Digital ad dollars and travel statistics aside, the travel industry could be doing a lot more to maximize its bottom line. Given the data, technology and systems that are in place, this can be achieved through a shift in attention.
NB This is a viewpoint by Nancy Hall, senior vice president at Conversant.
There’s no denying size and scale. In fact, according to projections from eMarketer, the US travel industry laid out $5.69 billion in digital media spend in 2016. That number is projected to climb to a whopping $8.28 billion by 2020. Airlines for America estimates that an unprecedented 145 million travelers took flight in March and April this year.
So where is the travel industry falling short? Loyalty.
According to a study from the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell University, hotel chains reap an average of 50 percent more revenue from customers who belong to their loyalty programs than from those who do not.
Why, then, do the hotels I stay at – where I am supposedly a loyalty member – greet and interact with me as if I were a stranger? Shouldn’t my loyalty be recognized?
More often than not, this happens because of companies which mismanage consumer data by not integrating that data across their entire organization. If you’re a brand marketer who wants to maintain a positive reputation and increase the value of your loyalty program, data needs to be an integral part of how you connect to and with your customers.
To navigate through the throngs of overwhelming data and maintain customer loyalty, here are three key signals to look for in your data that will help you talk to your consumers more effectively.
Firstly, you’ll want to identify users that arrive at your site.
Are they loyalty members or new prospects? Next you need to examine their site interactions. Not only should you be concerned with who’s visiting your site but also you should pay close attention to which area of the site they spend most of their time.
For example, if users are spending their time on specific property sites in Miami, you can easily tell that they have an upcoming trip to Miami, and there’s an opportunity to let them know about your relevant offers for that particular destination.
Conversely, if they are spending a fair amount of time looking for fun activities at your facility, this is your chance to upsell them during the post-booking phase based on the unique activities and/or excursions your hotel offers.
Another key data signal is location.
If you know, for example, that over the past year a user has booked flights out of New York and to San Francisco, then you can utilize that data to determine where their origin city is and which destination they’re traveling to, and whether the trip is for business or pleasure. You can also use this data to update their loyalty profiles. You can then provide them with local offers, personal or business, depending on how those locations align.
Understanding the distinction between customers’ geo-location and their home base is crucial to accurately identify contextual messaging. You don’t want to be a brand that sends hotel offers to someone in their home town.
Finally, you’ll want to pay close attention to the devices a consumer uses during certain steps of the travel booking process.
It’s important to target them most effectively in that ‘let’s book it’ moment. If someone is researching travel plans on a mobile device, for example, then that’s the correct device to target to compel them to convert – same if it’s a desktop computer on which they’re planning. Some customers may also use a combination of the two, so you’ll need to be cognizant of which device they use to actually book the trip.
Not surprisingly, more people are beginning to book entire trips in-app on their mobile devices, so marketers need to be ready to serve messages that connect with consumers across all devices. These efforts can be appended by messages shared through their loyalty account, further strengthening those relationships.
Travel marketers easily find themselves awash in a sea of data. While they may sometimes feel like they’re drowning in it, understanding how to separate the most impactful data signals from the data signals that create more noise, is the key to success.
You need to know who your potential clients are – not only their habits and what they like and dislike – and where they’re most likely to engage with your brand. Do they book in-app or on a desktop?
So the next time one of your loyal customers comes into your hotel or visits your website, will you be prepared to treat them as individuals, or will you treat them like just another number?