"How can you reward loyal Gencon "customers"? How can you even determine that? You can't go by how many years they have attended, that isn't fair. What if they didn;t have the money to do so till recently in life? Or not old enough till now? What if they used to come but only recently have been able to do so again? What is the cut-off for "loyal" 3 years straight? 5? 10? It is something that can't be done and would only cause problems for EVERYONE."
Just my opinion but you are over-thinking it. It is really easy to reward loyal customers and, sorry to note and as is demonstrated by the current housing lottery, life isn't fair. Just pick a set of parameters, publish them and stick to them. You either meet the criteria or you don't. It's really simple.
I have had the same Gencon account on-line since this became an option. It's easy to see how many years I have attended. Same for anyone else. Not sure why you would think this is difficult. Set a criteria "If you have attended Gencon "X" number of times you get "Y" benefit", period, end of story. Perhaps if you have attended Gencon 10 times you get priority housing, something similar. Why is this a good idea? If I have already attened Gencon 10 times the chance I am coming back for Gencon 11 is really high unless something happens to drive me away and you want to retain your repeat customer. If it's my first time who knows (although I guarentee you this is a stat that is reviewed) if I am coming back.
As for VIG space, I am not necessarly talking about the entire, formal VIG program. Create a sub-VIG program, call it VIH-Very Important Housing. Person can opt in and pay some dollar amount, say $100 or $200 dollars. For that amount they get early bird access to housing. If you get 100 people who opt in for $1000 dollars that's a free $100,000 in revenue. Heck, if Gencon feels generous they could use that money to help fund a shuttle service.
The criticism on what's valid critera for "loyalty" is entirely valid. Obviously you want that criteria to include you. What if thousands of people are more loyal then you, and you don't meet the cutoff yourself? I haven't even been alive for as long as Gen Con's been around, but that doesn't mean I don't intend to go every year I can.Besides, why does anyone have any incentive to reward the loyal? If you came 10 times with the housing being a mess, you're probably going to come 11 times without a housing benefit.
Different people can reasonably disagree about what is the best measure of GenCon attendee loyalty, but it's absurd to think GenCon can't come up with a loyalty program that suits its interests.
Just about every airline, hotel chain, rental car company, and most sandwich shops, have a loyalty rewards program.
There is usually some simple proxy for loyalty, such as miles flown, night stayed, days of car rental, or sandwiches purchased.
The key thing that a loyalty program does, is incent customer behavior that the vendor wants. It's not trying to measure the Platonic ideal of "loyalty to the vendor" - it's trying to reward customers who do what the vendor wants customers to do. For example, many airlines will grant more loyalty points for buying more expensive fares.
Are people who buy first class tickets more loyal in their heart than others? Who can say.
Are they more desired customers by the airline? Yes.
GenCon already has a loyalty program, in fact, a very simple one. It's called VIG. "Loyalty" status is determined by who wants to give GenCon a few hundred dollars.
I can really get behind the idea of GenCon implementing a broader loyalty program, in line with most other service businesses.
Loyalty status could be very easily determined, say spend on badges and event tickets over the last 3 years. Loyalty rewards could again be very simple: priority hotel registration would probably do it. Priority event registration to a limited number of events might be nice as well. Random giveaways like a premium badge holder, pin, etc. might be nice.
I can already hear the shouts of "That's not fair! What if I couldn't go to GenCon last year due to family emergency? What if I don't spend as much as another person, but I am loyal in other ways (like getting a big group to come)!"
At this point we should reconsider the purpose of a loyalty program: To incent desired customer behavior. We don't have to divine who is pure of heart with regard to GenCon loyalty, it's beside the point.
Clearly GenCon wants its customers to spend money on badges and event tickets, as these are two of their sources of revenue.
Perhaps GenCon could incent this behavior, and simultaneously reward customers who have been doing what GenCon wants its customers to do.
In either case, determining "loyalty" for the purposes of a rewards program is trivial for the vendor - they just have to incent the behavior they want.