The on-demand traveller is here. They want their journey as a traveller to be easy, agile and personal. Their expectations are constantly rising, and they expect travel brands to match and exceed their expectations. It is a case of evolve or die. The brands who are leading the pack have already recognised that their ability to compete on customer experience will be a critical differentiator to long-term success.
Look before you book
The inspiration phase is becoming more immersive. Emerging technologies like virtual reality are being embraced to give genuine tasters of the experiences travellers can expect in order to inspire them into booking. This look before you book approach has been embraced by brands such as Thomas Cook to show off their destinations and the in-flight experience (The Drum, March 2016). A holiday is hugely emotive purchase and often a significant financial investment, so making it easier for travellers to make the right choices can make a huge difference.
Making in-transit easy
Between departures and arrivals, a huge concern for customers is convenience. We know traveling can be stressful, and the most successful travel brands are exploring how to reduce that stress and facilitate the customer journey. Singapore Airlines addressed this issue in their app relaunch, offering up-to-the-minute flight updates, details of their loyalty programme (e.g miles accrued) and a real focus on providing a seamless user experience to ensure travellers were kept on track and had all the information they needed at the touch of a button (Skift, April 2015). JetBlue and Emirates have embraced ApplePay for similar reasons, allowing customers pay for items in-flight which could transform the way ancillaries are merchandised (Skift, September 2015).
Making the most in-destination
When travellers are at their destination, travel brands are using advanced analytics to build a granular understanding of who their bookers are in order to more smartly merchandise products to them. Hilton Worldwide’s virtual concierge “Connie” learns and becomes more sophisticated in her interactions with people, as customers ask questions and delivers recommendations based on customer data (Loyalty 360, March 2016). Disney are at the forefront of using customer data digitally to enhance the offline customer experience with their Magic Bands, used in their resorts. These bands control everything from doors to rides to purchasing candy floss, making life easy for their guests and focusing on the family market to limit stress as much as possible (Wired, March 2015).
Bottom line: experiences must evolve with customers to keep them engaged
One of our clients, Thomas Cook Airlines, have a concept they call ‘Little Lifts’. These involve a myriad of experiences that they employ to enhance the experience across their customer journeys. These could be anything from airport hangar tours to entertainment for children whilst they wait in a queue. It’s such personal touches that help transform the travel experiences, increasing the likelihood of building deeper loyalty amongst their customers. This concept can be replicated across digital channels, a huge opportunity for brands seeing as the leaders are only dipping their toes into making this a reality. It all starts with understanding your customers which requires real-time data collection and analysis to create actionable insights to tailor and deliver experiences that can surprise and delight customers.
To explore more on the future of customer experience in travel, download Qubit’s report (in partnership with Travel Weekly)