rewards program to accommodate the growing needs of its loyalty members and advance the technological capabilities of its growing platform.

“We pride ourselves on being forward thinking and adapting to the needs of our end users (guests and hoteliers); thus, we have been working on a new rewards program for years,” said Josie Kilgore, VP of brand services and procurement at Cobblestone.

The first edition of the hotel chain’s rewards program rolled out in September 2010, so, according to Kilgore, it was time to assess and revamp the loyalty program. The new program needed to be technology-based and able to integrate with the hotel group’s PMS system. “Growing to more than 70 open locations, the stamp card wasn’t feasible for us as the brand, the hotels or the guests,” Kilgore explained. “They needed something that made the process quicker and more beneficial. We also did this because we needed to be more competitive with the other brands.”

Cobblestone Hotel and Suites in Chippewa Falls, WI

First announced to franchisees at Cobblestone’s 2016 conference in Omaha, NE, the new loyalty program is now available to guests of the brand. “The new Cobblestone Rewards program is a points-based system that takes out the manual operation of having to stamp a card; it’s interfaced with the PMS, so as long as our PMS has the guests’ loyalty number, they get their points after checkout,” Kilgore noted.

Cobblestone Rewards members will be able to receive complimentary room upgrades, additional amenities and priority reservations—in addition to earning opportunities with approximately 30 redemption partners worldwide, including Starbucks, Facebook, Target, Virgin America, JetBlue and Amazon. “There is also a large selection of hotels outside of the brand our members can redeem awards nights with,” she said. “Right now, the major categories for redemptions are covered, so while we will keep our eye out for any new opportunities, we don’t have anything in the pipeline right now.”

Guests can now use the newly available Cobblestone Rewards mobile app to find hotels, check points, access rewards cards and contact customer service. More than 130 members have already installed the app from either the App Store or Google Play.

As for the hotels themselves, benefits to the property include bypassing third-party sites for bookings, building guest loyalty and attracting new business, according to Cobblestone. “We work hand-in-hand with our third-party partners; however, this comes at a large cost to our franchisees,” she said. “Utilizing the rewards program to convert our guests over to direct bookings has already been a great tool and cost savings. We embrace all revenue generators, but ultimately, our franchisees’ needs come first: gaining revenue without sacrificing RevPAR to get it.”

Continuing to promote its new rewards program to guests, Cobblestone expects to reach 10,000 members by the end of 2017. “In addition, we will continue to promote and educate our hotels using this tool, on the book-direct initiatives,” Kilgore said. HB

Dropping the H: Hilton rebrands loyalty program

MCLEAN, VA—When revamping a loyalty program, the first thing to assess is its name, especially if there’s been confusion around branding—so that’s what Hilton did, in addition to introducing new perks—including Shop with Points at Amazon.com.

Aaron Glick
Hilton

“We decided to drop the first “H” in HHonors because over the years, we’ve heard some entertaining pronunciations of our name,” said Aaron Glick, VP of Hilton Honors at Hilton, speaking about the hospitality group’s new name and logo. “That came with some confusion for our members, so to make things easier, we are now Hilton Honors.” 

Hilton—which additionally dropped “Worldwide” from the company name—didn’t just stop at a new name and logo for its program. It took what it had learned from focus group sessions and applied the feedback to its loyalty program. “In listening to our members, one of the most common things we’ve heard is that they want to be able to do more with their Hilton Honors Points. Frequent travelers told us they want more flexibility with their points, and less frequent travelers have said they want more ways to use their points—and use them faster,” he said. “Our most loyal members want to make sure they can keep their status despite changing travel schedules and life events.”

Now available to Hilton Honors members is the new Hilton Honors Points & Money slider. Designed to help speed up the redemption process, the new feature, which officially became available in late February, allows members to “use nearly any combination of points and money to book their stays,” Glick noted. 

Open only to the hospitality group’s Diamond members, a new perk allows members of this designation to receive a one-time, one-year extension of their status—for any reason. “We know life doesn’t necessarily follow a requalification cycle, so when a new job or family member comes along, we want to show our loyalty directly back to our members,” he said. 

Through a new points pooling benefit, this month, Hilton Honors members are able to combine—or “pool”—their points with up to 10 friends or family members for free. 

To additionally accommodate the growing needs of its members, starting this summer, Hilton Honors members will be able redeem points to purchase products on Amazon. “Amazon has an incredible history of always being out in front to anticipate what their customers want, so it made perfect sense for us to partner with them as we continued to lead the hospitality industry on the latest innovations,” Glick said. 

As for the future of the hotel giant’s rewards program, Hilton is exploring new perks and new digital experiences via the Hilton Honors app, “all while continuing to offer exciting experiences with both new and existing partners,” Glick said. “We’ve heard which features are most important to our members, like getting the best available room and having more consistent benefits across our 14 brands. There’s more to come as we work on bringing those ideas to life, and today, we’re excited about all the ways we’ve made our points even more flexible, useful and valuable.”
—CJ Arlotta


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