Often times, when travelling, one can easily use 15 apps throughout the entire journey. From Google maps to airline-specific applications, Uber to get to and from the airport and throw in WhatsApp to keep in touch with colleagues. The customer journey related to travelling and the associated preparations is a long one, the number of touchpoints has increased and spans over multiple channels. However, we are the generation who plans, books and manages their travels online. Thus, how can (travel) companies better cater to this digitally connected generation, meet their evolving needs and simplify the customer journey?
The generation referred to above includes Millennials and Generation Z (combined they are known as Millzs). Men and women globally aged 7-35 years old. Millzs have high expectations when it comes to both marketing and travelling. However, gone are the days where you could simply sell a destination via pretty pictures. Travelling has become about experiences. Millzs don’t want to simply travel, they seek out new travel adventures which allow them to accomplish a goal or achieve something they have never done before. They are also used to a rapidly moving and changing world, that’s the new normal, and brands must adapt to cater to that.
Data within the booking process
There is nothing worse than seeing a travel ad for a hotel that caught your eye, clicking on it, reading the description, getting excited, and then checking your preferred dates just to realise the accommodation is not available anymore for the period you need it. Consumers only want to see the results that fit their needs to avoid stress and frustration. To make this possible, start utilising your available data. Combine internal data from your website traffic and campaigns in addition to external data to show the customer the best results and aid them in making the right decision.
Even when the consumer has narrowed down their destination choice to a region or a specific city, there is still the dilemma of “which accommodation is best for me?” In these situations, to relieve stress during the booking process, a company could display dynamic and personalised landing pages which fit that individual’s specific needs. For example, if a household has a dog, showing them only housing options that allow pets elevates the booking experience. It creates a positive association with your platform and increases the chance that those individuals will become return customers. Furthermore, you can apply a matching algorithm to determine similar accommodations which can then give the best recommendations to consumers.
To best implement the aforementioned ideals, you need data which will allow you to properly tackle these challenges and make the booking process fun. The easiest way to start is by building a modelling flow to create a forecast reservation feed that is continuously updating based on your flow of information. After all, demand forecasting is fundamental to ensure financial success and shows you an idea of the future environment your company will have to navigate. To create this feed, both internal and external data will be combined in addition to cold entry data such as known holidays and the weather forecast for example. In order to benefit from machine learning and predictive intelligence, it is important to aggregate data from all sources into a customer data platform or a centralised data lake. Accordingly, keep this model up to date by inputting inventory differences as well so it can continue to self-learn and evolve. Ultimately, you should have an updated feed that showcases when to expect more or less traffic.
This can be useful to ensure your platform can handle the increasing number of visitors but also to help maximise your Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) and don’t waste capital sponsoring specific accommodations or holiday packages that already have a high booking rate. Accommodations which already have a high booking rate don’t need additional advertising since those will naturally fill up. However, those with a lower than expected rate need extra marketing. Thus, data comes into play again. Combine internal data such as website behaviour and booking history of each option, alongside external data. Use this information to build a system which can predict whether each individual accommodation would require advertising based on future reservations and existing inventory. This will allow you to spend your advertising budget in a more conscious fashion whilst ensuring that all accommodations are seen, including hidden gems.
Whilst data collecting is crucial in this day and age, Apple is trying to guarantee the privacy of its users. Apple is rolling out ITP 2.1, which leaves many feeling a bit lost when it comes to gathering data. Cookies for first-party gatherers will now be deleted after seven days. However, there are still means to give consumers personalised offers. Travel brands should focus on first-party data. Understand who your customers are, where your leads are coming from and aggregate that data in a central place. Focus on data collection via your own assets such as email marketing, downloads and logins. By organising your analytics tools differently to receive pure data, you can still cater to the customer’s needs.
The fear of missing out
Did you know that it’s a myth that ticket prices increase if you look at them more than once? Prices do vary periodically but this is due to multiple factors. However, different providers can have a large price gap difference but it’s often not the same platform that is consistently cheaper. This leaves many consumers wondering if they have booked the best deal.
First off, as a brand it is important to realise that not everyone can be the cheapest, there can only be one winner in that category. Now, this business model can work for some companies but not all and the battle is often a bloody one. Because being the cheapest involves cutting costs which can lead to a turbulent customer journey. By diminishing costs this also means less money for CX and UX aspects, so a much lower flexibility threshold when it comes to tailoring a website. This will influence your response time related to changes in the market since the right tools and processes are not in place to quickly adapt. Ultimately this is a regressive cycle which will induce lower customer loyalty and return rate.
Now, the booking process is a lengthy one and often times, once the booking stage is complete, companies tend to forget about the following steps and just hope for the best.
However, the reality involves so much more than that. As a brand, there is so much you can still do post booking to stand out from your competitors and ease your customer's life. Start by mapping out the customer journey. This will allow you to see the reality in addition to all the potential opportunities. These can be little things, micro-moments, that inspire and inform consumers and ease their stress. For example, sending a city guide via email after booking with information about the local culture or telling them how they can get from the airport to their accommodation. Any little possibility can improve your platform and make you stand out.
Maybe, you spot many little opportunities and choose to improve everything immediately. Now, hold your horses. Most of us picture optimisation as adding elements, yet oftentimes that can lead to a cluttered booking process, involving many steps and fields to fill out. It’s a common problem: conversion optimisation vs. layout design dilemma. Sometimes the best optimisation can actually be about subtracting elements too. The customer has many choices to make during their journey, so make it simple for them.
Time for holidays
The time has come, you’re taking off, it’s happening. As an individual – travelling for either business or pleasure – this might be a long-awaited moment. But for many companies, this is the time to pull out all the stops to provide you with a memorable experience. To best cater to the new generation of travellers and their needs, there are two trends travel companies can keep in mind.
1) Make it Instagrammable
What used to be an app has become a visual lens through which we see the physical world. From food to street art, we all take photos of something cool that we spot or experience and often we choose to share these with the world. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, a Facebook study found that 67 percent of travel enthusiasts on Instagram use the platform to look for inspiration for new places to travel to. For example, the official tourism board for Iceland noticed that a lot of visitors become aware of Iceland as a tourist destination via social media and has become a “photographer’s paradise”. We crave picture worthy experiences. View a photo as a window into the experience you have to offer. It gives people a glimpse of all the exciting elements you or your destination have on hand. Thus, design Instagrammable branded content to make your destination the place to be.
2) It’s about smarter experiences
A good rule of thumb when creating an experience is to keep the silent traveller at the forefront of your mind. The silent traveller is a consumer who turns to their phone when seeking a solution to on-trip challenges instead of a customer service representative. However, small details that provide ease and simplicity can elevate someone’s simple journey into a memorable trip. That’s because you eliminated little hassles or reduced the planning needed for that person. Focus on offering digital services that consumers can access on their mobile phones throughout the trip to enhance their experience. Elevate a person’s experience by making it seamless and connecting all points within their journey to create seamless eco-systems. Yes, that can involve a lot of tech and data in your backend, but it’s worth it. As eight out of ten people are willing to pay more for additional comfort and a good experience. When you pay attention to the details and create a smooth experience, that will leave the consumer feeling understood, leaving them feeling like their vacation unfolded naturally. They are more likely to become repeat customers as they felt or developed a connection with your brand.
Uniting all aspects
Data is the new currency which unites all aspects of the customer journey. From enhancing the booking process and your ROAS to optimising in-trip experiences. Use your available data to cater to the needs of the Millzs whilst simplifying the customer journey process in a situation that often involves many steps. Since most of us love to travel, let’s use data to make our lives easier.