How the Travel Industry Can Better Prepare to Meet the Needs of Today’s Travelers
Flight delays and cancellations, inflation and high gas prices are posing unique challenges for travelers. Yet according to a new study from Sense360 by Medallia, 71% of Americans say they still intend to travel this summer, whereas only 54% said they traveled in the summer of 2021. About 25% are looking to make up for lost travel time from earlier on in the pandemic and only 5% of travelers are now selecting travel destinations based on their COVID-19 protocols.
While this is great news for the travel industry, airlines and hotels must take the time to deeply understand the new needs of today’s customers, especially as emerging expectations and shifting customer profiles influence the current state of travel. Fortunately, innovative tools and technologies can help play a role in this process.
Technology has fueled innovation and reinvention since the start of the pandemic, enabling brands to accelerate bookings, enhance customer service throughout the traveler journey and ultimately drive customer loyalty. Now, savvy travel and hospitality companies should continue leveraging technology to understand who their customers are, what they want in the moment and uncover insights that can drive customer conversions and overall experiences.
5 Technologies Travel and Hospitality Brands Need to Drive Customer Conversions, Experiences and Loyalty
#1: Real-time customer experience technology and always-on feedback surveys
Right at this very minute, customers are leaving powerful, revealing insights wherever they go — when they reach out to customer contact centers, visit websites, leave online reviews or complete customer feedback surveys.
Customers are more mobile than ever before, and they expect to be able to connect with airlines and hotels using the digital channels of their choice. That's why instead of soliciting guest or traveler feedback via emails, travel and hospitality brands should integrate their guest and traveler surveys across every aspect of their footprint — embedding the opportunity for guests to share their experiences via their company’s website, mobile app and in-person footprint using QR codes.
By capturing insights at potential points of friction, such as when a potential guest is encountering an error that prevents them from completing an online booking, staff can proactively intervene to solve the problem, increasing the likelihood of conversion and an improved traveler experience.
#2: Digital behavioral analytics
Given the rapid rise of digital transactions, digital behavioral analytics are critical in revealing what actions visitors are taking and what’s preventing conversions. This technology can detect if a sign-up process is time consuming and if a customer goes all the way through the booking process only to stop at the fares or scheduling pages.
For example, Sense360 by Medallia uncovered that prices appear to be a factor for some who are traveling, as 29% of travelers are choosing to stay at the homes of friends and family. For hotels looking to win back these travelers, digital behavioral analytics that are aggregated at scale can provide the insights they need to modify their websites, booking flow, pricing or scheduling to drive conversions.
#3: Personalized customer outreach and messaging
Rather than lean on traditional booking processes, brands should consider personalizing guest messaging and on-site experiences — as the customer is making their reservation, the property can ask a few simple questions about who the guest is traveling with and the purpose of their stay. Leading brands are taking this step, using the data to personalize customer outreach and the overall traveler's journey.
Imagine a family books a hotel for two adults and a child. That might sound like a typical leisure vacation, but what if during the booking process, the guest reveals the purpose of the trip is to both attend a work conference and have a family trip? The company could then personalize travel communications related to this and personalize the stay by stocking the room with extra towels or upgrading the family to a suite with a work area.
#4: Industry benchmarking to capture share of loyalty
Interest in travel is up this year, but these gains are not necessarily equal across the industry. Brands may see their year-over-year numbers climbing up, but not have insights as to how they’re doing within the travel sector overall or in comparison to their competitors. Third-party consumer panel benchmarking data, based on real customer foot traffic, transactions and survey data from millions of consumer panelists, can help companies evaluate their standing when it comes to share of loyalty. Companies can use these insights to understand what’s driving traffic to specific properties, whether competitors are gaining share or if they’re losing customers -- and why.
#5: AI-backed text and speech analytics to uncover customer sentiment
While travel and hospitality brands collect countless amounts of qualitative and quantitative customer data points from social media reviews, customer support phone calls, emails to surveys and more, it is nearly impossible to manually analyze and draw insights from these sources at scale. However, companies can use AI-backed text and speech analytics to analyze massive amounts of text and speech and thematically categorize what customers are saying into topics in real time. Hotels and airlines are able to see at a glance what their brands’ top topics of concern and trending issues are and filter these insights by categories such as region, brand and traveler segment.
While enthusiasm for travel is picking up, so much about what lies ahead is unknown. That said, there’s no reason for brands to be operating in the dark. Powerful technologies can empower travel brands to pinpoint what’s happening with today’s customers and respond strategically to meet their latest preferences and ultimately drive conversions and loyalty.