How to Build Loyalty in a Competitive Market: Tips for Hotels, Restaurants, Airlines and More

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Competition is fierce for food, beverage and hospitality brands. Consumer preferences are constantly evolving, and restaurateurs, hoteliers and airlines especially are under pressure to keep up. Now more than ever, building and maintaining customer loyalty is a top priority—and meaningful experiences are the key to lasting customer relationships. Simply put, if customers aren’t getting surprises and delights from your brand, they’ll find them somewhere else.


Cultivate Loyalty

According to Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trend Report, 72% of global customers feel loyal to at least one brand or company. However, there is a significant gap between these sentiments and brand performance, prompting 80% of loyalty program owners to express intentions to revamp their strategies within the next three years.


In today’s era of digital connectivity and heightened customer expectations, brands must go beyond the transaction to create authentic connections that resonate with their audience on a deeper level. Social media amplifies every interaction, so acts of kindness and personalized gestures are powerful ways to spark positive word-of-mouth and strengthen brand loyalty.


Create Personalized Moments Anywhere, at Any Budget

Memorable experiences come in many shapes, sizes and price points. Whether it's a tailored list of destination recommendations from an airline, a bespoke array of in-room hotel amenities or customized tasting menu from a restaurant, the potential for creating lasting impressions knows no bounds.


Take Stitch Fix, a leading online personal styling service, for example. The brand leverages personalized touches to deepen customer relationships. With thoughtful gestures such as congratulatory bouquets to customers who mention upcoming special occasions in notes to stylists, Stitch Fix reinforces its dedication to understanding individual preferences, fostering loyalty and advocacy in the process.


Online pet retailer Chewy also leverages experiences to build customer loyalty. By employing a team of artists to paint surprise portraits of customers' pets, Chewy demonstrates a genuine commitment to customer care that transcends transactional relationships.


On the other end of the cost and effort spectrum is renowned hospitality expert Will Guidara, whose work has inspired scenes on the award-winning FX series “The Bear.” He champions the concept of “Unreasonable Hospitality,” emphasizing the importance of exceeding expectations to create unforgettable moments for customers. This concept was born from an interaction he had while managing the fine dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York City. A table of out-of-town patrons had expressed their one qualm about their visit to the city: they hadn’t had a chance to try an authentic New York City hot dog. Guidara rushed out to the closest vendor and delivered fresh hot dogs right to their plates—white tablecloths be damned.


Find the Key to Memorable Experiences

The common thread among these examples is the emphasis on understanding customers’ behaviors and aspirations. Will Guidara wouldn’t have served the hot dogs if he hadn’t been present during his diners’ conversation at the right moment. Chewy couldn’t send custom portraits without giving its members a place to upload pet pictures. And Stitch Fix would never know about special occasions unless they asked customers for their input and preferences on upcoming clothing deliveries.


A robust collection of first-party data can serve as a foundation for ways to leave a lasting impression on customers. By leveraging first-party data and engaging in meaningful dialogue, brands create tailored experiences that resonate on a personal level. This approach not only fosters stronger connections and loyalty but also drives customer satisfaction and advocacy.


Embrace a New Era of Loyalty Marketing

As consumer expectations continue to evolve, hotels, restaurants and airlines have to adapt their loyalty strategies accordingly. Prioritizing personalized experiences and going the extra mile can help brands cultivate lasting connections and drive sustainable growth.


At Marriner, we understand the intricacies of loyalty marketing for food, beverage, hospitality and tourism brands. Ready to elevate your customer experience and foster loyalty? Contact David Melnick to talk more about our agency’s integrated marketing solutions.



Zendesk. (2020). Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 [PDF]. Retrieved from

Forbes Business Council. "Loyalty Programs: The New Pillar for Next-Gen Customer Engagement." Forbes, 18 Feb. 2022,

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