December 13, 2017, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
The travel industry has experienced a massive shift in technology, especially from the consumer end. The internet provides an almost infinite number of resources, and that makes it much harder to capture and engage with travelers.
For years, many brands have kept their focus solely on the booking phase of travel planning, mainly because that is when the actual transaction occurs. However, travelers have become far more savvy and sophisticated in that regard, so there needs to be another element to capture interest.
But Why Do I Need To Do This?
Simply put, because digital is coming for you, and it is coming fast. The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence, mobile deployment and big data have all simultaneously changed the customer experience when it comes to travel. There is now a greater need for seamlessness throughout the journey and providing tailored service at each step to reduce pain points.
Smartphones are bringing this revolution on, with more users embracing technology to make traveling less complicated. Skift reports that 51% of leisure travelers and 57% of business travelers now lean towards researching and booking all their traveling arrangements on their smartphones, and that number will continue to grow as mobile technology becomes more ubiquitous.
So What's The Solution?
The best way to achieve successful results is to pinpoint exactly what technology you need to engage travelers early on using digital experiences and at every stage of the travel lifecycle (rather than just one segment). Instead of seeing it as separate pieces, examine the traveler journey as a set of steps and analyze how you can fit into each of those steps.
Examine every stage of the travel lifecycle and where there are opportunities to engage. This includes
- Dreaming about a trip
- Planning that trip
- Booking the trip
- Taking the trip itself
In each stage, think about the customer experience and how you can incorporate a personalized element in their journey. This might sound difficult as an abstract concept, but consider how you can fuse artificial intelligence and analytics to really drive this concept into something tangible.
Using artificial intelligence and data analytics can help you in understanding who your customer is, what their pain points are and help you build an individualized experience for them. Customers now expect a level of personalization in their travel experience in every step of the journey - not just at one touchpoint.
Establishing yourself as a trusted, valued partner early on in the travel lifecycle will facilitate the rest of it as well, so think about how data can help you in that regard. What do your customers really need, what content are they gravitating towards and what parts of your business are giving you the most engagement?
A perfect example of how data can be used to engage with travelers early on is exemplified in JetBlue's data strategy as detailed by Acceyla. JetBlue analyzed their customer data and found that their average customer was likely to fly economy. Using that as a starting point, JetBlue built a personalized rewards program that is powered by learning algorithms and customer data to ensure that each customer receives the right incentives and offers for them rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach.
Creating an end-to-end travel experience is absolutely vital to surviving in a competitive marketplace, and it entails providing customers with focused and targeted information from the start. With the right digital ecosystem in place, engaging customers early on through algorithms and actionable data can have a real impact in creating long-term success for travel brands.