How to deliver personalized interactions at every stage of the traveler’s journey

As marketers, our goal is to know the wants, needs and desires of each individual traveler throughout the stages of their journey. Most travel brands struggle to deliver targeted omnichannel messages and offers in real time. 

Travel marketers want their communications to be more personalized (in the moment) based on how the individual has most recently interacted with the brand, however this is not always possible without a comprehensive view of each traveler.

It all starts with identity.

Strong customer identity and advanced personalization capabilities are critical to achieve this success and build loyalty in a highly competitive travel brand environment.

Identity is important because it serves as the foundation for building robust customer profiles that drive truly personalized 1:1 marketing. The strongest customer profiles include data which helps marketers know each traveler as an individual, including who they are, what they book, what they browse and how they connect.

To put the customer profile to best use, it’s important to understand each stage of the traveler journey. Let’s further explore.

The five stages of the traveler journey


Stage #1 - Dream:

Dreaming of where to go on vacation is how it begins. The traveler starts browsing travel sites, reading online travel magazines, downloads a few mobile apps to track their preferred destinations and discusses their travel preferences with friends and family who are influencers of their decision. Wow!

This is a marketers’ dream as well. Think about all the points of communication you have with the traveler during the dream stage.

For example, once the traveler clicks on a travel website, an ad appears with crystal clear blue water promoting the Bahamas. That browsing behavior is added to the travel prospect’s individual profile using an anonymous consumer ID. Marketers can then use those data insights for future offers which are more relevant and personalized to the traveler's needs.

Stage #2– Plan:

Now it’s time to start turning the dream trip into a reality. The traveler selects his/her trip dates, researches destinations, flights, hotels and attractions.

As research is being conducted online, the traveler visits multiple travel brands' websites to evaluate the costs and amenities of competing hotels and other travel options.

While hotel options are being researched, sometimes chatbots may be available to answer questions, and the brand’s website may recognize the website visitor and offer assistance to help customize the traveler’s upcoming vacation during the reservation process.

As a result of the site visit, the traveler might receive a follow-up email offering special discounts and last minute offers to incent a booking to the hotel properties recently browsed.

Stage #3 – Book:

Once the traveler has determined that they have found the best price, location and travel options for their vacation, they make the decision to book.

This decision could involve choosing an airline or hotel first or booking both together as a package. The traveler might also choose to put several options on hold to coordinate the best flights, hotels and car rental options.

Sometimes many travel options are held in a “shopping cart” and the traveler will receive reminder emails from the brands they’ve shopped and also receive branded messaging as they visit other websites which feature the travel options they’ve considered.

Once the traveler decides to “pull the trigger” and book their trip, they are now ready to move to the next phase of the journey.

Stage #4 – Upgrade:

First class airfare, a room with an ocean view, golfing at a premier course or relaxing during a world-class spa treatment … these are all desirable travel options which can be offered through upsell offers once the booking is made.

Some travel brands will know a purchase decision has been made if the booking was made directly on their website, however they will not have visibility if the customer purchased with a competitor or if the booking was made at an OTA (online travel agency) website.

With access to a comprehensive customer profile rich with transaction data about travel that’s been booked, travel marketers will know about each customer’s travel purchases regardless of where they occur, online or off.

Now that the traveler has committed and locked down their vacation on the calendar, they might download apps relevant to his/her trip to receive mobile travel updates, and get notifications of possible hotel and/or flight upgrades.

To determine the traveler’s interests, marketers can perform data appends on the traveler’s ID to learn more about their likes/dislikes. For example, as it relates to the spa, marketers can review the data from the traveler’s visits to the local spas near his/her home. It’s connecting the offline (onsite or call center) data with the customer ID that truly helps to create a 360-degree customer view.

Stage #5 – Loyalty:

The traveler is back from vacation, they had the trip of their lifetime and are considering rebooking for next year. As a result, they ensure they’re enrolled in all of the relevant travel loyalty programs related to their wants/needs and are determining how they can increase their reward earning power.

For example, the traveler might decide to enroll in a retail credit card affiliated with their airline or hotel of choice. As marketers, we’re able to leverage the power of this opted-in loyalty data using an anonymous customer ID to communicate to the traveler on a 1:You level. The most successful travel marketers take the time to study the data and perform analytics to really get to know their members.

Once insights are gained from each stage, marketers with a fully integrated marketing solution or the right marketing partner(s) can deliver personalized messages in real time across every touchpoint through an omnichannel strategy.

Setting-up your travel brand for success

It’s important for marketers to understand that travelers engage with multiple devices and channels throughout their pre and post-booking journey and that they expect a unified, personalized experience throughout.

So how can you as a travel brand achieve success?

Here’s the secret equation: a solid identity foundation + loyalty data (including customer profile data) = personalization success.

For example, when the traveler is in their dream stage and is researching properties within the mobile app, the travel brand should be able to use this search data and instantly match the member profile. Then the travel brand can message the traveler with the specific details about their brand that aligns with the travelers' likes/wants, such as the distance of the closest golf course or the top five restaurants within the area (from detecting that they golf frequently and are ‘foodies’).

It’s this level of personalization, coming directly from the brand, that helps to grow/enhance customer relationships.

So as you’re fine tuning your omnichannel strategy and your brand is interacting with your customer during every stage of their travel journey, remember to connect the dots across the different parts of the traveler experience to deliver a better, more personalized experience. It’s critical for success in today’s highly competitive travel brand landscape.

To learn more about using advanced data and machine learning to create personalized experiences that appeal to travelers, check out this webinar.