You would have to live under a rock to have missed the myriad sales and offers being touted by travel agents, airlines and hotel companies since Christmas, all of whom hope to help Brits relieve the winter blues by booking a holiday in the sunshine.

While the post-Christmas desire to book a winter holiday may be ages old, the way people plan and book their trips has changed drastically in recent years. Signal recently conducted a survey of 2,000 UK consumers to find that not only do people research and book holidays across more devices than ever, they expect to be able to do so seamlessly and they demand a personalised and tailored experience every step of the way. Consider the following findings:

  • The research shows that consumers hop from one device to another throughout their travel booking journey. Over half (51%) of travellers regularly use two or more devices for planning and booking trips. While desktop is still the device of choice for planning (64%) and booking (62%), smartphones are the most popular booking device.Millennials have especially high expectations of the planning and booking experience, with 29% of people aged 18-34 saying they most desire a booking experience that is customised to their needs and preferences. As millennials are due to wield greater spending power than any other age group by 2017, travel brands need to carefully consider how to cater to them.

In the race for consumer attention and loyalty, travel brands must be able to recognise and relate to customers with immediate, consistent and contextually relevant brand experiences – or lose to competitors who can.

Brands that stand to win this year will organise around identity, using customer data to build a ‘central nervous system’ to inform their marketing. By integrating streaming digital behavioural data with offline historical data, travel marketers can create rich profiles that will help them respond and engage with contextual relevance – all at the speed of the customer.

What is true identity?

Imagine a potential customer who is browsing for holidays to Florida. After comparing fares and schedules, he books a flight, only to be served 24 hours later with an ad that includes a discount code for the very same airline he booked. He’s annoyed that it’s too late to use the discount code and is likely to think twice about using the same airline again.

Unfortunately, these kinds of negative experiences happen frequently and they’re harming customer loyalty. In fact, a recent study found that customer loyalty is declining across the globe, with the travel industry experiencing the lowest customer retention rates of all sectors. Targeting people with offers that aren’t relevant to them will only annoy them, making them less likely to book in the moment, but also harming future opportunities as they will be less inclined to return to the brand.

However, travel marketers have the opportunity to use what they know about their customers to create an identity asset that will help them deliver better experiences and earn back loyalty. Identity is about recognising the customer at every touchpoint, every time, and knowing what they like, how they prefer to travel, how they like to browse and book, and where they are within their purchase journey.

Connecting data

To resolve identity at the customer level, travel brands must leverage their data from all human, physical, and digital touchpoints, which is typically fragmented. By connecting the data back to the customer, they can to understand the consumer’s wants and needs, what devices they use, the times they use them, the platforms they’re most active on and real-time insights like the destinations they’re searching for. By looking at the customer behind each of these interactions, from web and mobile app login details to information from frequent traveller programmes, brands can build a unique ID for each customer that lasts the lifetime of the customer.

A persistent view of identity enables a longer-term approach to customer engagement, a more consistent customer experience across channels, and potentially transformative results. Plus, as a growing array of connected devices come to the market, such as smart TVs, in-car screens, beacons, check-out/payment systems, wearables and voice-activated personal assistants, persistent, future-proof identity data will enable travel suppliers to continue to recognise individual customers across new touchpoints and respond with the right message, at the right time. In fact, travel suppliers are already experimenting with beacons to tap into a traveller’s precise location and use that data to respond with more relevant information.

Travellers have a variety of supplier options when it comes to planning and booking holidays, and are continuing to use digital devices more than ever before. There is a huge amount of pressure for travel brands to rise to the occasion in this midst of this digital transformation. Identity is the key to delivering the consistent, personalised experiences that create customer loyalty, and keep travel brands competitive.