My family is currently in the process of planning a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.
Like 60% of leisure travelers, we will make our plans online.
And also like the majority of travelers, our expectation when planning this Caribbean getaway is that the research, booking, travel, and even post-trip process provides that “little something extra.”
To the untrained non-marketer’s eye, this X-factor is likely hard to put a finger on.
But we know it when we experience it.
And when we don’t.
There’s a divide between what many travelers experience – craziness, commotion, cancellations, inconvenience, and inconsistent content delivered to them – and what they expect.
Before I try to identify these X factors that define the travel experiences consumers desire and deserve, let’s consider the alternative, for a second – the worst kinds of travel scenarios you can imagine (because they’re way too common!).
What would a terrible travel experience feel like?
The majority of my travel experiences (in terms of my interactions with companies) are mediocre—okay, but not great.
Sometimes they’re really swift and painless… even helpful.
But sometimes they’re pretty dreadful… long wait times, unhelpful or poorly-timed emails, or irrelevant information. Here’s a little specificity on what I mean. When communicating with potential travelers, refrain from:
Abusing their inbox with irrelevant travel content
Most to-be travelers will, at some point near the beginning of the travel planning process, exchange their email address with your company.
Whether to receive your newsletter, updates on availability, or personalized recommendations, they want you to send them relevant content.
But, what makes for a less-than-desirable experience?
- Receiving a one-size-fits-all newsletter
- Opening an email that doesn’t reflect your preferences
- Receiving an email newsletter sent without consistency
- Information about flights that don’t account for your current location
- Standardized, static content within the body of an email
- Emails that don’t include helpful and relevant information, like recommended hot spots, dining options, and weather forecasts
The worst travel emails are impersonal, sent at the wrong times, aren’t responsive, don’t load properly, and don’t provide the information the customer needs most.
|#Travel emails should never be impersonalized, sent at inconvenient times, unresponsive, vague, or unhelpful CLICK TO TWEET|
Delivering a web experience that is full of dead ends
The research and planning stages of a trip are, arguably, the most important part of the process – a would-be customer can still bow-out if the experience is unsatisfactory.
There’s less to lose, of course, before any money has exchanged hands.
So, you can’t neglect the web experience as it’ll likely be the first touchpoint people have with your brand.
A bad web experience could entail any of the following.
- Forcing customers to dig and comb through multiple pages to find answers to their travel-related questions
- An experience missing relevant recommendations in the sidebar or below the properties, flights, or hotels someone is checking out
- Not using cookies to track customers’ overall online and on-page behavior to tailor messaging and offers to them
- Failing to provide up-to-date, real-time information (availability, “watchers,” and pricing)
Ultimately, the easier and more personalized the web experience is, the more likely an interested traveler is to find what they’re looking for and convert.
Using personal data irresponsibly
If I willingly hand over my personal data to a booking company or airline or hotel or what-have-you, my expectation is that they’ll use that information to provide me with customized communications that reflect my exact needs or interests.
|If people willingly give you their #data, provide customized comms that reflect their preferences/interests #TravelMarketing #Personalization CLICK TO TWEET|
This goes for every device, every mode of communication.
Abusing customer data (or simply failing to use it in the way you say you will) is a cardinal sin in the marketing world.
Travel customers can feel betrayed when:
- They don’t receive personalized content, or worse, the content they do receive is out-and-out wrong (wrong name, wrong city, wrong flights, wrong hotels)
- The experience they receive is not helpful, informative, or useful to them as an individual
- The expectation of relevance, value, and individualized communications is breached with the delivery of irrelevant, unhelpful, mass communication
Steer clear of impersonalized travel communications
All of these scenarios will negatively impact the travel experience.
As a result, at best, customers miss out on added touches, incentives, or offers that make the trip that much better.
At worst, they:
- Miss their flight
- Miss out on booking the hotel they’d anticipated, or at least on a price they were quoted in an email
- Feel duped when prices at checkout don’t match the price on a website
- Become confused with inconsistencies throughout the booking or travel process
- Choose another brand that does deliver on the promise of marketing – personalization
What makes a great travel experience?
The situations described above wouldn’t be appealing to any traveler.
Unfortunately, they are more the rule than the exception.
But we’ve entered the new age of travel, and travel companies have to do better.
So, what’s the answer?
With so many shifting parts – itineraries, addresses, schedules, modes of transportation, accommodations, and confirmation numbers – wouldn’t a truly exceptional travel experience be mindful of where each customer is and what they need at every moment?
Customers expect, need, and will use:
- Live, dynamic information they could use, regardless of when they open an email
- Cross-sell and upsell offers from your brand, presented as personalized upgrades
- A swift and painless email and web experience that was consistent wherever, whenever being used
The reality is that these kinds of experiences aren’t possible to create, automate, and scale manually. Yet they’re exactly what’s needed.
AI-enabled technology can help provide these kinds of experiences at scale. Artificial intelligence marketing is the bridge that travel marketers must cross if they want to achieve truly personalized experiences.
An AI-driven travel experience can significantly uplift the experience your customer has when booking, flying, or staying with your company. It can help mend the gap between what customers are getting and what they need.
Even though marketers, as a whole, are beginning to experiment and implement AI-enabled technology to combat those kinds of scenarios, too many travelers today are dealing with lackluster, stale, impersonalized, one-size-fits-all content.
The reality is that we live in a changing world. To stay a step ahead of on-the-go travelers (and your competition), enlist the help of AI, and provide:
- Real-time, always-accurate information
- Dynamic content that changes based on when and where it’s viewed
- Relevant and individualized hotel, transportation, shopping, and lodging recommendations
- Uniquely tailored offers and incentives the customer may have not even known they wanted
These are the treasures that most travel marketers are after but that few have yet to dig up.
It’s up to you to get started on your journey toward providing these things so that your customer can truly enjoy theirs.
► Get 4 Opportunities for Marketers to Revolutionize the Travel Experience to learn how to avoid horrid travel experiences and service your customers with what they deserve: personalization!