Travel is one of the most logistically complex and data-heavy consumer-facing industries in the world. There’s nothing more difficult than optimizing for flight paths and times, finding a hotel, and ensuring you’ve considered a car rental… And this all happens after a consumer decides to make a purchase, which could take several weeks or months.
With so much complexity, it’s no wonder that personalization technology has yet to see universal adoption in this space. Many smaller companies still operate on a direct sales model, where an agent tries to determine an ideal trip. Alternatively, much of the searching and work is done by the consumer — from seeking hotels, to running their own filters on a website, and booking a reservation for themselves.
Building on our experiences providing analytics and personalization to travel companies, we wanted to share some personalization strategies that are sure-fire ways to grow engagement and conversion rates.
Self-segmentation by spend levels
Consumers searching for vacation options typically self-segment on how much they’re planning to spend for the trip. Remember that when you search for a flight or hotel, you are provided with filters around cost and convenience.
Setting a price filter automatically tells the travel company what spend levels are optimal for the individual. Furthermore, toggling settings around direct flights, specific loyalty programs, or amenities will indicate whether this person is more focused on price or convenience. Few travel sites collect this data – missing out on a great opportunity to make recommendations for that individual later.
Location-based travel versus theme-based travel
Many travel companies have an active content marketing strategy. As a potential customer browses the site, it’s important to see what content seems to be of interest. Furthermore, the kinds of searches that individuals make demonstrate whether they have a specific location in mind, or if the have an aspirational theme instead.
Consider these individuals who search for similar trips, but in very different ways:
- Review flights to Norway, Iceland, and Colorado; also reads articles on hiking.
- Reviews flight options on SAS and Norwegian, looking at options for both Oslo and Trondheim.
In the first case this traveller is clearly interested in a themed vacation (e.g., hiking) based on suitable regions. In the second case, the person is clearly interested in visiting Norway, and likely has already made the decision to find an appropriate flight.
Catering your content to these individual aspirations or decisions will lead to a faster sale, and a happier customer.
User reviews and social data
Most travel sites enable their users to review their past trips, hotel stays, restaurant visits, and other experiences. Furthermore, many such sites also enable a “social login” where a user can log in using their Twitter or Facebook account.
Both of these data types are a treasure trove of information, yielding information on the customer’s demographics, preferences, and past experiences. All of this could be used to generate extremely personalized recommendations and advice on future travel options and itineraries.
Send triggered e-mails and offer personalized vacation bundles
So what should you do if you want to get more data-driven in your travel marketing? We recommend two broad strategies: triggered e-mails and personalized bundles. Below, we’ll explore both in greater detail:
- Triggered e-mails. Potential customers who visit your site likely follow a certain “lead velocity” – it takes them several weeks to convert to the actual purchase. When you first notice a visitor searching for a specific set of trips, you can begin sending them e-mails based on their browsing behavior and the destination/theme interests they seem to exhibit. You can also use display advertising and retargeting for this, if you do not have their e-mail address.
- Build personalized bundles. Today’s personalization technologies enable you to build ultra-personalized bundles for each individual. Imagine building a completely personalized offer for each individual based on their browsing, content consumption, and past reviews – you can suggest relevant flights, hotels, and amenities based on what you already know about the person. This will likely increase conversions, represent great up-sell opportunities, and the bundles themselves can also be used to achieve your own business objectives (e.g., build bundles that include partners which are more profitable to your business).
We’re surprised that few in the travel industry have implemented this level of personalization to date, as it represents a timely opportunity to boost customer engagement and revenue. What’s more, this approach has already proven its return on investment in countless other industries. Here at Canopy Labs, we’re proud to be working with travel companies to achieve revenue growth through personalized bundles. If you have case studies or questions, comment below.
See how we helped Vegas.com grow its revenue per e-mail by 28% within two months through recommending 1:1 unique travel experiences, events, hotels, and more to each subscriber.