The online travel booking market is a highly complex and competitive one. To succeed, brands must simultaneously combat ever-increasing price-consciousness and analysis paralysis in the face of overwhelming consumer choice.
Alongside both of these challenges comes a lengthy - often cross-device - customer journey.
There’s a reason these challenges are important. While the opportunity for travel brands is growing, travelers now browse upwards of 38 sites before purchase, and almost 90% would switch to a competitor in the face of a poor digital experience.
Optimizing this customer journey presents a chance for travel brands to differentiate themselves, reshaping the path to purchase around consumers.
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The ticket to success? Leveraging data to provide a seamless, personalized customer journey by recognizing behavioral signals at key stages of the booking process.
Here are four ways travel brands can meet the sky-high expectations of today's travelers with a data-driven approach.
1. Break the journey into phases
The first way to understand what your visitors need is by mapping the customer journey: If you can anticipate what phase of consideration your visitor is at, you can offer them the things they need, such as content, customer service or reassurance.
Part of creating your customer journey map should involve data-led analysis to diagnose potential roadblocks and identify how you might overcome them. For example:
2. When the journey is long, reassurance is key
While consumers are buying more vacations, their purchase journey hasn’t gotten much simpler. Travel isn’t like retail, where purchases are smaller and more frequent: This is a high-consideration purchase with a customer journey to match.
When success depends on identifying what stage of the journey your customer is in, delivering reassurance is one of your most important weapons in ensuring that journey continues. This can be achieved in a variety of ways:
- Social proof
Sharing customer ratings and reviews, especially via a third party like Trustpilot, is a compelling way to build trust with consumers, as 61% read reviews before making a purchase.
Many customers will have questions that artificial intelligence can answer, deflecting customers away from escalating to customer service operators while also rerouting them back toward the booking funnel.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines uses a chatbot via Facebook Messenger, helping customers book tickets and keeping them up to date on flight status and gate changes. The company built the chatbot to assist its human support team, and in the first six months of operation it sent almost two million messages to over half a million customers.
Depending on your market, you may offer to connect visitors to a customer care operator who can complete their booking, or offer advice. This is particularly useful for travel brands targeting older consumers who may prefer to speak to a person before they enter their card details online.
3. Start small with personalization
According to Accenture, 67% of travel customers want personalization, but only 44% believe that brands are currently doing a good job.
While many marketers see personalization as difficult to achieve, it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few simple ways you can start to personalize the experience for your customers:
1. Segment by new versus returning: Welcoming users back with tailored messaging is a simple way to start personalizing the experience.
2. Traffic source: Is traffic originating from a particular channel or promotion? Ensure a smooth customer journey by directing visitors to the right part of the website.
3. Geo-targeting: Pre-fill the nearest airport or train station, or target offers based on route.
Take TravelUp, for example. We worked with the brand to identify that visitors in "research mode" would be great targets for messaging around its partnership with "Fly Now, Pay Later" and used a simple in-page campaign to leverage this at point of booking:
Simple, but effective enough to drive a 5% increase in conversions.
4. Capture additional data
With customers prepared to leave your website while browsing or even mid-funnel, maintaining the relationship depends on capturing data.
Thomas Cook Airlines does this by offering a "save my booking" option to exiting visitors using technology from Yieldify. When a user searches for flights and enters their details, but isn’t ready to convert, Thomas Cook Airlines asks if they’d like the route emailed to them.
This approach provides the brand with the data it needs to nurture interested customers toward purchase via email marketing.
These are just a few ways that travel brands can look to get started with providing a seamless customer journey to drive bookings and repeat customers.
As the data they have access to continues to grow, the winners will be those who can harness it effectively to serve the right experiences to the right users.