Carlson Hospitality Worldwide Begins New Data Warehouse-Based Loyalty Program

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Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, Minneapolis, recently unveiled a customer loyalty program that rewards customers who visit any of the 800 U.S. properties in Carlson's Hospitality Group, including T.G.I. Friday's restaurants, Radisson Hotels Worldwide and Country Inns & Suites.

The new database-driven program incorporates data from these brands into the Gold Points Rewards Program, which allows shoppers to earn gold points when they make purchases at 200 retail stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area or when they purchase products or services from several national network partners, including MCI WorldCom and the 135 retailers that are part of SkyMall. These points are stored electronically via a wallet-sized card, and the consumer's total is updated on a printed receipt with every purchase. Accumulated points may be redeemed for merchandise, travel and in-store specials.

The program works similarly for each Carlson brand, with members signing up for the program at any of the establishments they visit. Customers, who are first asked whether they want to receive special offers and program statements, are given a loyalty card and a Gold Points Rewards number that will be input into the Gold Points Network database. When a customer makes a purchase at any establishment, the points are registered.

Members of Radisson Gold Rewards can earn either 2,000 Gold Points or 500 airline miles on any of Carlson's 20 airline partners each time they stay at one of the more than 200 U.S. Radisson properties and 5,000 bonus points with every fifth stay. Members can earn a free stay when they accumulate 20,000 points. The Country Inns & Suites program awards 10 points to members for each dollar spent on any of the 150 hotels. Members also can earn a free night's stay when they accumulate 15,000 Gold Points. At T.G.I. Fridays, customers are rewarded 10 points for every purchase made at any of the 400 U.S. restaurants. Points also can be rewarded when using MCI WorldCom's services or by shopping at the SkyMall.

"This network is different from other loyalty programs because we are not discriminating between members of different programs," said Scott Ulring, director of relationship marketing, Radisson Hospitality Worldwide. "You are treated the same way whether you are a T.G.I. Friday's member at a Radisson or whether we signed you up. No matter where you sign up, you can earn points anywhere on the network."

Radisson, whose program is called Radisson Gold Rewards, is merging its robust guest database into the Gold Points Rewards database, which collects and tracks customer point activity.

Radisson's guest database was revamped and updated last October when the company switched to an Oracle-based client/server system that includes data mining and campaign management tools and "knits together disparate data sources in a much more robust way," Ulring said. These data sources include data from travel agents and from airline reservations systems such as the SABRE network, as well as from a toll-free number, a Web site, nightly checkouts and data the customer supplies on the Gold Points Rewards membership form.

Collected customer data ranges from whether the customer is a frequent guest to how they like to make reservations -- through the Web, or through a toll-free number, for example. Also tracked is whether customers are traveling for business or pleasure as well as what types of rooms customers prefer, what types of credit cards they use and basic customer characteristics. Radisson is planning to add hundreds of thousands of customers to its data warehouse this year.

Now, when a customer checks out or calls a toll-free number, "that customer data goes to our data warehouse and then on to the Gold Points Network," said Ulring. Radisson's data warehouse is set up so members' Gold Points numbers are automatically attached to their profiles, enabling the company to easily identify who is a member of the program.

While no dates have been set for the first drop, Radisson plans to send targeted, quarterly statements to its Gold Rewards members based on data in its data warehouse. In addition, this month the company will drop direct mailings about the Radisson Gold Rewards Program to frequent travelers.

"We have millions of guests that stay in our hotels every year, and we have several years worth of guest data," said Ulring. "Right now, we are identifying the most frequent, highest-quality guests that we can invite into the program." The mailings will explain that guests can receive an accelerated earnings schedule if they are invited into the program by Radisson, as opposed to signing up at the hotel.

According to Ulring, Radisson plans to roll out its program in Canada this year, and in Europe by 2000.

The Gold Points Rewards Program will give Radisson "a tremendous share of wallet of other customer [of Carlson's properties] than we have in the past," Ulring said. "Even though we are one of the larger chains, we have a little over 2 percent of the typical T.G.I Friday's customer's lodging share-of-wallet today. We want to increase that, and we think the odds will change dramatically if someone who is using Radisson is a player in the Friday's program."

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