As the travel industry looks back on its peak season, it’s clear that traveler attitudes and expectations continue to change – driven in no small part by the role of the mobile device. Customers are increasingly comfortable with researching, booking and checking-in via mobile – but what is the impact of this streamlined, effective and lower cost business model on the customer relationship? How much does a good booking experience contribute to customer loyalty – and how can companies build loyalty with this technology dominated generation?
We spoke to Helen Markou, Principal Consultant, Travel & Leisure at Maxymiser, to find out more about the importance of personalization in driving loyalty in a fast changing marketplace.
Travelers – and traveler attitudes – are changing fast. Millennials now make up between 25% and 50% of all travelers in the world’s major markets. These individuals have a different financial profile, a complete reliance upon technology and expect a highly personalized experience. The fundamental change is that this is a market now dominated by digital activity, from research to check in – and that means there is a pressing need to ensure that online experience is not only efficient but also designed to foster loyalty.
According to a survey from digital experience agency Magnani Caruso Dutton, a hotel’s website and app impact the booking decision for 70% of travelers, believing the quality of the digital offering will reflect the experience of the hotel itself. With technology clearly influencing both loyalty and emotional attachment, hotels need to do more to boost appeal – from enabling mobile access to book rooms and add-on services such as spa visits, to enabling individuals to find, book and take advantage of rewards while travelling. It is also essential to recognize that loyalty is not just about rewards but increasingly about recognition and delivering a relevant, personal experience that reflects an individual’s specific brand affinity drivers.
It can be argued that reward programs still have their value. But given the current trend for OTAs to increasingly look at their own loyalty models, these programs need to be adapted to suit new segments and the changing behavior; delivered consistently across all devices; and tied in to personalization. The good news is that millennials allow far more access to personal data in return for a tangible benefit, enabling organizations to embed personalization within the new loyalty strategy.
Combining the huge amount of rich data from the traditional rewards program members with the additional data willingly shared by millennials will enable the travel industry to drive innovative, technology enabled loyalty programs that will be key to enticing and retaining the next generation, while still engaging the traditional customer base.