The travel industry was at the forefront of e-commerce. Well before the launch of Travelocity and Expedia in 1996, American Airlines’ eAAsySabre tool was making it easier for people to book flights, hotels and car rentals.
Yet, as the booking process was simplified and personalized, the travel industry wasn’t nearly as fast to harness technology for people-based marketing.
Today, travel brands face stiff competition from online travel agents and third-party booking websites as they battle for share of travel and wallet.
In response, travel brands are working diligently to determine how to best use data and technology to deliver the type of highly relevant and personalized messages that lead to direct bookings.
The answer is within their reach, and once realized, will keep brands top of mind for travelers and build on the travel industry’s legacy of digital innovation.
Moving beyond intent data in 2019
The key to the future of travel brands’ digital transformation lies in their ability to move beyond the use of intent data — behavioral signals and specific browsing activities — to inform marketing programs.
Yes, intent data provides brands with a valuable opportunity to quickly assume the mindset of a near-term traveler – and travel marketers should take advantage of this.
But on its own, intent data offers a limited perspective of people. It’s when intent data is layered on top of rich person-level insights and individual profiles that travel brands can create meaningful engagements to drive bookings.
Consider the traveler’s journey, which starts at the dreaming phase, continues in the planning and booking phases,and may include upgrades.
Throughout that process, people are using their home computer, smartphone and other devices to look at their options and ultimately book travel. Each phase provides key moments to speak with travelers, and brands must be ready.
“The most important trend over the next few years is [customer] journey mapping – understanding the customer, taking them through a journey and making sure the content that we are providing them is engaging and relevant, and it creates a conversation,” notes Road Scholar vice president of marketing, Steve August.
Gaining a competitive advantage
Traditionally, intent data issued by marketers during the planning phase of the traveler’s journey; it represents a chance to identify qualified, actively-engaged travelers and is imperative to the messaging strategy.
However, at that point brands end up engaged in the most crowded and ferocious battle against their competitors to secure bookings with these travelers.
I regularly speak with travel marketers who struggle to align intent data with an overall strategy and asa result, feel they are losing share to their competitors – and they are.
Brands that can integrate intent data with deep consumer insights—including past purchases and site activity and behavior — to create a complete traveler profile will have a clear competitive advantage.
Complete traveler profiles give brands the opportunity to show they truly know their customers. It’s not enough to understand where a travel is in their journey.
When intent data is layered on top of rich person-level insights and individual profiles that travel brands can create meaningful engagements to drive bookings.
John Ardis - Conversant
To break through the noise, brands must provide travelers with consistent messaging and continuity of voice every step of the way.
By ensuring that messages are personalized in a way that appeals to traveler preferences, brands keep themselves top of mind for travelers while their competitors are simply executing against intent data only.
Brands that fail to centralize and execute against complete traveler profiles miss opportunities to build relationships. The alternative approach, bombarding people with generic ads, is antiquated and risks alienating brands from travelers who expect personalized experiences.
I’ve always equated the use of intent data with search marketing. Search fulfils demand that’s already there. It’s a reaction to people who have already raised their hand.
The same is true for the use of intent data in marketing. Both can only provide so much scale.
Therefore, marketers can complement intent data with historical travel spend data at the individual level to create demand at scale and move known travelers into the dream stage of their journey.
Once a person moves to the planning and booking stages, your brand is already top of mind and gets the traveler booked before the competition even knows they’re in-market.
It’s a powerful one-two punch.