‘Bleisure’ is Travel’s Next Frontier

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For those not familiar with the term “bleisure,” don’t fret. Chances are, if you travel for business, you’ve already done it and didn’t even realize you were. Bleisure travel gives the wary road warrior a chance to kick up their feet, post an Instagram in front of that amazing veranda or pool, and show the world they don’t just mean business.

Verndale recently surveyed over 300 business travelers in the United States and shed some light on the bleisure trend that is being hyped as a huge opportunity for travel and tourism brands to engage travelers and amplify revenue. Not surprisingly, the customer experience (CX) plays a large part in bleisure as it relates to loyalty programs, travel frequency, and the role of mobile travel applications. Within the data, we discovered three key themes that articulate the CX challenges and opportunities within the travel industry.

#1: Selecting The Right CX Partners
Though CX is immensely important in every industry, it is perhaps most critical in travel and tourism, where every touch point can be experience-defining. 94 percent of respondents believe improvements in the customer journey will lead to increased revenue, and 97 percent believe they will fall behind their competitors if they don’t improve their CX offering. Furthermore, three out of four respondents strongly agree that CX personalization is crucial to delivering positive commerce experiences.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 70 percent of travel marketers report that they engage one or more external partners to help with the CX. What is a surprise though is that almost 50 percent have little to no confidence in that partner, and only 8 percent have complete confidence.

This discrepancy reflects a disconnect between what organizations from the travel and tourism industry need to win with CX, and the void in the market of true end-to-end CX partners.

#2. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
100 percent of travel and tourism marketers believe that artificial intelligence (AI) and/or machine learning would enable their organization to provide a better CX and drive tangible business benefits. They were more likely than any other sector to predict that machine learning could assist with provision of real-time data analysis and optimization (63%) and build more accurate pricing models/strategies (57%). And 100 percent of respondents from this industry agreed that AI or machine learning will be a huge help in optimizing complex commerce challenges.

But only 37 percent report that AI and machine learning are helping their business today.

Put another way, 63 percent of the market knows how critical an investment in AI and machine learning capabilities are from a personalization and CX standpoint, but are not using those technologies today to compete in a customer-centric economy.

#3. The Operational Challenges
When questioned about the biggest challenges facing their organization in terms of the CX, respondents point to operational challenges more often than technical or strategic ones.

Leading challenges captured in the survey, both in terms of frequency and priority include:

• Siloed approach to managing the CX
• Operationalizing the CX
• Having no true owner or champion for CX

In fact, only 31 percent of respondents believe that ownership of the CX even sits within the correct department within their organization.

Ensuring continuity of the CX across teams and departments that align with distinct stages of the customer journey is a must, but companies also need to consolidate ownership of CX under one department that is tasked with overall strategy, breaking down siloes, driving operational efficiency, and optimizing every interaction with the customer.

With 100 percent of respondents stating that the CX is very or crucially important to their organization’s strategic priorities, solving for operational challenges should be a top priority moving forward.

Next Steps?
In order to create a full line of sight across every touch point of the customer journey within the travel and tourism industry, marketers must align with external CX partners and amp up their use of technology. Advanced technologies enable personalization at scale, and allow organizations to get smarter about, and more relevant to their customers with every interaction.

Investing in marketing technologies with established CMS and CRM ecosystems, and built in AI and machine learning functionality, will enable organizations to better compete and win in 2018 and beyond.

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