There is no room for uniformity, blandness, irrelevance and one-size-fits-all marketing in the travel and hospitality industry. The days of consumers being interested in and responsive to generic offers and boilerplate experiences are gone. What consumers want today, in an environment that’s dominated by online and mobile devices, are experiences that don’t suck up their valuable time, are easy-to-use and navigate, intuitive, and most importantly, are customized to show them the types of messages, offers and content that cater to their specific needs and wants. What an avid skier may expect from the travel research process will be dramatically different from what a C-level executive who travels internationally 2 weeks out of every month. Showing these two different travel segments the same exact offer could be a fatal mistake for travel brands. That’s what travel 4.0 is all about – personalized experiences down to the most intricate of details.
The notion that technology has created a “cult of context” in the travel industry is the key theme being explored at this year’s PhocusWright Conference, which is set to take place November 19-21 in Ft. Lauderdale. As we have said repeatedly (and will keep saying it until brands take notice and change their approach), customer experience optimization cannot and should not be approached as a one-off tactic. It must be part of a holistic strategy that looks at each customer from a 360-degree view and then tests the experience across the entire funnel, uses real-time data to power more sophisticated personalization, which in turn, powers continuous testing, learning and more personalization. This idea of shifting from tactical to strategic digital thinking is also the topic of our PhocusWright panel session – Online Testing: From Tactical to Strategic – on Wednesday, November 20th at 9:00 am ET. In this session, our own Jared Polidoro (Vice President, US Client Services) and Christine Ciccione, VP Online Customer Experience, Global eCommerce, Wyndham Hotel Group, will guide attendees step-by-step through the ins and outs of a unified customer experience optimization program.
As one of our longtime clients, Wyndham Hotel Group is one of those rare breeds in the digital space. They truly get the value and impact of strategic digital thinking and have embedded the test-and-learn culture into everything they do across every channel – be it online, mobile, social, email and even offline in the their actual properties worldwide. With approximately 7,200 hotels and more than 800,000 rooms in 66 countries under 15 hotel brands, delivering on the promise of superior customer experience is no small feat. And it’s one that they approach with seriousness, strategic thinking, senior level buy-in and an unwavering commitment.
The simple truth about this travel 4.0 era we have now entered, now more than ever, is that success requires serving the needs and wants of the one, while delivering ROI across the business long-term. Travelers’ loyalty and trust are up for grabs. Those sellers of travel willing and able to provide personalized experiences, honor the individual traveler and adapt to the situation at-hand instantly, will be the ones who win over customers long-term across every device and every channel.
As consumer expectations grow and new technologies and innovation emerge, it will be more important than ever for travel-focused brands to evolve and improve the types of experiences they offer. This means travel marketers need to strike the perfect balance between simplicity and abundance and must always strive to listen to and learn from their customers, each and every one of them.
What remains untouched is as important as what’s bought in travel, such as flights booked and filled to capacity for specific times before others or a la carte/unbundled ancillary products purchased. More so than others, all of these travel experiences should provide answers to what customers are looking for and solve their problems in a way that makes them feel personally connected and invested in the brand. You can bet that travelers who expect to see the right content and offers in a matter of seconds will have no qualms about walking, and clicking away, from your brand’s website, mobile site, app and even cut off all ties with your brand offline.
So the question isn’t whether big data can get any bigger. Instead, it needs to be focused on how big data can become smart data. Data is there for the taking and tells you everything you need to know about who each of your customers are, what they like and dislike, the types of travel products they are searching for, the types of purchases they make, their frequency of visits to your site, the specific browser type they are using when searching and booking travel, and so much more. The value of all of this data lies in the insights behind it and how you act on it to personalize the experience and woo your customer into becoming loyal, omnichannel shoppers and brand advocates.