Customer Experience


The Travel Battle Rages On: May the Most Relevant Brand Win

The travel industry will see a 41 percent increase by 2016, making it a US$143 billion industry, Forrester has predicted. With that much revenue on the line, booking sites are taking significant steps to ensure that they get their piece of the traveler pie. Brands no longer can offer experiences that are irrelevant to the end-user.

For example, a business traveler getting ads about a family cruise that includes animated characters and mouse ears most likely will turn elsewhere. In short, travel has become a user-centric industry, and the brand that serves up the most relevant content wins.

Whether someone is looking to escape the Polar Vortex or find the best deal on a business class seat, technology is the primary driver changing the travel experience, and users are reaping the benefits. Since every traveler’s intention is different, brands are investing in and deploying technology that provides a more contextual, personal experience than ever before.

Follow the Leaders

What are good travel brands doing to change the travel site experience and push those travelers not only to make a purchase, but also to become loyal, repeat customers?

Here are the top four things good travel brands do to get travelers on that next flight out:

  1. Past Interactions – They consider the traveler’s past interactions with the brand as well as current behavior, and make recommendations based on a combination of both factors. A relevant experience engages travelers because the site has a conceptual view of the traveler’s tendencies, not just a tiny sliver of information.

    Past interactions are often summarized using customer lifetime value (CLV) metrics. However, integrating digital profiles with CRM and offline data provides a richer set of information to use for meaningful segmentation to complement CLV.

  2. Customer Journey – They understand a customer’s journey across all channels. It isn’t just about the desktop — it’s about every touchpoint from mobile to tablet. It’s also about the combination of historical data with information on what the traveler is doing at that very moment. All of this paints the most complete picture of the traveler.

    Data collection is key to understanding the customer journey. Whether through use of cookies, logins, or some other unique identifier, good travel sites have a strategy to track visitors across channels. While first-party data collection provides the most accurate picture of the customer journey, enrichment with third-party data can provide valuable insight for use in segmentation.

  3. Optimize Everything – Whether it’s delivering the right ad to drive a traveler to a site, sending that subtle reminder email with the right content, or simply fixing the pesky glitch that prevents a traveler from booking, a good travel site is always optimizing to give travelers what they need.

    Optimizing everything, everywhere requires a strategy that reaches travelers where they are. It is not enough to use on-site technologies such as cookies and Javascript to recognize and engage visitors on sites. Support for programmable action via REST APIs enables optimization within mobile apps and devices, while the ability to optimize content via simple URLs extends recognition and optimization of content through affiliate networks, ad networks and partner sites.

  4. Take Action – Good travel brands take action when it matters the most. Every traveler is different; it’s important to look at people on an individual level and in real-time. If someone who usually travels for work is now looking at adventure trips in Australia, the content in the remarketing email reflects that visit.

    Good action systems leverage past interactions as well as current behavior to engage travelers in their current context. This enables brands to make decisions on content delivery based on such things as geolocation, search terms, device type, and simple recognition of new or returning visitors.

The Right Tech

In order to stay competitive and relevant when revenue stakes are high, good travel sites are taking a consumer-centric approach that is, for the first time, truly providing travelers with the information they want, when they want it.

Brands are using every competitive advantage to prevent consumers from booking elsewhere. Never before have travelers benefited so greatly from technology.

As the travel industry continues to grow and brands clamor for dollars, they must use the right technology to provide the most relevant experience for their travelers — or risk losing the battle for traveler loyalty.

Michael Wilson is the senior director of product strategy at Webtrends.

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