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The 2018 holiday season is officially here, and you can bet your bottom dollar that consumers everywhere are preparing for it.

The question is: are you?

Whether you're in the business of customer loyalty, employee engagement, or member retention, the holidays represent a major opportunity to strengthen the relationships you value most.

Here at Access, we want to help you get ready. After all, 91% of consumers say they plan to "celebrate the season" this year, giving you a chance to fill a stocking with goodwill. Read on to learn more about how (and why) a little extra care and consideration can go a long way during the holidays.

Holiday Spending: Bigger Than Ever

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, people are feeling pressure to stay on top of their holiday shopping. 18% of U.S. consumers started their yuletide spending as early as September, with another 21% beginning before November and 60% before Thanksgiving.

There's no intention of slowing down the festive spending this year as retail holiday sales in the U.S. are predicted to grow between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017, with Americans projected to spend up to $720.89 billion this year. Last year, 58 of the 60 shopping days in November and December resulted in over $1 billion sales ALONE.

It's no secret people are spending larger-than-usual sums of money to get ready for the holidays. So what exactly are they spending their hard earned dollars on this time of year?

Consumers plan to spend a total of $1,007 on average for items like decorations, candy and gifts. When buying gifts for others, the most popular purchases are gift cards/certificates (54%), clothing (53%), toys/games (46%), books (43%) and food/liquor (39%). And many consumers, 78% to be exact, are looking simply to shop for themselves. When they do treat themselves, 42% say they'll choose food/liquor, 40% clothing, 26% shoes, 22% books and 21% cosmetics/fragrances/health & beauty.

 Getting free stuff is great, but…

There’s always a little skepticism that comes with a “free” price tag. What’s wrong with it? Does the quality level match the price? How good can it really be if it’s free?

You get the idea – generally, the lower the price the less you expect from the product or service. So, maybe some things really are worth paying for?

The idea of a free price tag has even higher stakes when it comes to businesses. Free stuff can be risky for a business, especially if it’s going in front of customers. At risk is more than just a few dollars - the cost of reputation and customer perception can be enormous.

Our advice? Buyer beware. If it has your brand on it, then it’s worth an investment.

member benefits

Ray Bradbury – author of the space travel and colonization classic The Martian Chronicles – once wrote, “Half of the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.”

What did Mr. Bradbury mean when he penned this now famous quote? We may never know.

Don’t get the wrong idea, of course. We totally get the part about travel being extra rewarding when people get far off the beaten path into new places they didn't even know existed. (Duh.)

What civilization will always wonder is this. Did he mean “half” in the general sense, as in give or take a third? Or “half” in the 50% sense, where if he’d meant 51 percent, he’d have said 51 percent?

Whatever the math behind Ray’s statistical calculations, one thing we know for sure…

People looooooove to travel.

Families and individuals of all ages, sizes and incomes. To faraway lands. For weekend getaways. To pursue new business deals. With kids. Without kids. On planes, trains, automobiles, boats and buses.

And when it comes to customer loyalty programs and member engagement, travel benefits are often among the most hotly pursued. Why? Because lots of money AND emotional expectation are wrapped up in most of our travel purchase decisions.

So to better understand today’s traveler, we at Access have compiled what we believe is a comprehensive “ultimate collection” of statistics having to do with the travel and tourism industry. We've tried to make this list as relevant as possible, which means we combed through recent research from travel and tourism related sources.

Most of these stats are focused on Americans who travel – though other nationalities may creep into the mix from time to time. We've provided source links for each statistic. Sometimes you’ll find the data conflicts with other sources - so we’ll leave it up to you to decipher which is most accurate.

We'll keep this list updated regularly with the latest and greatest. If you know of a stat we're missing, or want your own research included in our collection, leave us a note in the comments. Enjoy!

Posted by Andrew Graft on May 21, 2018 1:51:16 PM

Those of us here at Access like to think of our little corner of the world as the happiest place on earth.

Singing, dancing, group hugs...you know, the kind of behavior you'd expect from the people at America's largest discount network

Last week we made a strong suggestion that companies get rid of all their customers - and replace them with members.

A customer is someone who buys something. A member is someone who belongs to something.

We should all aim to have members, even if we don't have a formal membership structure. Members, in this sense, are customers who have developed a deeper, ongoing relationship with your product or brand.

These relationships don’t happen by accident. Some brands can develop deep cult followings, but not all of us can be Apple or Starbucks.

We can however, borrow specific tactics from membership groups designed to build engagement and long-term loyalty.

Start small. Try any of these 17 engagement tactics used by some of the largest membership organizations in the world.

In a perfect world new members join your organization with an understanding of your purpose and your value to them.

They renew forever and ever and refer their friends who become loyal members themselves. Everyone's happy and dancing and singing and sharing candy and life is just awesome.

The real world obviously works a bit differently.

In the real world there are dozens of reasons why someone might join your organization. Once they've joined, each member has dozens of reasons why they might or might not retain their membership.

In the real world they often whine, complain, bicker and most definitely do not share their candy.

This is reality, where membership organizations fight a constant battle to keep members engaged and focused amidst a million other priorities and distractions.

Member engagement is how you're going to earn the loyalty you need to thrive and grow.

What you're looking to do is build avenues for engagement that any member can connect with.

Not all of them will attend live events. 

Not all of them will network with fellow members.

Not all of them will ever visit your website even once.

None of those mean they're not engaged and active. None of those mean they won't renew their membership or tell their peers to join.

You can still build excitement and action with every member.

It just takes energy, a lot of effort, and some creativity. 

We're here to help.