How to personalize travel websites for independent travel brands with deep inventoryNews / OnlineBy Nick Vivion | July 8, 2014Share This article was originally published on Travel brands that address multiple communities or brand positions are challenged to deliver customized experiences across demographics with a limited number of resources.Website optimizers Qubit have cobbled together the top ways to deliver a customer-specific experience that enhances the bottom line through more successful merchandising.Many of these techniques are easily deployed by larger travel brands who have these A/B abilities embedded in daily operations; for others, these are reminders of various techniques available to grow revenues through personalization.MobileThe key takeaway on this platform is to use the knowledge gleaned from what a mobile user is looking at to deliver further information about that product or destination. The ability to also tie that expression of interest to a future purchase is also important, especially if the brand is able to prompt the user to save that particular page for future reference.Merchandising on mobile is increasingly important, as customers often browse on mobile before purchasing on desktop. Device-specific interfaces are also key, so that smartphone users are able to call customer service directly, and tablet users are able to take advantage of the interactive multimedia capabilities of that platform.Interface reminders and promptsSimilar to the imperative to prompt users on mobile to save or somehow bookmark that interest for later, desktop interfaces must also remind users of functionality in a clear and obvious fashion.If the brand is able to implement these "nudges," via a small indicator next to the functionality or some sort of animation that directs user attention to the desired action - for example, the reminder to set up an account to save searches for further action.Chat or direct contact functionality should also be surfaced as appropriate if the company is attempting to deliver more traffic to that channel. Burying these sorts of contacts means that users will not use them, so design considerations must be made to successfully direct that attention.Urgency reminders and messaging can also be used to great effect within search results, showing the user the limited inventory and ideally moving them to action. By showing the available inventory, the site seems more popular while also reducing disappointment when it comes to unfulfillable inventory.True personalizationAncillary revenues can be enhanced by using appropriate retargeting and ancillary marketing. When booking a hotel, the user offers certain information as far as room category, number of people, dates, etc. Savvy travel brands can take this data and offer a discounted purchase for a relevant ancillary product immediately after, or even during, the purchase.The key here is that it is relevant and timely. The customer needs to feel like it makes sense for them - and ideally that they will benefit from a lower price or an enhanced product by booking the product immediately.For those users with wish lists and saved histories, personalization means offering targeted deals and updates for those specific saved inventory items. This retargeting can also be leveraged via historical search - by understanding a level of interest via previous searches, travel brands can more successfully offer a deal that triggers a purchase. For example, knowing that a person searched for ski villas in Aspen during the last two sessions, the brand can test offers that close the transaction.Other areas to use this true personalization are by geography and local weather. This is often seen on sites that promote sun getaways during localized cold weather, and on sites that offer up a list of getaway flights based on the location of a user's IP address.Reassurance messagingThis is an often overlooked component for smaller travel brands seeking to reassure potential customers of legitimacy.User review widgets are one way to do this; another is to offer an intelligent "others who searched this term also looked at this" content connection that links similar histories together. This means that the customer understands others are searching similar items, and can ultimately consider user reviews in a purchase decision. Even a prominent link to the FAQ can help alleviate any uncertainty.Reassurance of domain knowledge is also important - the user needs to know that this travel brand knows its stuff. One of the ways to demonstrate this knowledge is through a comprehensive content offering, where users can learn about different destinations either in the inspiration stage or closer to the planning a specific trip stage. This content becomes a valuable differentiator and eases the customer into the transaction flow.The full whitepaper can be downloaded here.NB: Working interface man courtesy Shutterstock.