Starwood targeting competitors' customers with hush-hush loyalty program

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Starwood Hotels is conducting an under-the-radar pilot loyalty initiative targeting members of competing loyalty programs. The company is keeping the effort separate from its existing loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).

In an e-mailed statement to DMNews, Mark Vondrasek, SVP of distribution, loyalty and partnership marketing at Starwood, said that several thousand consumers were invited to participate in the pilot. Starwood is running the program under an internal code name.

“The selection criteria are proprietary, but we looked at factors beyond just frequency, which as you know is the key measurement in traditional hotel loyalty programs,” he said. “For instance, we evaluated factors including guest's profitability, lifetime growth potential and ability to influence travel by others. We even targeted some travelers who were loyal not to Starwood, but to our competitors.”

Since the initiative's 2009 launch, Starwood has seen “meaningful results,” said Vondrasek. The hotel chain is expanding the program to include more international travelers this year, he said.

Vondrasek did not provide specific details about how the program works but said the company is “developing deeper relationships with these travelers.”

“By cultivating these one-on-one relationships, our ambassadors' goal is to understand what really matters most to each individual guest and work to make every stay better for them,” he said.

Starwood is not the only hotel chain targeting the customers of its rivals. Last month, InterContinental Hotels Group launched a campaign for its Priority Club Rewards that drew attention to recent changes to competitor Hilton's HHonors loyalty program. That effort incorporated direct mail, e-mail and Web marketing to members of both programs.

Last year, Starwood enhanced its loyalty program by adding a suite of Twitter, Facebook and iPhone applications.

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