Personalized Travel Strategies to Improve Your Travel Marketing
One-of-a-kind experiences delight travelers and create memories. So it’s no wonder that virtual visitors to your brand’s digital outposts expect the same degree of individual attention. Personalization in the travel industry is fast becoming the standard for every stage of the journey, guiding how to market your travel business effectively from research through to booking and post-stay re-engagement.
More than four in five travelers now seek personalization during their experiences and interactions, according to a global survey by Hilton. For brands, success now hinges on delivering the right online offers and content at the right time, within the right context.
The good news is that hyper personalization for the travel industry is achievable. In fact, you probably already have the data building blocks you need to get started. Leveraging existing guest information and cutting-edge technology powered by AI, you can foster one-to-one relationships online that support memorable travel experiences.
What Is Personalized Marketing and Why Is It Important in the Tourism Industry?
Personalized marketing is the strategy of leveraging data and insights to deliver customized messages, offers, and experiences to consumers. In the highly competitive landscape of tourism, this approach becomes invaluable.
Today’s travelers seek more than just destinations; they desire experiences tailored to their individual preferences, needs, and budgets. Personalization in the travel industry goes beyond merely suggesting itinerary items; it encompasses a holistic customer experience, affecting everything from targeted email campaigns to room selection and activity recommendations. This hyper-targeted form of marketing increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately driving higher conversion rates and revenue. For businesses pondering how to market travel services effectively, adopting personalized marketing is not an option; it’s a necessity.
Collecting Zero- and First-Party Data is a Must
Before you can launch the travel personalization experiences your guests or passengers expect, you need data. Specifically you need the information you collect directly, known as zero- and first-party data.
Zero-party data refers to the information guests and online visitors share intentionally and explicitly.
First-party data also comes directly from individuals interacting with your brand, but it’s gathered in the background, or in the course of completing transactions. Both these data types stand in contrast to second- and third-party data, which are collected from sources outside your owned brand media and properties.
When you collect data directly, you gain key advantages when it comes to travel personalization:
- You understand customer behavior in real time:
By gathering and analyzing data from throughout the customer lifecycle, you gain insights into individuals’ preferences and spending patterns. Within digital experiences, tracking and analysis of usage in real time enables you to present context-relevant content and offers as visitors browse.
- You comply with evolving privacy standards:
A growing number of U.S. states are following the European Union in enacting legislation that empowers consumers to control what information about them companies collect, store, and use online. You can offer guests and passengers direct control over the zero- and first-party data you collect, without being subject to the whims of other platforms’ policy changes.
Examples of Zero- and First-Party Data You Probably Already Have
Another key advantage of using zero- and first-party data is that you probably already collect it in the course of your existing business processes. A few examples of familiar data sources you can use to create personalized experiences:
- Customer histories – Information collected during the booking process for prior trips is valuable first-party data, and includes what types of hotel rooms or experiences guests booked, where they live and where they traveled, whether they rented cars or dined at on-property restaurants, which activities they paid for, and any merchandise they purchased.
- Transaction records – This first-party data can help flag top spenders and send relevant offers to budget travelers. Transactional data includes the amounts spent on rooms, cars, flights, food, and experiences; the payment method used; and any coupons or discounts applied.
- On-site and in-app behavior – As visitors navigate your branded digital experiences, on-site search terms, clicks, wishlist creation and additions, newsletter signups, and other behavioral first-party data are logged.
- IoT data – When travelers are physically on your property or using your services, you can understand their preferences and traffic patterns by analyzing first-party data from beacons, GPS wayfinding features, and key-card usage.
- Traveler profiles – Guests often supply further information as part of the pre-booking or pre-arrival process. This zero-party data can include age and occupation demographics, the purpose of their trip, their preferences, and their travel interests.
- Surveys and feedback forms – If guests provide information during their travels via surveys, contest drawings, request forms, or feedback questionnaires, that zero-party data can enrich understanding of their preferences and priorities.
How to Use Data to Build Robust Customer Profiles
Once you’ve collected the data, the next crucial step in how to market your travel business is leveraging that information to create robust customer profiles for personalized experiences. To make the most of existing hospitality and travel marketing information, follow these steps:
- Consolidate data from various sources into unified customer profiles.
To understand individuals’ end-to-end experiences with your brand, track their activity not only across digital touchpoints, such as your branded website and social media, but also across different devices and into the offline world of phone calls and face-to-face interactions. Integrating these data streams creates a cohesive picture of guest behavior.
- Segment audiences based on past behaviors, interests, and trip attributes.
Once you have unified customer profiles, you can identify clusters of like-minded audiences based on their destinations, interests, and spending. Tailor content, offers, and experiences to these segments, boosting the relevance of your brand. AI-powered platforms can even identify new audience groups from seemingly-disparate data points.
- Use predictive models and algorithms to identify high-value travelers.
In addition to identifying new customer segments, AI can help interpret online visitors’ behavior in real time and deliver content and offers based on their likely interests or budget. Predictive models can help identify potentially valuable customers from their first clicks.
Travel Personalization Strategies That Are Easy to Implement
When you’ve gathered the necessary data, the next stage is knowing how to market travel business effectively. There are countless personalization strategies that are easy to implement, improving both online and offline experiences throughout the customer lifecycle. Among the strategies to consider:
- Inspiration Phase – Assist visitors with research and stoke their excitement for the trip with ideas and options that motivate them to dive deeper.
- Curate recommendations for destinations, hotels, activities, and restaurants based on prior trip data, wishlists, and preferences.
- Display social proof and inspiration blog posts or videos that align with visitors’ interests. Deliver this content via email campaigns or themed web or app experiences.
- Research and Trip Planning – As visitors move toward setting dates and destinations, present offers that align with their budget and preferences.
- Searches should prioritize results that not only match the current keywords, but align with priorities based on past interactions with your brand.
- Recommend activities, tours, and dining options that match the trip parameters and the visitors’ likely budget.
- Booking – When visitors are ready to commit, relevant cross-sells and deals can seal the deal.
- Encourage travelers to book hotels, rental cars, flights, and restaurant reservations that match their interests and priorities to save money and time as they finalize details of the trip.
- Offer upgrades, discounts, and add-ons depending on loyalty or VIP status.
- Suggest preferred payment methods and offer redemption of available loyalty points to smooth the transaction.
- Pre-Arrival Engagement – Include personalized offers and content alongside pre-trip information.
- Deliver relevant tips, recommendations, and checklists based on passenger and guest itineraries. Use the app to send push notifications as travel dates approach.
- Provide comprehensive destination guides focusing on travelers’ preferences and interests. Include user-generated content and local expert viewpoints to deliver an authentic take on local attractions.
- On-Site Experiences – Once travelers have arrived, put learning to use to deliver one-of-a-kind experiences that deliver delight.
- Tailor the details of lodgings with personalized amenities and gifts.
- Deliver real-time recommendations based on the guest’s location, the time of day, and their activities and preferences.
- Use mobile messaging to deliver coupons and activity ideas on the go and in context.
- Post-Trip Communication – Follow through to gather feedback and encourage re-engagement with content tailored to their recent visit.
- Send customized feedback surveys tailored to capture insights about the specific activities and experiences guests tried.
- Invite loyalty club signups that highlight specific perks of interest to individual guests.
- Suggest new ideas for future trips based on their recent experiences.
Maximize Results with Testing and Optimization
Launching personalization features isn’t a ‘set and forget’ venture; it’s a continual process that plays a key role in how to market a travel business effectively. To ensure visitors see the most relevant selections possible, you should monitor performance, test options, and continually optimize offerings.
Study your current analytics to identify key points in the path-to-purchase and booking process.
Run A/B tests of the featured content and offers to determine which variations of text, images, and calls-to-action are most effective.
For holistic insights, use testing tools that can incorporate cross-channel digital journeys. Honing landing pages for paid search ads and aggregator sites can help improve customer acquisition, for example, while close study of the effectiveness of email campaigns and loyalty club app features can help encourage re-engagement.
Compare performance based on audience segments using not only revenue metrics, but engagement and social proof.
To rev your testing capabilities, seek out AI-powered tools that can adjust tests on the fly based on real-time results.
Successful Travel Personalization Starts with What You Have
Visitors increasingly expect digital experiences to be tailored to their travel priorities and preferences.
Brands can harness their existing data to better understand their customers and leverage personalization technology to translate those insights into bespoke online content, tools, and promotions.
By delivering individualized online interactions for passengers and guests, you can set a high standard for one-to-one service that reflects the quality of your brand.