For many vacationers, the ideal destination is anywhere that offers an opportunity to “get away from it all,” code for escaping the daily drumbeat of emails, meetings, calls, and being tethered to a device. The irony is that using digital channels is increasingly becoming the preferred method of planning a getaway vacation.
In a recent Dynata survey on consumer travel preferences, 42% of respondents indicated that they use a travel brand’s mobile app to book or receive notifications about travel, and 39% consult travel websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor before making plans. In addition, roughly a quarter of survey respondents said they expect digital conveniences when traveling, including check-in/check-out processes (28%). An almost equal number (27%) expressed interest in all-digital experiences during air travel (bag check, boarding pass, flight monitoring, etc.).
The survey also found that 77% of respondents are planning getaways this year. A nationwide travel itch after years of restrictions presents an opportunity for travel and hospitality brands to meet consumer expectations for seamless, digital-first experiences that demonstrate an understanding of an individual consumer’s behaviors and preferences.
A Personalized Experience and a Single Customer View
Just as a retail consumer is turned off by offers for products that don’t interest them, or that they’ve already purchased, travelers have favored activities, styles and travel patterns and have no patience for irrelevant offers or travel deals.
For travel brands to ensure that they’re meeting a customer or prospect with the right message at the right time that is relevant to the customer’s current situation, they must know everything there is to know about the customer. This includes, at a minimum, a consumer’s travel history but also must incorporate all known identifiers, devices, social media footprint, online activity, preferences, response data, and hundreds of attributes tied either directly or indirectly to a specific consumer.
When this single customer view or golden record that includes customer data from every source is updated and accessible in real time, a travel brand is empowered to move with the customer throughout a customer journey. A golden record prepares travel brands for every possibility and every variable.
Householding, for instance, illustrates the importance of a single customer view. Perhaps a device that a travel brand associates with a 50-year-old woman is being used by the woman’s college-age son to research national parks for a cross-country trip with friends where they plan to camp out under the stars. A brand then emails the mother with an offer for a hotel package at several national parks. The mother, though, dislikes hiking and instead has a burning desire to museum-hop in Europe. That’s a missed opportunity for any brand that limits a customer profile to a device or even to just a few attributes that may not be relevant to a consumer’s current situation.
Knowing everything there is to know about a customer includes from the obvious to the more obscure. Channel and frequency preferences, certainly, but also details such as when the customer redeems frequent flier miles, how often she travels for business vs. pleasure, how soon in advance she books travel, how extensive she researches flights or hotels, etc. All this information would, for example, be pertinent for a call center agent during an interaction with a customer. With a persistently updated golden record accessible in real time, an agent will be poised to offer a next-best action hyper-relevant to the consumer’s situation. The alternative is the all-too familiar exercise in frustration, where a customer has to provide information she has likely already provided – maybe to a chatbot, on a survey, a form, etc. Or she has to ask the same questions about, say, availability for her preferred travel dates, duplicating online research from a recent session.
Real-Time Decisioning and Personalization at Scale
In the above example, a call center agent is illustrative of what needs to happen on every channel, during every engagement with the customer – physical or digital. From the customer’s perspective, what’s most important is that an experience is seamless across the full spectrum of channels.
A real-time orchestration of an omnichannel experience that bases real-time decisions on a golden record will present a next-best action for a customer that is optimized not only for the channel of engagement, but for the individual customer journey. A real-time decisioning engine offers travel brands a single point of operational control to orchestrate omnichannel experiences at scale.
The resulting hyper-personalized experiences reflect a deep, personal understanding of each traveler as an individual. It’s like having a virtual traveling companion at your side with an uncanny knack for knowing what type of menu you’re hungry for, when you want to lounge by the pool, and when you want to go explore town. Customers respond favorably to brands that offer such an understanding. In one Epsilon study, 87% of consumers surveyed said they are more likely to shop with travel brands that succeed at personalizing their apps and websites. Fewer (64%) reported that travel brands deliver personalization well, leaving a largely untapped opportunity for brands that recognize the importance of providing a personalized, omnichannel experience.