- United Airlines updated its frequent-flyer app to give members more ways to earn miles, including the new United Visa Rewards loyalty program that hosts offers from merchants like Sam's Club, Wayfair and StubHub. United Chase Visa cardholders in the U.S. can use the app to enroll in the rewards program, according to a press release.
- The MileagePlus X app lets members buy electronic gift cards for hundreds of restaurants and retailers. Before paying, members can log into the app to buy an electronic gift card for the exact amount of the purchase, then pay using the gift card by scanning a barcode on the smartphone screen. United Chase Visa members earn a 25% bonus on miles with electronic gift card purchases.
- Members can see real-time updates to their miles with qualifying purchases at participating merchants. The updated app now works with the MileagePlus Dining program to showcase nearby restaurants, while MileagePlus Shopping lets members shop and earn miles at more than 900 retailers.
United's updated MileagePlus X app is another sign of the growing importance of mobile devices in creating effective and compelling customer loyalty programs. Citibank, which has a loyalty program called ThankYou Rewards, expected the percentage of website visits from a mobile device to grow to the mid-40% range last year from 33% in 2017 and 25% in 2016, Mobile Payments Today reported.
United expanded the range of its app's features with location-based information about nearby restaurants and offers at participating merchants. The upgraded capabilities could help to boost loyalty to the airline among United Chase Visa cardholders who enroll in the rewards program. The Visa Commerce Network, the payment company's loyalty program that powers United Visa Rewards, lets merchants connect with customers in the app to drive sales and inform their respective marketing efforts through user data, Pymts.com reported.
The updated loyalty app comes just days after United announced voice-enabled check-in features through Google Assistant, marking the first time an airline offered such tools. The combined efforts demonstrate the need for marketers to offer a wide range of perks and practical functionality on mobile platforms as more consumers turn to smartphones and voice-powered tech while on the go.
However, loyalty programs present some challenges for brands. Less than half of loyalty members in Europe, Latin America and North America report satisfaction with their programs, according to a survey from Bond Brand Loyalty cited by eMarketer. Grocery, credit card, dining, gas and hotel cards showed the highest satisfaction rankings. Hotel chain Hilton, which has 71 million members in its rewards program, said its mobile app is the key way to connect with loyalty members and collect guest data that can help the hotel chain to understand their needs and adjust their strategies as needed.