Imagine you enter a barista, the server knows you and gives you a perfectly brewed cup of coffee that you love. It’ll be a day-made moment, right? This is, basically, an oversimplified version of the way personalization experience impacts a person. And no one understands this better than the travel industry.
Travel businesses have always been one of the early adopters of digital transformation trends – personalization being one. It is also quoted as one of the reasons for the huge success of many travel businesses in recent times. Being early adopters also puts travel businesses in an enviable space wherein they can iterate their personalization game and move beyond the conceptual level implementation.
Moreover, the overall evolution of the travel and hospitality industry requires personalization v2.0. Customers, these days, seek more from travel businesses. Hotels are no longer merely accommodation providers; they got to be experience providers. Airlines and trains are no longer merely expected to be transport services; they need to be entertainment and information providers.
Customers expect hotels and transport services to suggest unique activities, offers, and nearby attractions tuned to their interests and location. Creating tailored opportunities to immerse in the local culture is the key.
According to a study by Epsilon, 87% of consumers are more likely to do business with travel brands offering personalized experiences. Interestingly, the study also revealed that only 64% of consumers are satisfied with the personalized experiences currently offered by travel brands.
The objective of travel businesses has evolved from merely providing comfortable accommodation/transport to delivering a highly customized travel experience on every single trip.
To execute this is as well not an easy feat. It requires building a strong mechanism from top to bottom to deal with huge amounts of data and equally varied offerings. As a first step, travel marketers need to break away from targeting blanket segments to a more precise approach. There’s also a need to effectively use data in a way you can reach out to the customer with the right offering at the right time.
This blog post will take you through how some travel brands are doing it right. You can use these examples as an inspiration to amp up your personalization strategy.
If there’s one travel brand who has completely nailed personalization at all fronts so far, it has to be Airbnb. Airbnb has done a great job of decoding the intent and preferences of its users on the website. Airbnb’s marketplace has more than 6 million listings, each one diverse in its own way. On top of it, they got an equally diverse set of users with varying travel budgets, styles, and goals. But when you search for a property on the website, it shows you all the right things. It personalizes all search results on the basis of user preferences, pricing, and availability. How do they do it? The answer is some really amazing talent working for them, strong architecture and great use of technology.
The interesting thing about their personalization approach is it is two-sided. It is empathetic to both its customers and hosts and balances the concerns of both parties pretty well. For hosts, it takes into account that some of them make living out of it and others use it as a supplemental income. It has built a system that allows hosts to set minimum and maximum pricing, allowing them to get a fair deal every time. For users, it takes into account seasonality trends, local events, and travel history and makes the best recommendations in terms of price and facilities.
This effort shows quite visibly in their other email marketing as well. The strength of their email marketing lies in their consistency around beautiful visuals that tell stories, intent to help customers, and subtle selling.
Other than getting the time and content right for their audience, they have mastered the art of practicing empathy along with personalization – wherein the customer feels they’re being helped out first. And this is communicated in every channel of their business.
KLM is the oldest airline in the world still in operation (That’s a wow!). The company is turning 100 this year in October. It’s a great achievement on their part and positions them strongly in the industry which is under immense pressure ever since 2008. Honestly, the airline industry is not an easy space to be in. The competition is extremely stiff in terms of pricing and service. This is coupled with operational challenges that make survival all the more difficult.
With the aggressive competition from low-cost airlines like easyJet and Ryanair, KLM’s challenges were increasing in the past few years. To deal with this, KLM focused on the pain-points of its customers and on making air travel stress-free. This has been their core intent of personalization on every digital marketing channel, consistently. For example, they send personalized cart abandonment emails to allow users to pick up from where they left. Second, instead of bombarding users with information on every channel they allow users to choose the channel they want to use for communication. Third, the messaging is triggered on the basis of certain actions and user behavior and relies largely on data collected from one unified view of the customer journey.
Moreover, they value the human touch a lot in marketing. And it shows in their killer content strategy. Some of the fine examples of their content are – iFly magazine (an interactive magazine for travel inspiration) and their much popular YouTube video series on Bluey’s Big Adventures (a fun way to engage with kids). Another interesting example is the implementation of smart assistant – BB (a short name for Blue Bot). From flight booking to packing – it holds the user’s hand throughout the journey (quite literally!). Check the video below to see how it functions. Impressive – that’s the word for it.
Suggested Read: How GoAir achieved an 8X increase in ROI by implementing a unified view of the customer journey
The hotel industry is based on high-touch culture. A steward engaging the customer in a lively customer about their interests or surprising them (in a pleasing way) is considered as a great experience. Considering this, apathy towards personalization is something unforgiving for them. It’s a must!
Virgin Hotels not only understands this but also improved upon the idea. Other than the in-hotel experience, Virgin Hotels uses technology to delight its customers with personalization throughout their stay. How they do this? The answer – by getting to know their customers. The company launched a program called – The Know. It’s available both on their website and app.
By filling in a questionnaire form, users can tell the hotel about their allergies, dietary and travel preferences, make special arrangements for kids or pets, choose the contents in the mini-fridge, select the drink on arrival, and many more such things. The hotel would, in turn, provide them with relevant services and recommendations. This kind of personalization builds a 1:1 connection with the user. And Virgin Hotels has got its systems in place for it.
- Define your objective: Personalization can be used in multiple ways from driving revenue and sales to delighting customers. As a first step towards your personalization journey, reflect on the needs of the business and move accordingly.
- Build on a strong foundation: Before setting out to implement your personalization ideas, be sure to think about the scale you want to operate on. Taking into account the company roadmap would help you identify the kind of architecture you need to collect, store, and access your data.
- A unified view of customer journey: Disjointed data is very tough to stitch together for meaningful use. Instead of struggling with the scattered information, implement technology which helps you collate data from all sources and provides a single view of the user journey. It is easy to understand behavioral data and map user journey this way.
- Human touch: Brands that personalize technology with human touch are sure to score marketing wins. The human touch will always remain relevant for the personalized experience.
- Never assume user personas: Let the user tell you what they want, and what they are looking for when they interact with you. Use data science and algorithms to arrive at meaningful insights.
With the power of technology and the right marketing tools, it can become easy to make sense of the mountain of data available in the travel industry. And by being able to translate the data, you can understand your customers better and provide them with meaningful outreach. We hope these takeaways help you take the next steps in your personalization strategy. If you have more such interesting ideas, do share them in the comments section. To learn more about how Smartech can play a role in your personalisation journey, get in touch with us today!