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Why Personalization is Key to the Travel Sector’s Online Customer Experience

According to Google’s ‘The 2012 Traveler’ report, upwards of 83% of leisure travelers use the Internet for travel planning – and 65% of those are now doing online research before even deciding where they are going. In parallel, customer attitudes are changing. Whilst in 2011/2012 the focus was strongly on price, this has changed. Price is now the third rated factor determining a customer’s perception of a travel brand’s website; the first is ease of use and the second is a good past experience according to the latest research from PhocusWright.

As such, in a competitive marketplace where potential customers often look for holidays and accommodation using very specific criteria, the importance of returning search results that readily reflect individual requirements is paramount.

It was for this reason that we are starting to see an increased requirement amongst our travel clients for more targeted and personalized content across their websites – the most recent example being an improved search experience to ensure that a leading online travel agency was able to present its customers with a wide range of alternative hotel choices.

The underlying technology that powers this client’s website is based on customers providing very specific information about their preferred hotels, check-in dates, lengths of stay and occupancy preferences. However, customers were occasionally being presented with a message that informed them that there was no availability for a specific request. There may be a multitude of reasons why the exact enquiry could not be mapped with availability; for example, the selected hotel may be full or the dates may be out of season for a particular location. For the consumer, however, a search that yields no results obviously has a negative impact on the customer experience, particularly if customers do not know why their search has been unsuccessful. We have been brought on board to resolve this very specific issue. Our work with this client will help them to personalize the customer experience by presenting alternative scenarios based on the customer’s profile and on site behavior.

This is but one example in an increasing range of advanced personalization campaigns that we are helping our travel clients with.

Customers No Longer Want to Be Anonymous

According to Dr Miguel Moital of the School of Tourism, Bournemouth University, ten years ago there were three distinct stages to travel: pre-trip, during trip, and post-trip. The rise of social media has created a new stage: the dream stage, which happens every time someone sees holiday photographs uploaded on to a social networking site or reads a friend’s travel-related update. He says, “Social media is stimulating people to constantly and consistently dream about travel, even when they haven’t made any travel plans.”

Personalized content, therefore, should reflect where the individual is on the dream, research, plan, book and pre-trip experience and present information based on previous visits, searches or holidays.

In an environment where online retailers are increasingly seeking to deliver targeted content to individual users, this particular travel agency believes its partnership with us will enhance its ability to customize its service. Segmentation and personalization is becoming incredibly important in the travel industry and, thanks to our combination of vertical sector and customer experience optimization expertize, we are looking forward to helping all our clients become better at personalizing offers to individuals – for the long-term benefit of their customers.

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