How Can the Travel Industry Get More from Personalisation?
Posted by Mike Atherton on 20 February, 2018
Business travellers are no longer satisfied by basic tricks of the trade like addressing them by name in emails, so what can TMCs do better when it comes to personalisation?
The proliferation of tech-savvy consumers means innovation has a shorter life-cycle than ever, with users quick to embrace, master, and move beyond, new trends. With so much disruption it’s no wonder just 11% of business leaders know how to build organisations for future success.
The world of business travel is no different. Even though traveller personalisation hasn't long been considered a key element of TMC strategy, business travellers are fast becoming accustomed to the benefits of more personalised travel management.
Understanding Travellers is Vital
It’s widely understood by consumers that the websites and apps they use will collect information about them – for example, location data, browsing habits and purchase history. For any TMC hoping to succeed in the hyper-competitive business travel market it's vital this infomation is used to derive unparalleled insight into a traveller’s preferences.
Oliver Heckmann, Google’s VP of Engineering for Travel and Shopping, perfectly summed up this neccessity when he said:
“People don’t just want faster access to information — they want better, more personalized experiences. If I were to pull out my phone and search for a nearby hotel or restaurant, I’d expect the information I find to be tailored to me based on my location, time of day, and maybe even past interests."
A study by Google and Phocuswright shows Heckmann isn’t wrong, with 57% of travellers agreeing brands should tailor their offerings based on personal preferences or past behaviours. More than 1 in 3 even said they’d pay more for that level of personalisation.
Be More Than Just a Booking Service
Too often TMCs are seen as nothing more than a platform for booking cheaper flights and hotels, yet there are miriad gaps in the business travel experience you can fill — setting yourself apart in the process.
This is demonstrated in an article from Google that revealed smartphone searches at hotels have increased around 30% in the last year, while searches related to “places to eat near me” have more than doubled.
You can pre-empt these needs by supplementing itineraries with recommendations on where to eat, what to do during downtime and how best to reach their temporary workplace. This tactic can help you reduce traveller churn with 69% of travellers saying they’re more loyal to travel companies that personalise their experiences.
Offer the Right Choice, Not Too Much Choice
Research from Google shows 64% of business travellers start their journey in a search engine, really you want them to be starting with you.
It's understandable travellers want to see what's out there, but booking off-policy can be problematic and it’s unlikely they want to waste an entire afternoon scrolling and clicking through thousands of results. This presents another opportunity for your TMC to shine!
Through insightful personalisation you can save business travellers a lot of effort by serving up a handful of perfect options, based on:
- Date and location of trip
- Specific requirements
- Previous preferences
- Results of risk assessment
- Any criteria set out in travel policy
Not only is this going to delight end-users by making it easier to book amazing business travel experiences, but the businesses who pay for your services will be glad of the productivity savings.
Making fewer, but more relevant suggestions, is also a great strategy for optimising travel management for smaller screens. Ensuring you cater to the 52% of business travellers who are now booking trip elements on their smartphone.
Perfect Deals at the Perfect Moment
This doesn’t need to be complicated, and simply recommending ancillary products can be effective. However, personalising traveller recommendations based on their data means you avoid bombarding them with irrelevant offers, like discounts on car parking if they don’t drive.
Scheduling emails and push-notifications to target travellers at key stages of their itinerary is the next step of this strategy. Contacting a traveller the night before a trip and reminding them to book an airport transfer can secure extra revenue, as well as mitigating a potential disaster.
You shouldn’t be afraid to embrace new ideas, like location-targeted beacon technology which allows you to target travellers when they’re within range of beacon. This presents amazing opportunities to ensure they see the right offer at exactly the time they're most likely to make a purchase. A great example would be prompting travellers to pay for car parking via their mobile when they reach the car park.
Embrace B2C Strategies
Unlike their consumer-facing cousins, TMCs have rarely relied on flashy websites, apps or advertising. However, there’s a lot to be learned from the user experience (UX) tricks they deploy.
For example, social proof (reviews, ratings and recommendations from other travellers) has been shown to significantly increase trust in a product. In fact, research shows nearly three-quarters of consumers trust social proof over anything a brand has to say.
There’s literally no reason why integrating reviews from similarly minded travellers shouldn’t also encourage more bookings through your TMC.
Likewise, creating responsive websites and apps that display different calls-to-action (CTA) depending on who’s viewing, has been shown by HubSpot to improve conversion rates by 42%. Targeting a traveller with a history of travelling in style, with a relevant CTA about flight upgrades, is likely to encourage them to book.
Business Travel Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Any TMC worth their salt knows every business traveller has different ideas about what makes the perfect business travel experience. Likewise, every business has its own priorities too. The key to your success is ensuring the content you provide intersects those often conflicting needs.
By ensuring every trip element you suggest are personalised to meet those critera you'll find travellers booking through your TMC with increased frequency — therefore increasing compliance with any business travel policies.
If you're able to further improve the level of personalisation by targetting travellers with the right ancillary product messaging, at the right time, your revenues are likely to increase significantly. Additionally, deploying what are typically more consumer-focused UX strategies, can encourage users to purchase ancillary products through your TMC's systems, helping to further drive revenue.
Want to find out more about how your TMC can transform traveller experiences to better serve evolving traveller behaviours? Click here to download our roundtable discussion on the future of the business travel industry.