Key priorities for travel brands in a data-driven future

Adobe and Econsultancy have carried out an in depth study of Digital Trends in Travel and Hospitality Sectors, conducted in Q3 of 2017 and based on a survey of more 600 marketing executives, and reveals industry strengths and weaknesses in a new report.

Tnooz spoke with Julie Hoffmann, Adobe’s head of industry strategy & marketing – travel to review the key priorities for travel brands identified by the study.

#1 Customer experience for a mobile traveler overshadows other priorities

The report shows that mobile sales represent approximately one-third of travel-related sales, and that share is growing by nearly 15% year-on-year.

A key driver of success for travel companies over the next decade will be their ability to adapt to mobile-first interaction at every phase of the customer journey, from travel decision-making to service fulfillment, by developing the necessary infrastructure and customer experience strategy.

As Hoffmann tells us:

“What we know is that people want to be on-the-go, and obviously accessible to information. There’s an ongoing increase of consumers who are basically switching over to mobile devices as their primary form of engagement with a brand. Unfortunately, conversion rates haven’t always followed the same percentages as you have on desktop. A lot of brands now have this huge sense of urgency to solve for this. If they don’t, they have a huge population on these devices and they are not talking to them in a meaningful way.”

UX-design will play a key role in developing satisfactory mobile interactions because the smaller size and portability of the screen directly impacts how travelers want to interface with the brand. On a desktop, the screen may allow for lengthy search, but mobile search needs to be more simplified and relevant as should the customer conversation.    

#2 First-party data is being collected, but not fully utilized

The research shows found that 57% of marketing executives reported being happy with their ability to collect customer first-party data, but they are struggling to put the data they gather to target customers more effectively or adequately integrating “offline” data from third parties.

Hoffmann says:

“What we see if we look at the sub-sectors—especially the transportation sector—from a logistics perspective is that people are in and out quickly. Travel Brands need access to data and it needs to be readily available.”

As examples of how data may be applied to the rapidly changing customer base of transport services, Hoffmann highlights how retailers at Heathrow are using flight  data to prepare for foot traffic.    

“Their anchor stores, in retail, use airport flight data to prepare themselves for international travelers. By anticipating the nationality of the customers that will come to their stores, the brands are able to change their digital displays and marketing collateral to match the passengers passing by. That’s taking off-line information from flight data, that they get through API services, which they are using when the travelers land.”

#3 Consumer technology is the driver of change

The report encourages travel brands to think beyond UX improvements, to the core purpose of new technologies for consumers: reducing the time between desire and completed action. This desire for speedy results means people will be using natural language or voice for a greater number of their queries.

Hoffmann says: 

“Conversational interfaces are going to play a huge role..and most travel brands are trying to figure that out.” 

As stated in the report:

“Mobile device users already use voice search roughly 25% of the time in shopping queries regardless of sector. Travel and hospitality is likely by its nature to see a higher share of conversational experiences and faster growth because active travelers often don’t have access to a larger screen, and chatbots and voice searches are more likely to have conversion potential.”

#4 Personalization is critical, but the obstacles are varied

While a lot of the focus on personalization has been on data-gathering and application, the study finds that the greatest hurdle to delivering on personalization is the human element. Primarily this is because of a resistance to change in the corporate culture. Since each of the departments managing customer relationships—marketing, sales, customer service—have independent requirements for one part of the relationship, there are times when the aims may be crossed, with inadequate exchange of information or a failure to reach consensus on the strategies to follow. Companies can encounter further problems based on teams protecting their silos, even justifying their existence.   

Hoffmann suggests that organizations can drive positive change by investing in skills development to ensure that team members can keep up with changing market demands, and also by fostering common goals. Hoffman suggests that encouraging this team-behavior can be directly tied to compensation, rewarding collaboration on projects rather than basing bonuses on the performance of individual teams, for example.

As Hoffmann says:

“[Companies should move] beyond the silos of a channel, and to really think about what is the customer is doing, no matter where they are. This is a key pivot point that needs to happen. You have one department that handles web, or mobile web, and another that handles the app, and here you have consumers pivot or migrate to other channels or platforms. The departmental goals will be to increase their engagement. If the customer is migrating channels..[you need to] have the organizational goals be the goals of all departments; not having competing goals, but putting the customer at the center.”

Percentage of respondents in each category citing each element as an obstacle to personalization

Julián Gentilezza

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.

 

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