Generating revenue from your onsite and app data
by Data Analyst Pawan Yadav
Companies in the travel industry are currently struggling with fierce, fast-changing competition. Eve since the introduction of Web 2.0 technology, things haven’t been the same. Customers are more aware, more empowered and more knowledgeable. In fact, customers themselves now generate tremendous amounts of content on social media, blogs and reviews, influencing the choices of other travelers across the globe.
What does that mean for you travel industry marketing gurus? As the increasingly active role of the customers has added to the complexity of the industry, understanding customers’ behavior across different touchpoints is critical to your success. By utilizing historic and real-time data, fine-tuning personalized experience across all channels and optimizing web analytics and digital marketing, you will be able to:
- Improve look-to-book ratios
- Convert browsers into loyal, high-value customers
- Meet customer demand in a personalized way
- Create profitable cross-sell and up-sell offers
Challenges in Travel Industry
The Internet, coupled with the present-day use of mobile technologies, has triggered a massive data boom. People generate information about themselves every single time they perform an online activity, be it an Internet search, electronic payment, use of GPS systems or using social media.
Although this kind of environment is full of opportunities for travel and hospitality providers – to capture all of the precious information about travelers and get remarkably accurate insight into their needs, preferences as well as behavior – the industry only recently started acknowledging the benefits of what is commonly called “Big Data”. In 2013, according to a BTN Group survey, only 34% of the executives in the industry said their companies are considering the ways to use big data; only 14% said they have taken on the concept.
Before, travelers would usually rely on their trusted travel agent to suggest and plan all the details of their travel. To book a hotel, arrange a flight, arrange daily excursions, suggest restaurants, etc.
That model quickly became antiquated. Look at the options available today. Online travel agents (OTAs) like Expedia; metasearch solutions like Kayak; review sites like TripAdvisor; entirely new cost-effective concepts like Airbnb and Wimdu; crowdsourced platforms like Trekkel; and whatever comes next. Nowadays, we usually choose to plan and book our leisure and business travels ourselves.
With so many booking options and constantly improving travel tools, travelers are becoming a tough fish to catch. Only truly great products will manage to attract and retain customers. This equally applies to all the actors performing in the larger travel and hospitality sector: hotels, airlines, car rental companies, restaurants. Everyone is faced with the challenge of distinguishing their brand among the huge, innovative crowd of competitors.
There are many ways to understand and define a truly great product in the travel and hospitality industry. One simple benchmark for quality, however, is that a product can supply the customer with the information and services that are relevant and tailor-made throughout the travel experience.
To come up with such a product in today’s digital marketing environment, you need to know and understand their customers. Only then will they be in a position to fine-tune their strategies in real-time and reach them effectively. You must adopt an analytics-based model of digital data harnessing to better understand the customer and personalized marketing through the use of big data.
Personalization: The Holy Grail
Travelers might visit multiple websites, passing numerous touchpoints, during their research and booking process. Typically, these are several OTA websites, websites of hotels and airlines, Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Facebook and more. It is important to find a way to make yourself visible, and to capture and keep customers’ attention.
Personalized marketing gives you the opportunity to proactively reach out toward the customer, build lasting awareness about your brand and gain loyalty.
Analyzing customer behavior data provides insights into travelers’ interests. You need to make use of these insights to tailor offers and messaging that correspond to and target customers’ particular interests. Through a rich portrait of customer behavior, both in-session and historic, you can anticipate customers’ actions, define relevant offers and respond to your customers’ need(s).
By personalizing the content of your emails and using targeted display ads and onsite recommendations, you can improve look-to-book ratios, revenue and customer loyalty. Ongoing engagement campaigns are there to endorse the promotion of favorite destinations and can be planned to coincide with seasonal travel and special travel packages. A sophisticated personalized marketing approach is critical; especially having in mind that travel research activity performed by customers can be very brief. Retargeting browsers with display ads and emails can therefore offer a critical advantage.
According to research of IBM Institute of Business Value Analysis and Oxford Economics, nearly half of all leisure travelers spend less than two hours shopping for and booking travel options.
Therefore, a powerful real-time data management platform – integrated with automated marketing tools – is vital. Only with these tools can translate preferences into action with onsite recommendations, exit intent technologies, email marketing, search remarketing, push notifications.
Building Traveler Profiles
Your consumers’ behavior is constantly fluctuating and adapting to the changing environment. Capturing real-time data across online and offline sources is therefore crucial. In this case, a real-time data processing and management tool will put you in position to cast a broad net and create profiles of travelers and segments that are rich in detail. With these complete profiles you can devise a far more sophisticated strategy and make personalized pitches based on a set of relevant factors, such as behavior history, real-time in-session activity, seasonal travel habits, position in the buying cycle, life events such as important dates and anniversaries, and campaign response. Using data scraping from Facebook fans, Twitter followers and other social media engagement, you can further refine and tailor customer profiles. For example, learning that a customer from Hamburg is planning a Mediterranean cruise gives you a great marketing opportunity and enables you to attend to their needs in a personalized way.
Cross-Device User Identification
While looking for a journey, from the very first search till the final booking, travelers might switch devices a dozen or more times. This shows how important it has become for travel marketers to work across devices, and integrate and connect every single one of them. 11% of the travelers plan their trip entirely via smartphone, 38% plan and book via PC reveals "The Mobile Traveler" Study done by GfK and TNS on behalf of Google and TUI. Due to this complex mixture of devices, it becomes imperative to associate or profile every single visitor or customer to their corresponding devices.
Customer service and satisfaction is the backbone of success in the Travel and Hospitality industry. Therefore, it’s very important to gauge your client’s impression on your offerings and services. Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer loyalty by categorizing them into different groups, can be used as a source of evaluating your customer sentiments directly.
Modern consumers expect a truly personalized experience. He expects to be approached through his preferred channels and only with content he deems relevant. According to a study conducted by L’tur, 83% of travelers use their smartphones and are online during their summer holidays, which is 10% more compared to year prior. While on a journey, travelers engage with their smartphones to look for excursions, restaurants recommendations and information about the destination itself. With smartphones being our only constant companion and the widespread use of applications, personalized push notifications are a marvelous opportunity for marketing strategy that can impact sales significantly.
Mobile applications can help you learn about customers and connect with them on a more personal level. Important events, such as birthdays, upcoming product releases, deals or promotions can be extremely helpful, and can help you seal the bond with your customer.
Booking abandonment marketing messages seem to be one of the most financially beneficial event-triggered notifications sent to customers. Research suggests that majority of abandoned bookings occur when the consumer is not ready to purchase at that moment in time, but wants to save it for later. Although booking abandonment messages are usually sent by e-mail, push notifications can offer one more touchpoint. Reminding them of their abandoned booking via notification, marketers can redirect their customers to an in-app page where their booking is just a click away.
Physical location is an excellent marketing parameter. Using geo-location services, Facebook check-ins or Foursquare, you can set a perimeter around a certain location, and use it as parameter to trigger a message to the mobile device user physically present in that area.
Almost half of smartphone users (47%) are open for receiving messages, including coupons and promotions, from retailers when they are looking to buy something at or near their physical location, according to research from Localytics/Research Now. This is a great opportunity to market your products to the willing customers who are in the right place at the right time. Travelers can be directly addressed with information related to their trips: flight status, gate information, offers based on their locations, etc.
Get to know your traveler
With your website taking over the role of travel agent, you need to find the way to “hear” the wants of your travelers. By harnessing the data from their behavior, you are in position to know about destinations they are interested in, when they intend to travel and how much they are prepared to pay. Collect and use this valuable information to your own advantage. Appeal to your customers’ interests and approach them with relevant content, helping them and making their buying decision easy and enjoyable.
You can personalize your entire website by structuring it around the behavior of your visitors, mimicking a natural conversation flow between them. Know who your customer is and respond to every click with due care and relevant content.
Help your traveler
Booking a trip is time consuming, but do not let it be annoying! If your customer is particular about a romantic couple weekend trip to Paris in February, do not bother him with family friendly all-inclusive summer holiday offers in Antalya in August. At this step, you ought to be focusing on offers, packages, itineraries and things to do on a weekend stay in Paris in February. Your website must respond to your customers. You need to save your customers’ time and make looking for options easy, instead of nerve-wracking.
Feel free to help out your customer with his search by making your website the best customer service he can get. Provide personalized guidance to your customer on your website by using the customer data at your hand: search terms, referring sites, geo-location, visits, visit frequency, etc. This data will make you fully informed and position you to offer reliable assistance to your travelers.
Remember your traveler
Once they have a good experience with your website, your customers will come back to you in future. Make sure you reciprocate and foster this relationship every time your customer comes back to you and revisits your website. The more your traveler visits your website, the more information about him you have. Make sure to make use of this information over time to grow a better and stronger relationship with your customer.
About the author
Pawan Yadav is a Digital Data Analyst at Webtrekk. He has experience with international companies across five continents from numerous industries, including travel, e-commerce, financial services and multichannel retail. Pawan specializes in digital analytics, automated marketing, business intelligence and multichannel customer experience transformation, helping online businesses achieve their financial and service delivery objectives. Pawan has an M.S. in Web Science and a B.E. in Computer Science.