With travel spending in the United States back to pre-recession levels (up 6% this year to $293 billion), savvy travel brands are moving beyond revenue recovery to nurturing long-term growth prospects.
One of the most excitingÂ opportunitiesÂ lies with the Millenials, a bionic cohort of under 35s steadily re-defining travel for all generations. In fact, according to AmEx Business Insights, travel spending by Millenials increased by 20% this year, making them travel’s fastest growing age demographic.
And these kidsÂ are connected:
- 10.4 sources of online information before buying
- 75% have a social media profile
- 83% sleep with their cell phones by the bed
- 84% say user-generated content has a real impact on their travel decisions
- 57% update social media every day while traveling
So what does this mean for a travel brand looking to compete – and win – within this segment?
Hotels have completely shifted their offerings, creatingÂ hotel experiencesÂ andÂ creative competitionsÂ targeted to the technologically-savvy. Travel startups are building entireÂ business modelsÂ off connected Millenial travelers. The landscape is shifting, and fast.
A new whitepaperÂ and infographicÂ (below) from Bazaarvoice offer significant insights into the ways to win with Millennials, providing a framework that addresses some of the challenges when targeting this constantly shifting demographic.
We’re calling it Mission: Millennials, as the opportunity here is not just a short-term boost to the bottom line. It’s about capturing a loyal, lucrative cohort for life, a cohort that is projected by 2017 to have the largest buying power of them all – yes, even more than the revered Baby Boomers!
The travel brands that take the time to develop integrated strategies centered around Millennials will reap lifetime rewards.
1. Experiences over comforts: This doesn’tÂ necessarilyÂ mean that Millennials are not interested in comfort; rather, they are more inclined towards experiences that are interesting and unique. Why? Because compelling stories – and living a fascinating life as shared online – are the new currency.
It’s less “look at me spending all of this money on a hotel” and more “look at me having so much fun and experiencing this thing that’s amazing and don’t you wish you were here.” It’s “how does this brand make me look on social media” rather than “what does this brand say about me.” It’s no longer the price tag but the social proof that drives travel decisions.
This cognitive shift is especially important when contemplating how to build Millennial-friendly loyalty programs, as they are much more likely to value loyalty rewards that offer unique experiences over simple comfort perks. By building experiences that reflect their desire to project a certain image, brands can truly capitalize on the lifetime loyalty of these avid consumers.
2.Â Deliver digital value – and be the conversation: The slippery slope of social media can trigger reluctance to dive head first into the digital pool. Nonetheless, those brands that truly integrate their digital strategy into the everyday experience are the ones poised to win the most in the next decade.
This means providing user reviews on websites, encouraging guests to share their experiences across social media, and providing digital tools that actually enhance the guest’s experience during their stay – like digital travel guides with integrated reviews, bookings, geolocation, and social sharing features.
Digital should be seen as an amenity, or an investment that adds value to the overall experience. And digital-as-amenity means more than just having a capable website – consider what sorts of digital tools your customers would embrace as both a tool and a status symbol as they travel.
3. Use data to seamlessly deliver the best experiences: Brands that successfully deliver digital value and become the conversation are ideally positioned to mine the resulting data (reviews, check-ins, bookings, mentions, sentiment) to customize recommendations to each traveler according to previous experiences.
The value in this is two-fold. One, the guest is doing the work. It’s already happening, and by encouraging more digital interaction, brands will be given ever more detailed blueprints to truly delighting their guests.
Second, guests will be more inclined to share and participate in the brand’s digital amphitheater once they realize that this data is actually being used to make their lives better.
Millennials are much less bothered by data mining that delivers peak experiences; they are already master data miners, visiting nearly a dozen sites and mining their networks for information related to purchasing decisions. Moving forward, those that make this decision-making/manual-data-mining process simple and seamless will win.
For any remaining skeptics of targeting Millennials, just remember that technology generally travels up – as in, the young are the early adopters and new technologies gradually flow up to older age brackets. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s standard, and getting in now will proffer a first-mover advantage to brands implementing technologies that build an engaged and loyal Millenial customer base.
NB:Â ”Young Man Sitting On A Wooden Floor” fromÂ Shutterstock