How to Get on Your Travel Customers’ Bucket List
Transformative travel and hospitality experiences equal more data-driven marketing and personalization through better customer data.
While last year’s solar eclipse across North America cast a dramatic shadow, it also shed light on an emerging trend in the travel and hospitality (T&H) industry.
Hotel rooms in the eclipse’s path of totality were suddenly at a premium, and many hotels seized the moment by raising their room rates. However, Marriott saw more than just an opportunity to increase its revenue in the short term. At hotels in five cities across the country, Marriott provided eclipse-themed packages, including viewing glasses and special cocktails for hotel guests.
This trend of cultivating unique travel experiences — as opposed to just filling vacancies — is showing up across the industry.
“Several brands are making significant headway and exploring how you bring bucket list inspiration to life while driving customer loyalty through experiences,” says Julie Hoffmann, head of industry strategy for travel and hospitality at Adobe.
What’s driving the extra effort to create one-of-a-kind travel experiences?
T&H brands need to differentiate themselves in a busy marketplace, especially as consumers increasingly shift away from spending money on material goods and gravitating toward investing in experiences. In the T&H industry, this means seeking out unique, memorable experiences you can offer from your travel property.
“One of the big focuses for brands is how do you curate these unique experiences, and secondly, how do you capitalize on it? One approach is to look at how to create memories from those experiences,” says Loni Stark, senior director of product marketing at Adobe. “That’s a big part of how relationships are built. If you think about experiences with your best friend, a lot of it is ‘Remember that birthday party?’ or ‘Remember that time we got in trouble here?’ Our memories and those stories form that bond with people and with brands.”
Leverage technology to forge new territory in travel experiences
Whether companies are striving to craft “experiential” travel (that delves into the culture, history, and people of a place) or “transformative” travel experiences (that are defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection, and development), it’s clear that travelers favor these approaches, and that authenticity is the new luxury.
Like Marriott, other T&H brands have caught on to this change. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for instance, has invested in big, branded, extraordinary experiences for guests — like being fit for custom cowboy boots in Austin, Texas, or scaling the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
However, executing these memorable, personalized travel experiences requires lots of customer data — and using it at the right moments along the customer journey. Travelers leave a lot of digital breadcrumbs along every part of our journey, but it’s up to companies to piece together these breadcrumbs to create a more cohesive experience. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen — but the right technology can help.
For example, Der Touristik Group, one of the largest travel companies in Europe, discovered that it could increase revenue and customer engagement through personalization and recommendations. The company generated a 270 percent higher conversion rate on its website and 20 percent more stickiness, which means that potential customers spend longer on the site.
Der Touristik Group uses Adobe Experience Cloud to develop a better customer experience. The company uses Adobe Analytics to pull together data from multiple sources to better understand and segment its audience. Using Marketing Cloud, Der Touristik Group then assigns each customer a universal ID that it can use across channels to create a more complete picture of that customer. This allows the company to customize personal experiences online or offline based on each customer’s digital behavior.
Alexander Gaertner, head of digital analytics for Der Touristik, says using analytics helped the company “make decisions based on data rather than trying to change user behavior based on hunches.”
Alexander’s point is an important one. Creating memorable bucket-list experiences requires a level of precision that only the right data can provide. Predicting what customers want based on anything other than a holistic view of that data likely will lead to a more disjointed experience.
Use data to make more targeted offers
In an industry where holding on to customers is notoriously difficult, data-driven decision-making is key to enabling T&H brands to better understand the customer journey and create more tailored experiences.
Not only do brands need to gather data from multiple channels, Julie states the importance of analytics from every channel, too — especially when it comes to mobile. “T&H brands need to invest more in mobile experience analytics. Recent Adobe research shows that the travel vertical is the least likely to measure app engagement,” she says.
“Mobile is the number-one channel for travelers. They use it for inspiration, planning, and while they’re actually on the trip,” Julie shared. “Because mobile is so important to travelers, you can see how hard that might be to deliver a great customer experience or actually bring the journey to life if you’re not tracking and integrating mobile analytics.”
Once you have enough data from your analytics, Loni says artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are critical technologies to help brands develop deeper insights into customer behavior and capitalize on experience signals along the customer journey. It’s important for companies to “take what people are interested in and map it to the content or experiences that are available. This also requires machine learning,” Loni says.
Along with using emerging technologies to draw new customer insights, Julie says companies should take advantage of the data they already have. Your brand’s loyalty database is a good resource to find customers with like-minded attributes and interests, and through look-alike modeling, create segments of customers that are more likely to buy, while suppressing those who aren’t.
To know me is to love me
“We often think more is more from an acquisition perspective, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes less is more. Oversaturation is a loyalty killer, no one likes to receive even the right message 60 times. That money is better spent on acquiring a new customer.” Julie shared.
Ultimately, delivering a great experience — whether it’s on the bucket list or not — is about brands knowing their customers. That will make all the difference as companies seek to create a connection with travelers.
“A bucket list item is a dream and an aspiration, and when T&H brands can align with that dream or aspiration, it’s really powerful,” Julie says. “I’d say the key takeaway for T&H brands when it comes to their customers is ‘to know me is to love me.’ If you know the customer and you love them, they’ll feel it. When travel brands are at their best, they make great experiences worldwide possible.”