Intelligent Traveler Experiences: The Next Wave of Innovation in the Industry

Gone are the days when people researched destinations using guidebooks, booked flights with their travel agent, and waited to receive their boarding pass in the mail. Today, most of these tasks are done using a laptop, mobile device, or even a wearable. It is as simple as booking a flight in a couple of clicks, as storing your boarding pass in your Apple Wallet. As is the case in most industries, people today expect a seamless, digital customer experience.

And it doesn’t stop there. 51% of customers expect companies not only to anticipate needs, but also to proactively make suggestions by 2020 [1]. For today’s traveler on the go, providing a personalized, real-time experience is the difference between becoming a “go-to” resource and becoming irrelevant. In fact, 69% of travelers are more loyal to a travel company that personalized their experiences online and offline [2].

It’s not just about making travel experience more convenient; it’s about having it integrate seamlessly into your customer’s life. At home, they ask Alexa to check their bank balance or re-order cereal. They use Apple Pay at the checkout counter, while in the next moment checking their investment portfolio via an app and then quickly scanning through work emails. When they travel, they expect that this experience, too, should be digital and convenient. And going beyond digital, travel and hospitality experiences need to be mobile. In fact, one study found that by 2017, almost 70 percent of U.S. bookings will take place on a mobile device [3]. Most of a consumer’s financial and business life will be conducted on a mobile device, if not already.

However, just having a mobile platform is not enough; it has to be personalized to the individual consumer. Take Sarah Smith, a frequent business traveler, often frustrated by messages from hotels and airlines that lack relevance and context. For example, her airline sends her a notification touting the top five things to do in a city that she is scheduled to leave later that day. While this information may be of interest to Jon Roberts, who just arrived to the city that morning, it’s irrelevant to Sarah due to her impending departure. The airline certainly has the information, but is not invested in data intelligence well enough to tie that into their communications.

This is why it’s extremely important for airlines and hoteliers to deliver not only a digital but also a highly customized experience to travelers. For the enterprise, this can be difficult, involving overhauling legacy systems and high implementation costs. Flybits, however, hides the technological complexity of these hurdles, enabling enterprises to deliver relevant, engaging customer experiences. 90% of organizations that invest in personalization say that it significantly contributes to increasing business profitability [4]. It may be daunting to consider the investments needed, but companies that don’t do so will surely lose out going forward.

Go Beyond Digital: Make it Personal

Many enterprises already leverage location to personalize content. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, this source of consumer data is not enough – content often ends up being irrelevant. But what if you could use location to your advantage? Here’s where geoconquesting comes in. Let’s say a previous customer is staying at one of your competitor’s hotels. A day after they have checked out, which you deduce using their smartphone’s location, you can then send them an offer letting them know they will receive 15% off on their next booking with your company. Providing a discount and showing that your customer’s business is important to you breeds good-will and places your brand top-of-mind.

Or, let’s say you operate a hotel that also includes a casino. This is a common occurrence in many cities where travel for business conferences is frequent: notably Las Vegas, but also places such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Montreal. In one of many possible scenarios, you can send a push notification to one of your guests that is at another hotel with a casino on a Friday between 10 pm and 2 am, a time frame during which they are presumably gambling, with an offer of $100 dollars in free chips if they come back to your hotel. This example of geoconquesting is extremely powerful, as you have just pulled customers back to your hotel/casino and away from a competitor’s.  

The possibilities to be a vital part of these business travelers’ hectic lives simply don’t end there. Imagine that Sarah Smith’s flight is cancelled, but now she is delivered timely information to her mobile device, such as directions to a nearby lounge or alternative lodging option, alerts to let her know where the next cab is and a list of alternative flights. Or let’s say Sarah arrives in a city she’s never been in before; you can deliver personalized recommendations, such as cultural sites to visit or restaurants, based on the traveler’s age, personal interests, and more. This is all possible because the airline leveraged not only location data, but also behavioral data in order to anticipate her needs in real-time.

Of course, the possibilities extend well beyond just business travelers. There are ample opportunities to leverage personalized, relevant communications to make a positive and lasting impression with travelers of all kinds. For example, let’s say you have a guest that is vacationing with young children, as well as staying at this location for the first time. You can send them digital information on local tourist attractions and kid-friendly restaurants – complete with menus too. Parents travelling with children often spend hours scouring guidebooks and websites looking for activities to do and places to go with their kids. And even though 50% of international travelers use their smartphones to research once they’ve arrived at their destination, imagine how powerful it would be if you could do it for them, ahead of time [5]?

There are also upsell opportunities using customized digital communications as well: say, sending a push notification asking a guest if they’d like to book a car service a day before they leave; useful for the hotel if it operates its own car service.  

The opportunities are endless and these are just a few of the myriad opportunities to serve your customers and potential customers in a relevant way. Companies that have gone on to dominate other industries have done so by doing exactly this; knowing their customers and providing suggestions on products and offerings that resonate with each individual. Think Amazon, Netflix and Spotify.

Experiences with such business have changed the expectations consumers have – it’s something they expect from all their interactions. So be more than just a travel provider; become your customer’s trusted concierge.

Sources Used

  1. https://secure2.sfdcstatic.com/assets/pdf/misc/socc-2016.pdf
  2. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/
  3. https://www.emarketer.com/Article/By-2016-Most-Digital-Travel-Bookers-Will-Use-Mobile-Devices/1013248
  4. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/_qs/documents/2417/Econsultancy-Leading-in-Mobile-Customer-Experience.pdf
  5. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/advertising-channels/mobile/travel-trends-2016-data-consumer-insights/

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