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KOA adds new loyalty program

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has teamed with Smart Button Associates to start a camping rewards program online.

Smart Button provides the technology platform for KOA Value Kard Rewards, which gives cardholders points for staying at a KOA campground. Points, which are tracked through individualized user pages on koa.com, can then be redeemed for discounts on future KOA stays. The user pages also track guests’ travel routes and allow them to key in personal campground preferences, such as pets allowed and RV type.

“We’re a franchise system, a chain, so we don’t really have competition that’s another chain, we have competition from independent businesses,” said Steve Young, director of loyalty marketing for KOA. “Anybody can get a 10% discount at any ground, so we started looking for a way to differentiate ourselves.”

KOA executives attended loyalty school hosted by Colloquy and the DMA and came up with a list of objectives for their program. One such goal is to entice campers — particularly those who stay at a site for six or seven nights — into more and longer trips.

The program also allows KOA to gather information about its user demographic online. Smart Button’s online platform saves profile and credit card information, streamlining the reservation and registration process for returning guests. Card users are encouraged to go online with the offer of 250 free points for every reservation booked on the Web site.

“KOA.com is really our marketing engine,” Young said. “It’s the world’s largest and most visited camping-related Web site, and the home page is highly specific to Value Kard Rewards.”

Other advertising for the card can be found in RV and camping magazines and Web sites. Another big ad site is the KOA directory, a listing of KOA sites that is mailed to about 550,000 people each year.

KOA Value Kard Rewards replaces the company’s 20-year-old rewards program, which offered a 10% discount on camping fees. All 530,000 members of the old rewards system were automatically upgraded to the new program — which offers the same discount — as of March 2. Because the price of the card has risen from $16 a year to $24, Young said he expects to lose some members in the first year. He was confident, though, that those defectors could be won back by the second or third year of the program.

Smart Button develops loyalty marketing and rewards applications for companies in the retail, sports, entertainment and leisure sectors. Clients include the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Padres, Churchill Downs and George Mason University.

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