People are ready to travel. After 2 years spent mostly at home in front of our screens, most of us crave new experiences and adventures. And the data supports this — 25% of travelers expect to travel more than before COVID-19 while 58% expect to go back to their usual travel routine.
Despite this, the travel industry is still in recovery. Travel spending in October 2021 was still 12% below October 2019 levels and the overall bounce back has been slower than anticipated. Looking ahead, it’s important for businesses to think about how they can innovate in this space to attract more customers and inspire loyalty in existing ones.
Technological innovation has unlocked new possibilities where personalization takes center stage as a tool for customer acquisition and retention. The brands that will see the biggest returns are those who are agile enough to deliver a fully personalized guest experience, from personalized travel marketing all the way to sales and service delivery.
Below, we’ll explore how personalization is changing the travel sector and some of the ways brands can personalize their interactions with potential and existing customers.
How the Personalized Guest Experience Is Changing Travel
Personalization is no longer just “nice to have.” It’s a key approach to taking your business into the future:
- 57% of U.S. travelers think brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past experiences.
- 36% say they’re prepared to pay more to get a more personalized customer experience.
- 73% of customers find personalized product recommendations important.
Immersive personalization isn’t something from the distant future either. In 2020, Delta Air Lines launched their first PARALLEL REALITY beta airport experience where travelers were able to see personalized information about their specific journey in their preferred language on a single screen.
In the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean has created its “smartship” vessel where the cruise liner can launch discount programs on the fly when certain offers don’t sell as well or give customers personalized discounts based on their past behavior. This has helped the brand not only improve their sales but also improve the customer experience as people could make use of their loyalty points seamlessly and without any delays.
How To Build a Personalized Guest Experience
There’s no doubt that the way we think about travel is changing dramatically. Long gone are the days when planning, booking and going on your trip were isolated, unrelated events.
“Suppliers are embracing innovation and experimentation like never before and are becoming increasingly fixated on the entire guest journey. The old silos of planning, booking, experiencing and sharing are converging into a seamless continuum of activities.”
– Chris Hemmeter, Managing Director at Thayer Ventures
A personalized guest experience is a must for attracting and retaining customers. So how can you benefit from this new trend?
Lean Into Personalization
The increased time we spend online has meant that our purchasing behavior and the way we discover products and services has changed as well. With so many things vying for our attention, you need to think about the ways in which you can make your offers more attractive and relevant, even before someone becomes a customer.
Carly Whiteford, strategy director at OMD EMEA, emphasizes the importance of personalization in travel marketing.
“Over the past few years, travel marketing has been leaning into personalization, dynamic creative and bringing in real-time and relevant offers for people’s interests,” she explains. “It’s so interesting how that trend has been happening for the past few years, but now it’s just going to be accelerated.”
She also emphasizes the importance of personalized services, such as what flights and transfers to take or where to stay, to create a truly standout customer experience.
“People pay a lot of money at the moment for a personalized travel experience but that’s going to become completely democratized,” Whiteford says.
Here’s one example of a personalized travel offer from Celebrity Cruises.
Beyond personalized offers, here are some other ideas you might consider:
- Upgrade opportunity reminders
- Invites to special events (virtual or in-person)
- Discounts for your low travel season
- Cross-selling related destinations
- Updates on their rewards points (see below)
- Information on departure times, activities, etc.
- Personalized recommendations for upcoming trips
Harness the Power of Your Loyalty Programs
One of the biggest assets travel and hospitality brands have is their loyalty programs. In the U.S., 90% of adults belong to at least one loyalty program and 53% belong to three or more. That said, more than half of these memberships are inactive. That’s because most loyalty programs today are rigid and don’t use their data to speak to the needs of each customer.
This is an excellent opportunity to meet and exceed customer expectations via personalization.
With data your customer has shared, you can discover their preferences for destination, accommodation type, time of year for travel and more. You can then use this data to create personalized content that wows your top customers. Maybe it helps them learn something about themselves or inspires them to take their next trip, as you can see with the video below for Delta’s loyalty club members.
Year-in-review campaigns like this one are a great way to remind travelers what they love about their travel experiences with you. It’s incredibly shareable, driving up your reach on social media, and enjoyable, boosting brand love and retention.
Delight Customers With Personalized Videos
As you can see from the examples above, adding video to the equation takes the personalized guest experience to the next level. It’s appropriate for pre-travel communications as well as during their visit and following up afterward.
Video, the No. 1 most consumed content type on the internet, is less intrusive than yet another boring promotional email. When it’s personalized, it’s even more engaging, more fun — in short, it fits better with a vacation.
With the latest video technology, you can even infuse real-time data into your video so the video updates in real time with whatever you need — current flight times, weather, pricing and more.
We know that video personalization works. With data-driven, guest-centric videos, hospitality brands have increased CTR by 8x and revenue by 5x. Why? Because the content they’re sharing is unique to that person: relevant, engaging and actionable in a way a generic message or even personalized text can’t be.
Ready for something truly next-level? Make your video interactive. Imagine the following scenario.
A loyal customer checks in at their hotel and gets a Personalized Video sent to their phone. The video welcomes them and shares recommendations on food, nearby attractions and local travel options based on their past preferences. The traveler can click through the video and order their favorite meal via room service or book a tour for the next day. Afterward, they get a showreel showing the highlights of their trip.
Wouldn’t that be a customer experience you’d never forget?
Review your omnichannel strategy
A McKinsey study has found that the average customer shifts about 50 times between channels — tablet, smartphone or laptop — before making a booking. In this reality, quality products and services are no longer enough. Instead, having an integrated omnichannel strategy where the customer experience is seamless and personalized is just as important, if not more.
Here you need to review all the possible touchpoints your customers have with your brand and see if they’re all aligned to deliver the same level of personalization.
Is there a mobile app they can download to browse and buy products? What if they used an app to research your products and then went onto your website to make a purchase? Is your tech stack integrated enough to use data across platforms and deliver personalized experience regardless of where your customers are? One of the perks of video is that it can be deployed on so many channels: email, SMS/MMS, in-app and more.
One of the perks of video is that it can be deployed on so many channels: email, SMS/MMS, in-app and more. And we’ve seen great success with this omnichannel approach.
- 20% conversion rate for an airline offer
- 68% increase in sales
- 19x amplification on social media
Welcome to the Future
Both customer expectations and stiff competition make personalized guest experiences the future of travel. But that future is already here. Brands use data, video, interactive digital channels and more to keep their edge on the market.
Ready to create a personalized guest experience throughout your traveler’s journey — before, during and after their trip? Let us show you how it’s not just possible but easy.