You’ve probably experienced it this year much more than in the past. Airlines, hotels and travel apps are using data about your preferences to tell you exactly what your vacation should look like; where to go, when to fly, what to pay, whether to stay in this hotel or that B&B or if you should eat at that famous restaurant, and at what time it’s best to visit the Tower of London to avoid the lines.
The online travel industry is thriving.
According to PR Newswire, the 2022 online travel sales generated 762 billion U.S dollars, and is projected to grow to around 865.5 billion USD by 2023. It must be noted that online travel sales hit a sharp decline in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but the online sales in 2022 finally surpassed the peak revenue from 2019.
Still, an unimaginable number of startups around the world have taken advantage of the ever-growing popularity of the online travel industry. New apps have been created to help the buyers, along with technology to help the sellers. Anything from post-booking flight changes, to cloud-based solutions for hotel management, to location-based recommendations, it’s all there. Innovations range from the familiar and useful to the unique and quirky. Everybody wants a share.
The continuous growth in travel-related businesses has created another interesting phenomenon, when last year, for example, 70% of bookings came through only three websites: Booking.com, Expedia, and Airbnb.
Altogether, the market is increasingly becoming dominated by a relatively small group of big players, with tons of small players trying to keep up. And big players, by definition, don’t often have time to pay attention to the small customer.
That Customer Loyalty Thingy
You’ve heard it more than once – customer loyalty is probably dead. Let’s examine that argument for a second: as commercial interactions move increasingly online, it is certainly easy to lose the human element, as large travel companies are winning customers over through convenience and price rather than bespoke customer service. The small, individual customer becomes irrelevant, because the larger companies can afford to be more competitive in other aspects.
Only one problem though – small customers matter. A lot. As small companies continue to compete against giants, the way to survive is to create a market that is emotionally intelligent, personalized, and offers added value to the individual. It’s always been important to foster customer loyalty, but in today’s world, it may very well be what draws the line between success and failure for some businesses.
Customers have tremendous power to choose the vendor or the brand that delights them the most and caters to their needs. And as time goes by, we can no longer say, “loyalty is a nice to have.” No, loyalty is a necessity!
Down to Basics
In many ways, the situation is becoming increasingly similar to that of the retail industry. Retailers today struggle against the online giant Amazon, who devours an increased share of the market. To distinguish themselves against Amazon and keep customers coming back, many retailers are refocusing on how they interact with their clients – turning to data-driven, emotionally-intelligent creativity-fostering business, looking over their customers in a personalized way. Several of these retail outlets, of which many use Optimove, use personalization tools to target offers and promotions to customers that appeal to everyone, helping them increase their profit in the process.
As large players and aggregators such as Booking.com begin to monopolize the market, challenger travel providers can take a page out of the retailers’ book, and learn to keep their existing customers from being drawn away. With the wealth of customer data at their disposal, travel providers have an opportunity to manage their customer communications in a way that keeps consumers happy and offers the chance to up-sell to them. Personalization is key.
Birthday rewards, for instance, are one of the best-performing personalized marketing campaigns. It may be a trivial example, but it’s something that the travel industry has not yet embraced fully. Adding the personal touch works like a charm, and shouldn’t be ignored, at any level.
Ignite the Competition
And businesses can do much more with data to target their customers than just remembering their birthdays: Using data to find ideas for conversation starters can engage each customer and keep them coming back. Using key data to divide the customer base into different groups, specific promotions and rewards can target different types of customers. Depending on their personal taste and how they respond, using data alongside these retention tactics can find the best kind of offer for each person to keep them coming back.
In both retail and travel, customer loyalty is not what it was. In an online world with less human interaction, customers are attracted and retained through a constant exchange of value. When large travel companies abandon customer service, they reduce the value they offer to the customer, and invite competition in.
Opportunities for contender travel businesses lay in finding what value means to each customer. By using data insights to adapt communications to different types of customers, these businesses and endeavors can compete with larger players and offer a distinguished, bespoke service, that suits everyone.
Shauli Rozen is a tech and data expert, consultant and business leader, specializing in creating business value through data-driven marketing and monetization strategies. His previous positions include Director of Strategy at Amdocs and Management Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised senior management of Fortune 500 companies. Shauli holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA from the Wharton Business School in the University of Pennsylvania.
At one time (not so long ago), most retention marketers would send the same marketing campaign to their entire customer list. Nowadays, most marketers understand well the value of segmenting their customers into groups and sending different offers to each group. As we’ve discussed in a previous post, sophisticated marketers and retention experts have discovered … Continued
At Optimove, we’re always thinking about ways to better understand customers and their behavior. A big part of that is constantly being on the lookout for interesting customer segments and personas that have the potential to improve customer retention marketing. One customer lifecycle stage that we think about a lot in the world of online … Continued
Many types of online businesses have customers who tend to be active only during particular times of the year. Just a few examples are online retail stores (many customers use particular stores to shop only for particular types of seasonal products, mostly ignoring the store the rest of the year), sports betting sites (many customers … Continued