January 3, 2019
From ramped up social media strategies to a Millenial and Gen Z takeover, this past year has been an interesting one for the travel industry. Whether booking a personal trip or planning out corporate travel, there is no doubt that personalization has become a must for customers.
The upcoming new year will magnify existing trends and incorporate new ones, so it’s time to take a look at how you could be revamping your travel personalization strategy. Let’s delve into what this year showed us, what next year will bring, and how you can create your best travel personalization plan yet.
We saw a large lift in customers’ desire for travel personalization over the course of 2018. According to Think with Google, 57 percent of customers felt that brands should be tailoring their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors exhibited. Additionally, 36 percent of customers say they would be willing to pay more for a brand’s services if the brand tailored their information and the trip experience overall.
So, the need for travel personalization was well established, but what else shifted in 2018? For one, destinations changed. People are traveling far and wide for their dream vacations now. Whereas bucket list trips used to stay on paper, customers are now making larger efforts to turn them into a reality. Trips to places such as Dubai or Thailand are now becoming just as commonplace as a domestic trip to sunny Florida.
Plus, we can’t forget the leaps and bounds made in corporate travel. At the beginning of 2018, business travel was a 1.2 trillion dollar market. With the world economy becoming more integrated, that number is expected to rise to 1.6 trillion by 2020. At the start of the year, consumers had begun to look beyond the outdated travel services corporations often had through options such as self booking (without using their own credit card), mobile booking, and alternative lodging (such as Airbnb).
This growth and change in trends present opportunities for organizations ready to take advantage. Companies tend to stick to one brand if they can—often through partnerships—so that everyone can capitalize on loyalty rewards benefits. However, consumers are now also demanding a personalized experience, similar to what they expect when booking leisure travel. By combining a personalized experience with rewards for frequent fliers necessary business trips, can turn a guest into a loyal customer. Not only is this helpful for customers, but this has created a wide open opportunity for brands to personalize the travel experience for customers they know best.
As we head into the new year, your brand should start to get a feel for where the trends are heading. Let’s take a look at what you can be sure to see in 2019.
One of the most obvious trends to watch would be the uptake in mobile device usage. Another report conducted by Google and PhocusWright found that 48 percent of U.S. smartphone users are comfortable researching, booking, and planning their entire vacation to a new destination using only their mobile device. While nearly half of smartphone users seems substantial enough, you can expect that number to grow over the course of the year.
Brands must take note of the growing number of customers who always use their mobile devices when traveling, which has leaped from 41 percent of users in 2015 to 70 percent this year. Travelers want their phones by their side for everything from directions and restaurant reviews to nearby attractions and local transportation. This is a crucial opportunity for you to provide more convenience to customers by connecting with them on their mobile devices.
Incorporating a 24/7 concierge texting service, streamlining your checkout process, or providing transportation options on your brand’s app will all be appreciated. These are just a few of the things that brands have begun to incorporate into their strategies, but try to think two steps ahead of the game. Building an app that could help keep clear and open communication between guests and concierges would be an absolute game changer as the number of mobile users continues to grow.
Customers have also become much more comfortable with digital assistants, so look out for a surge in chatbots. Consumers may be using digital assistants for travel recommendations to book trips, for questions about their upcoming trip, and more.
As reported in TechRadar, a survey from Booking.com found that 80 percent of customers prefer to self-serve to acquire the information they need. In fact, their survey also states that a third of global travelers claim they’d be comfortable with a computer planning a vacation for them based on their previous travel history. This very fact means that brands need to be taking the proper steps to incorporate artificial intelligence into their strategy, starting with a digital assistant.
Chatbots are actually a great way to collect information about a customer—such as the dates they’re looking to book, the mode of transportation they will be taking, or the number of guests they’re traveling with—to be used to tailor their experience. Companies can then take this information and use it to auto-fill forms or send alerts when rates for those times have dropped. Anything to show that you are listening to your customer and taking their needs into account.
Make sure your digital assistant is top-notch, however, so that you won’t frustrate customers that are not as comfortable dealing with a computer instead of a real person. Millennials may be dominating your business, but it is important to remember those who aren’t, as well.
Another trend to watch? Last-minute bookings. Brand loyalty is down for personal travel. Nowadays, customers tend to book last minute and look for the best price to do so. Trekksoft notes that a mere 19 percent of bookings are made more than a month in advance, with 53 percent being made within a week and of the trip date and 38 percent made on the same day or two days prior. These numbers are expected to increase in 2019, so place this towards the top of the list of to-dos when revamping your plan. In fact, 60 percent of Americans agree that they will consider booking a trip impulsively if they see a good deal.
Focus in on those impulse trips. Your brand can capitalize on impulse vacations by providing discounts or special assistance for those who buy last minute. Whereas flash sales never used to be associated with trips, a good deal sent to the right customer could lead to a booked trip in an instant (especially during the holidays, so definitely consider tailoring deals to the season).
Corporate travel also lends itself to plenty of last-minute bookings, which puts brands in a great position to build brand loyalty. Establish a relationship early on in customers’ careers so that they will keep coming back to you for the in-flight and hotel benefits and the excellent service. Determine your in and go for it.
Millennials want to buy an experience more than they want a tangible item, and they’re going to find the time and resources for it where they can. This means that off-peak times are going to gain major appeal. Corporate travel will also likely continue to take advantage of off-peak times to plan client visits, company outings, and more so ensure you keep this in mind.
Less well-tread locations will also continue to head to the top of travel lists. If applicable, it is a good idea to advertise how expansive your brand can be. Temporarily slash prices to one of these locations to bring in revenue and boost customer loyalty. Or, if you notice a location gaining popularity in the corporate travel sector, offer a personalized group discount to companies. Making moves like this will make you stand out from the rest, increase brand awareness, and provide you with a huge opportunity to create a tailored trip overall for these customers.
Once again, it’s all about knowing your demographics. Understand who your customers are and when they are going to make a purchase. While the younger crowd is much more likely to make a last-minute booking, older generations will fall in that 19 percent of those who wait to plan a trip (and there are benefits to targeting this demographic, as they are a more brand loyalty-focused crowd, so continue to build your relationship with them).
So, build out your strategies for both types of buyers. Look for your weak spots—whether it be on mobile, desktop, or otherwise—and see where you can create a more personalized experience. Travel personalization is all about finding what will a) attract new customers and b) improve the connections you have with existing ones.