The impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown has changed the way we interact with consumers and their expectations in travel as the market reopens hesitantly. Now brands need to directly connect with their audience with the right understanding and empathy.
Art of listening
Never has listening been so important. At a time where historical data has become instantly obsolete for planning purposes, we cannot expect to rely on the traditional seasonal patterns of booking behaviour—especially in travel. Covid-19 and the lockdown has turned the industry on its head forcing us to approach the market with an entirely new mentality.
However, due to the levels of uncertainty, markets are still trying to understand how consumers are approaching their purchases and how to respond accordingly. As with any business, first, we need to understand our customers in order to present the most relevant and captivating offers.
Without insight into current and live consumer activity, we are blindly marketing products. It’s essential to know which products are driving consumer interest. This will enable travel businesses to market and present offers that match consumer sentiment to encourage conversion.
Being relevant in today’s digitally savvy marketplace requires a deeper understanding than traditional segmentation allows. With 91% of consumers preferring personalised offers and 74% willing to actively share their data, speaking directly to individual users with tailored messaging must be the pillar your ecommerce strategy is built upon.
In a progressively competitive market, travel sales suffer from increased marketing spend and low conversion rates. Without knowing what users are specifically looking for, it becomes increasingly difficult to relate to visitors in a personal way, particularly in real-time.
Travel sales platforms need to become more dynamic and responsive while presenting the most relevant offers and best user experience for growth.
Capture rich data from real-time activity
Your users’ onsite and in-app actions provide the insight you need to respond in real-time. We advise you to capture a rich set of tracking data and use machine learning to detect patterns in online shopping and booking behavior. Instead of only analyzing past bookings and CRM-based user profiles, we would like to emphasize the rich process leading up to bookings. This allows you to effectively look into the future and identify new trends in real time as they emerge.
Reacting to intent
Live user data has never been so paramount in providing an enhanced user experience to ensure your business reacts quickly to market trends and fragmented consumer intent. Therefore it is important to distinguish between users and their intent.
Travellers will for some time have a mix of reasons to be visiting your travel platform, in the last few months visitors have been looking at cancellation and rebooking options, others have been looking for alternatives to their already planned trips, others are desperately seeking immediate getaways when travel reopens, and many are looking for inspiration for future travels and booking for 2021.
The more you understand their personal intent and address their different needs effectively, the better the relationships you can form with your visitors.
Responding to Covid-19
Consumer trends are inevitably changing, at least in the short-to-medium-term with the industry not expected to return to pre-Covid-19 sales activity levels for at least two to three years. Different user segments will pick travel back up at different times, with different budgets and changing priorities.
Covid-19 has shaken the travel market to such an extent that even product portfolios could be defunct. The popular destinations from yesterday may no longer be sought after anymore as consumers put hygiene standards and risk at the forefront of travel buying. Furthermore—the portfolio you thought you had may no longer exist as popular destinations try to manage with social distancing measures and travel businesses struggle to keep afloat.
Using live data intelligently
Ecommerce and marketing managers need the right level of live data to define the product offering to such a fragmented market. To stay ahead of the competition, travel companies must understand quickly and execute fast. The current crisis will in many cases also require a workforce reduction which traditionally makes this challenge even harder.
With great advances in analytics and AI over the past years, many of these tasks can now be executed automatically and immediately, reducing both costs and time-to-market. The ideal strategies will ultimately be driven by the data itself, therefore it’s essential to be reviewing the following metrics:
- What actions users are currently taking on the Website, in real-time
- Which product (destinations, hotels, travel types, price ranges, hotel features, etc.) is capturing visitor interest
- How are users split—segments and intent groups (lookers, planners, bookers, etc.)
- How search behaviour is affected by price
At this time, it is crucial to re-evaluate spending habits, price elasticity, and the safety, security and guarantees of travel, and the type of product and ancillary products that are driving interest.
Live user profiles
Presenting offers which speak directly to your website visitors requires a deeper and immediate level of data processing. It’s thus important to track and understand unknown or anonymous users from their first visit—whether they’re an early-planning Looker, an advanced Planner, a Booker, or an existing and previous Customer.
Setting up live user profiles will allow you to track the essential and relevant user and product data from your sales channels, eventually help your website work smarter and faster from the very first interaction.
Even the best offers need to be found by the buyer. For travel companies to retain and grow market share, it is essential that marketing efforts are maintained. Effectiveness is key. It is easy to overpay on the wrong campaigns, to target the wrong audiences, and present customers with the wrong offers.
Here automation should take the lead in learning and adapting quickly, by automatically creating campaigns based on live data and predicted customer intent, while analysing performance intelligently, steering budgets, and experimenting with creatives.
Over the coming months, conventional conversion-based KPIs will not deliver the results as quickly as we have seen in the past, requiring businesses to take a long-term strategic approach to analytics and market activity.
Delivering on expectations
Due to the changing nature of online sales and booking experience, customers expect a higher level of service and instant relevance. Marketing and ecommerce teams need to boost high-performing or high-revenue generating products and destinations—and constantly becoming more responsive to supply and demand while more dynamic with product promotions.
Live user intent data will enable travel businesses to be more responsive, create product sets for specific profile types and optimise results through iterations.