In the race for the modern business traveler – especially women, the quirky Kimpton boutique hotel chain wants to give its customers really good Karma instead of points.
The company will officially announce today that it has overhauled its loyalty program, now called Kimpton Karma, to give even infrequent customers surprising, personalized treats. The new program coincides with a new company website designed to lure existing and potential customers who are increasingly online, using social media networks and seeking compelling information, according to senior Kimpton executives.
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“With new hotels opening and traveler expectations continuing to evolve, we looked at what is going to be relevant and meaningful to today’s travelers,” Kathleen Reidenbach, Kimpton’s senior vice president of marketing, told Travel Update in an interview in advance of the loyalty program news.
Research showed that “women loved the name,” Reidenbach said, which is an advantage for the company given that more than half of its customers are female.
Kimpton Karma was designed with the premise that customers’ interactions with the brand – whether a room purchase or a Tweet about a restaurant meal – should eventually come back to customers with a personalized reward. In other words, the program’s not just about accumulating points to capture free nights.
Under the new program, even infrequent Kimpton customers might find their favorite Skittles in their room – or a bottle of wine, if that’s what they said they like in their customer profile.
The changes come at a time when the nearly 30-year-old company’s on a growth tear, and annual revenues approach the $1 billion mark.
Kimpton’s changes also come at a time when competition is becoming cut-throat.
“The boutique space is increasingly getting more and more crowded,” Reidenbach told me.
The category is growing as 18- to 35-year-old Millennial travelers – and others with the same, adventure seeking mindset – seek out stylish, tech-aware alternatives to cookie-cutter chains. Giant operators such as Marriott and IHG are busy growing brands specifically designed to go after these customers. Kimpton executives see the new loyalty program and website as key ways to further differentiate their brand, which already stands out with its leopard-pattern terry cloth robes and pet-friendly policies.
What I found especially interesting was how Kimpton has revamped its website, both in terms of content and responsive design.
“We considered how do we make sure that experience (of shopping online) is as delightful as when you walk into the front door of our hotel and are greeted by a warm smile,” Riedenbach said.
Believing that digital shoppers seek out – and value – rich, relevant content, Kimpton last month launched a colorful blog called “Life is Suite.”
It informs readers about a mix of topics including new hotels and local tattoo shops in San Francisco. One of the blog’s more popular posts is a video that contains a Kimpton designer’s advice on how to entertain at home outdoors, Maggie Lang, Kimpton’s senior director of guest marketing, told me. The goal with this type of content is to encourage Kimpton fans to think about the brand even when they’re not in a Kimpton hotel or restaurant, she said.
Stay tuned for more details!
Images courtesy of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.