Travel firms that have given up investing in trying to drive customer loyalty are probably only spending more acquiring them.
Delegates at the launch of The Future of Travel report, from personalised marketing specialist Qubit, were told although competition on price would not go away, customer experience was also key.
Sergio Iacobucci, Qubit senior associate strategist, picked out operators like Disney, with its Magic Plus wristbands, and Thomas Cook Airlines with its Little Lifts initiative as examples of good practice.
“A lot of people are saying brand loyalty is dead, that there are no true advocates,” said Iacobucci.
“In my view it’s not the case that brand loyalty is dead, it’s just a lot of companies have given up giving true customer experience.
“But the cost of providing that just goes into other areas of marketing like reacquiring customers.”
Iacobucci quoted research that suggest two thirds of customers switch brands because they have experience poor customer service.
And he said it is often the little, inexpensive things that make the difference, as long as they are considered as offering value by the customer and are relevant.
“To retain customers you don’t need to offer mass discounts. It’s the small things you can offer along the way,” said Iacobucci.
Thomas Cook’s Little Lifts campaign see child entertainers keeping kids entertained in airport queues, hanger tours offered, pre-orders for duty free and cuddly bears handed out at check-in.
The Disney Magic Plus wristbands are designed to help families better plan and organise their day therefore reduce stresses often associated with theme parks and given them more time together.
And they also double as room keys, a payments device and allow wearers to access pictures taken in the parks, as well as giving Disney a valuable source of customer data to hone their experience with.
Iacobucci said the big topic in online retailing is the development of a single customer view driven by the rise of Big Data analytics enabling a much more individual approach.
“Brands will differentiate themselves by offering experiences that are hard to replicate. To compete further brands have started to organise their data,” he said.
But Iacobucci warned: “There’s no point that data being stitched together but then stuck in a data lake somewhere it has no way of interacting with the customer.
“Having a single customer view as a platform allows you to merge your digital experience with an offline experience and make it feel like a human touch.
“At this sort of scale large brands need to use that data to allow them to do that.”
Iacobucci added: “This year we are going to see brands differentiate themselves by offering superior experiences. Relevant interactions are paramount.”
The Future of Travel Report includes contributions from futurist Glen Hiemstra, robotics expert Brennon Williams and senior executive from Expedia, Thomas Cook, glh Hotels, and Crystal Ski.
Produced in association with Travolution and Travel Weekly, it is available to download now for free from the Qubit website.