With the proliferation of products, consumers need help understanding product availability and relevance to their travel interests and expectations. We cannot expect travellers to search and find products, instead we need to be helping them to identify the most relevant travel options.
Your website may have 10,000 unique users a month or 10 million, but regardless of the number, they’re all unique. In Google’s consumer travel report 57% of tourists believe that brands should personalise their shopping experience based on their personal preferences, behaviors, and past choices, with 36% likely to pay more.
Sabre’s personalisation report also shows that 83% of customers expect relevant information and recommended products based on their personal preferences with 73% of respondents who like to buy from brands that personalise the shopping experience. And Travel Technology Europe’s 2020 study found that AI-powered recommendations are a key trend (47%) to achieving this.
It’s important today that marketers are clear on their definition and approach to consumer ‘targeting’ versus ‘customisation’ versus ‘personalisation’. The new wave of personalisation is about responding to customers’ immediate needs and preferences, in the same way a travel agent delivers a face-to-face personalised service with little or no knowledge of the customer – travel platforms need to use its consumer behaviour data coupled with AI to respond to the customer journey in a similar and familiar manner.
Driving confidence to book
First it is important to distinguish between users and their intent: your website visitors will have a myriad of reasons for why they are visiting your site, and you cannot assume they are there to book. You need to optimise your marketing messages that connect with your user real-time sentiment:
- Are they visiting for cancellation or rebooking,
- Are they looking for holiday alternatives,
- Are they seeking inspiration, or
- Are they looking to make a trip?
It’s important to understand and address these different needs effectively and immediately from the very first interaction on your sales platform. By showing you understand your customers’ needs helps to encourage confidence and reduce hesitation.
The right message and product
Successful travel selling will involve telling stories and tailoring those stories to the individual. Not everyone seeks the same information. Some users are more driven by prices, some by visuals, some by descriptions, some by features, other by reviews.
Therefore the ideal user experience should be tailored to the user’s informational needs and provide clear calls to action. This can be achieved by adapting layouts, ranking images and reviews, speaking more directly to the user through personalised promotions, and guiding them better through the website.
Personalising the buyer journey
Many users will not come to book immediately. Rather they will look for inspiration to book a few weeks or months down the road, as the global situation improves. This leaves a wide gap between the user interaction today and the potential conversion later, during which users might discover competition, find better prices, or simply forget about your offerings.
Therefore it’s important to stay in touch with the user and to re-capture them at the right time, through means such as e-mail, app pushes, retargeting, or price alerts, amongst others. The right timing and the right messages are again areas where automation and AI can produce big performance improvements and cost reductions. The same applies to reactivating customers, with the right offer, based on past preferences and new trends, in order to ignite their interest and produce new business.
Use your live user data intuitively by pushing automated personalized messages and promotions, including vouchers and discounts to price-sensitive users – based on revenue potential and customer lifetime-values.
Mitigate hesitancy with personalised call centres
Travel cancellations have caused a lot of concern for travellers, who are now looking for greater security in their bookings and guarantees for travel. While this cannot be fully mitigated, you can prepare your teams to better handle customer hesitancy with higher-levels of personalised service.
Increasing customer calls to call centres allows you to take advantage of user search data so your call centre team can understand callers concerns to alleviate hesitations to build confidence in booking. bd4callcenter provides your reservation teams with insightful user search data to enable them to guide customers to the most appropriate product to further enhance the customer experience.
Experimentation in an uncertain environment
Since we know very little about current consumer buying behaviour and travel expectations, now more than ever we need to experiment with our marketing and product offerings. We need to create highly targeted campaigns by setting filters to steer specific products, as well as applying rules to the display of destinations, suppliers or product sets – based on our users individual intent.
Ecommerce and marketing managers need to have better visibility on the performance of promotions and specific market segments. We need to set specific goals for each campaign, whether it is based on conversion, engagement or booking volume and set measurements. As well as run experiments to optimise performance of visitor engagement and conversion, including A/B testing.
By matching user intent to our product portfolio, we can define audiences to target specific segments among our users with dedicated products or campaigns, as well as combine filters like intended booking revenue, travel criteria or travel types and immediately see the predicted size of this audience.
Why address all customers with the same message
The travel industry has based sales on the seasonal travel patterns that have existed for decades, relying heavily on historical data to guide marketing campaigns and messages. We have focused on audience groups and broad segments without taking into account personal circumstances.
While the uncertainty we are experiencing today is unlikely to be permanent, the next few years will require us to respond more dynamically to market changes and to interact with customers based on their personal travel requirements – rather than standardised offerings. More importantly, the market will be different than before – and this does mean adopting different marketing and consumer engagement practices.
Now is the time to connect with our audience using responsive and intelligent personalisation to improve the customer experience, drive conversion and steer products for commercial viability.