The travel market is currently undergoing a radical transformation. We’ve seen the growth of online travel agents whetting the appetite for bespoke holidays, with more options than you could ever explore.
We’re able to hand-pick every aspect of our travel, from the method of transport to the departing airport, all the way down to our type of seat. On the accommodation front, we can choose to stay in a hotel, a hostel, or experience life in someone’s else’s shoes via apps like Airbnb or CouchSurfing.
Each booking implies an element of personalisation, and the explosion of ‘mix-and-match’ services has only amplified the importance of catering for holidaymakers on a one-to-one level.
A personalised, considered and tactical strategy for converting each purchase would be the natural reaction to what we’re seeing, if only the market could deliver it.
A survey released earlier this year by Sojern outlined that almost half (46%) of travel marketers regard the delivery of personalised ads and offers as their “top challenge” for 2019. Around the same proportion (44%) were said to be having difficulties with using customer data – an issue faced by companies big and small.
It seems that in order to capitalise on the branding of travel as a personal choice, we need to go back to the basics and find a way for personalisation to work for us, not against us.
What is true personalisation?
Personalisation, at least in marketing circles, has become something of a catchall term, spanning everything from basic retargeting to a single customer view.
At RevLifter, our technology is based around the concept of deals personalisation – that is, the delivery of personalised incentives to the customers our brands actually want to convert. Through its rules-based system, our platform could be used by any travel firm to drive new customers, raise AOV or increase sales of high-margin items.
We’re a unique solution but our approach includes many of the ingredients that travel companies will need to achieve genuine marketing personalisation. They are as follows:
- A layer of data (preferably first party) from the customer to signify preference, interest or intent
- The segmentation of audiences based around their value, intent or demographic
- The dynamic delivery of communications or incentives to encourage a purchase
- The use of analytics and additional functions (AI, machine learning) to continuously learn and drive results
We believe the industry has all the tools to deliver on these points, and here they are in full:
Data-driven marketing is rife across many different industries and travel is very much feeding the trend. First-party data remains the holy grail, but the travel market is well-equipped for the use of second-party information, built mainly from partnerships between groups with complementary services. The travel market is a hive of connectivity, and if you’re not using data from publishers or non-competing advertisers, you might be missing a trick.
When it comes to data, travel groups have the luxury of including sources that enrich their view of a situation. RevLifter is currently using the weather and time of day to influence its serving of deals, pushing products like sunscreen when the heat is dialling up. If you’ve ever considered booking a holiday during a particularly wet and drab weekend, you’ll know how powerful these techniques are.
Travel groups should be using data to enhance their view of a customer’s situation and building their message around it.
With data in tow, it’s possible to segment an audience according to what they’re buying, the price of their trip, and who they are.
In the case of hotels and airlines, a level of segmentation feeds directly into their customer reward programmes, where each member is assigned a value according to the amount of points they collect. The more they spend, the more they receive, and it’s up to the business to act on that knowledge.
For those yet to really embrace the idea of segmentation, it’s wise to create a line between data and the business’s goals. For example, improving sales of high-margin items is a common objective for online travel agents, who tend to achieve better profits from hotels than flights. That creates an opportunity to upsell people with flights in their basket through small discounts on their accommodation.
Boil the situation down and we’re talking about value: the grading of each customer, according to the value they represent. This is a type of segmentation that we have used to ensure that every one of our incentives is personalised and valuable to the business.
Our third step is arguably the most important of them all: the message.
Research from travel firm Amadeus shows that 86% of travellers are receptive to personalised offers, which highlights the need for incentives that match the person they’re issued to.
Consistent and dynamic are two words we’d use to summarise the qualities of strong messaging for the travel market. This is down to both the time it takes someone to make a purchase and the amount of change that can happen within that period.
As a case in point, On the Beach says its customers take approximately 40 days to make a purchase, coming back to its website “around 16 times” to adjust the contents of their basket. These movements will build a picture of what each customer is looking for, which can change in a matter of seconds.
The effective targeting of travel customers should involve a strong message or incentive, supported by an agile approach.
Analytics and AI
Finally, we have our fourth step: the analysis of results and the use of concepts like artificial intelligence to improve them.
AI is changing the game for travel firms by studying their data, spotting key trends and predicting each customer’s next click. This can supercharge efforts across personalisation by giving travellers an offer they are likely to redeem, based on results from similar journeys.
Dana Dunne, the CEO of eDreams ODIGEO, has spoken highly about the use of AI and reinforcement learning across the group’s portfolio of travel brands, including Opodo, Liligo and eDreams itself.
By leveraging AI in areas like customer relationship marketing and pay-per-click advertising, the organisation creates eight billion personalised predictions every day. Dunne recently stated that “machines are making decisions that humans can’t” and paving the way for improved services on each of its platforms.
RevLifter adopts a similar approach by utilising AI in the serving of deals. Our platform is able to adopt a self-learning process, where data is logged from each engagement with our tools. This enables the engine to select an incentive that is most likely to convert, based on the user in front of it.
By leveraging AI, it is possible for travel groups to learn and develop from each and every journey, leading to a better all-round performance.
Why does travel need personalisation?
The internet has taken the travel market on a journey of its own – breaking its barriers and empowering customers to think bigger and better when it comes to searching for the perfect break.
Marketers are being challenged to improve their levels of personalisation and not just in travel - this is happening across the entire e-commerce landscape. For travel, though, we believe the personal touch to be more than just a ‘nice to have‘.
Holidaymakers have grown to expect unique offers and experiences with each purchase, and there is a huge opportunity for the groups that can provide them.