James Blake, chief executive at Hello Soda
The travel industry has changed dramatically over the last decade. Previously, holidaymakers would visit their high-street travel agent to have every aspect of their holiday tailored to their requirements – from their perfect destination and hotel, to flight times to suit their needs and excursions based on what they enjoy.
But nowadays, people are heading online to book their holidays. In fact, 76% of British holidaymakers booked their holidays online last year, compared to just 19% of bookings made in person at a travel agent. Since this offers convenience, alongside a wider choice at the click of a button, it is no wonder the online industry is thriving. The only hindrance here is that the hallmark human element of high-street travel agents has become devoid in the digital age. And with so much competition, it will be the companies that can offer the same personalised experience over the internet that will come out on top.
Until now, travel companies have relied upon simple data sets to categorise their online customers. Knowing information such as age, gender and location is better than not knowing anything about their customers, but it is far from personal. Big data and text analytics tools offer the potential to gain a much deeper understanding of online customers by harnessing their entire online footprint. This offers insight into their lifestyle, personal preferences and even the types of holiday they enjoy.
This lends itself particularly well to the travel industry as customers who search online will be leaving trails of data behind them. Every time a customer researches a destination, books a trip, visits a place or leaves comments or reviews online, data is created. This data can provide vast and significant insights to allow travel companies to start dealing with their customers as individuals and tailor their communications accordingly. This could include bespoke offers based on the types of destinations they have been to before, or information about specific excursions that they are likely to be interested in.
A survey carried out by Abta revealed that 46% of holidaymakers stick to using just two or three websites when booking their holiday. Customer loyalty is fundamental to the success of the modern travel agent and being proactive is vital – especially when a company is looking to stand out in the highly competitive online travel market. Big data analytics tools can help companies to create an image of who their customers are and their preferences, based on their entire online footprint. Whether it be the likes of a city break in France for a food lover, to an adventure-packed holiday in Australia for an adrenaline junkie – companies will be able to get to know their customers and what they want from a holiday. Tailoring communication and offers based on their likes and where they have previously visited provides the customer with the personalised experience that was the hallmark of the high-street travel agent.
The way holidaymakers buy travel has changed and it will continue to change as the world becomes more digitalised. With the global online travel market expected to exceed $1billion by 2022, companies that fail to take advantage of the online footprint of their customers will only limit themselves. Building relationships with customers is key to standing out from the competition, increasing brand loyalty, attracting new customers and future-proofing the business. It’s time to be proactive and give your company the personal edge.