Digital transformation has completely and permanently changed the way we travel. Whether booking a hotel room or checking availability for an upcoming stay, we’re doing more and more of these things online, at the moment that’s most convenient for us, on the devices and channels of our choice. As a result, today’s travellers – millennials in particular – have higher expectations than ever for a great customer experience and it has to be in real time.
How can you give these travellers the experience they crave when you normally first encounter them as anonymous visitors on your website, quickly bouncing if they don’t see offers that are relevant to them or suddenly departing to run a quick price-check in another tab or app before booking that hotel room or buying that rail ticket?
The answer lies in personalisation.
The Challenge: Know the Customer
The only way to meet today’s customer expectations is to really understand your travellers – their needs and requirements, the unique characteristics of their individual journeys.
You can’t do that if website visitors remain anonymous, though. How do you know who they are, what they want, what content to serve them, and when? Also, how can you keep them engaged, with so much competition available and the ability to price-check right at their fingertips?
UK rail operators are confronting this question now. A particular traveller might go from London to Newcastle, for example, with seven stops in between. But there are many variables and touchpoints along that journey – you have customers boarding the train, getting off, potentially making purchases and re-boarding the train once more before proceeding to their destination, for example.
Collecting enough relevant data to provide the personalised experience your travellers expect can be a challenge. One way rail operators are addressing this issue is by using loyalty programs to provide customers with personalised discounted tickets based on prior journeys.
There’s another challenge, though: Who owns the customer? This is especially tricky when you have what the customer views as a single journey that actually involves a wide range of owners, touchpoints, and data sets. Take a flight from California to New York, for example. The airport might possess a certain set of data, an airline might have its hands on another data set, and retail shops within the airport might have yet another data set.
How can these businesses consolidate their data sets to create a single, consistent experience across all touchpoints - that is, the experience the customer actually expects to receive in return for their purchase? This isn’t easy when you have multiple owners, multiple touchpoints, multiple data sets, and even multiple technologies.
The customer doesn’t much care about or even appreciate the distinction, of course. They just want everything to work and, by the way, they don’t have a lot of time because they’re running to catch that flight.
In addition to these complex challenges, large travel and transport firms may also have to grapple with internal content silos within their organizations. The marketing department may have distinct units, such as PR and social media, that are siloed off from one another. When this happens, you often find that content is not integrated into a single, unified strategy.
What does this mean in practice? You may end up using the wrong tone or driving your customers to the wrong action. Ultimately, this leads to a disappointing or disjointed customer experience and it’s an indication that the company has failed to put the customer at the centre of everything they do.
Fortunately, travel and transport companies have smart solutions and best practices available to address these challenges, give their customers the experiences they want, and stay competitive in the digitally enabled age of travel.
The Solution: Give Your Customer a Personalised Experience
One reason some travellers enjoy staying at boutique hotels is that personal touch. You always feel just a little bit more welcome and appreciated when the concierge remembers your name or there’s that chocolate waiting on your pillow. Hotels of all sizes can now create that warm sense of hospitality by personalising the guest experience so that their customer’s entire stay is a delight from start to finish.
If you’re a returning guest, for example, the hotel might greet you with a favourite cocktail that you enjoyed on a previous stay. They might even automatically set your room to precisely the temperature that you like because they know you tend to set the thermostat at that degree. You might also be greeted with digital signage that features recommendations for your favourite movies, whether they’re rom-coms or horror flicks. And the more often you stay at that hotel, the more tailored your experience will be to your unique tastes and preferences.
Throughout all of these experiences, you feel that you are known and understood – and that your needs are anticipated. And you’re more likely to want to return to that hotel again in the future, right? After all, who wouldn’t want to to have their favourite martini or action movie waiting for them at the end of a long day spent travelling or cooped up in a conference room? As these hotels have found, this type of personalisation provides a powerful way to inspire customer loyalty and stand out from the competition.
How do they achieve this level of personalisation? By collecting data from the very minute the guest walks in the door, making sure it’s actionable, and then using it to deliver individualized experiences. For this purpose, hotels tend to categorize travellers into three distinct groups with different needs: the returning traveller, the business traveller, and the one-off traveller. Each of these traveller personas has different wants and needs, and hotels that acknowledge this fact of modern travel with a personalised strategy to match will stand a much better chance of enjoying their loyalty over the long run.
Rail operators are also using inventive personalisation techniques to engage their customers. With so many site visitors prone to bouncing, especially mobile users, it’s important to keep them on the site long enough to make a purchase. However, today’s travellers are value-conscious, and time sensitivity is a big factor. There’s a “golden window” for directing their path toward a purchase, and if you miss it, you miss out on the sale. It’s not uncommon for customers to get right up to the point of booking that rail ticket only to abandon their session to run a quick price check with a competitor.
So how can rail operators draw these customers back in to make a purchase? Some are using journey orchestration, a sophisticated personalisation technique, to seal the deal. While your customer is price-checking, you can actually see that they’ve gone to Booking.com to see if there’s a better offer somewhere else and offer them a timely 30 percent discount to entice them back.
Smart technology solutions make all of this possible, from integrated content and commerce experiences that inspire purchases to customer segmentation capabilities that enable you to deliver just the right content at the right time. That way, you can give your customers the personalised experiences they desire and strengthen your competitive position in today’s quickly evolving, digitally-enabled market.
Travellers, particularly millennials, have higher expectations than ever for a great customer experience. They want travel and transport companies to know them and understand their needs, and they’re more likely to stay loyal to those that do.
- In the customer’s mind, their journey is one single experience from start to finish – and they are counting on the travel and transport companies they do business with to provide a consistently great customer experience to match.
- Travel and transport companies can meet this demand and beat the competition by providing personalised experiences, but they face several challenges along the way.
- It’s important to keep site visitors engaged and motivated to make a purchase, transforming them from anonymous visitors to valued and known customers. They must also do so in real time, as time sensitivity is a major factor.
- Businesses in the travel and transport space can win customer loyalty and increased revenue by collecting as much data as possible across the various touchpoints involved, making it actionable, and serving up personalised experiences to the customer.