The next trip awaits: Rethink travel customer engagement during COVID-19
If you are in the travel industry, you are perhaps thinking there is a lot to worry about.
Research finding and statistics make the reading on the wall even more frightening as I am sure you must have seen. 36% of travelers will not fly internally until a vaccine is found; 65% will also wait for a vaccine before taking a cruise again. The industry could be looking at job loss in the millions, while consumers and brands alike around the world could be reeling from such a shocking event, long after it’s overcome.
There’s no denying the pain and damage that COVID-19 has caused, but I believe that we cannot let the bleakness of the present define the narrative. People will come back from it, and so will brands—because giving up really isn’t an option. What the pandemic has taken from us—for the time being—is the proximity to others, the simple and endless pleasure that exploring the world can bring. Zoom’s meteoric rise and the emergence of virtual tours only serve as further proof of how much we all long for the return to normal.
Travel brands will have to make the necessary, and often difficult, adjustments to remain viable amidst this uncertain period. However, they also need to account for this underlying emotional need in their digital strategies and rethink how they can keep their audiences engaged so they can build connections that will bring value long after the pandemic.
A good case in point. Monaco has recently launched the “Miss You” communication campaigns to show people around the world the precious memories created by those who have visited the country—an intimate reminder of the power of social bond.
I have so many such fabulous ideas and recipes that can be executed even amidst these challenging times and constraints under which the airline, cruise line, hospitality brands as well as customers are living and operating under.
But I am a strong proponent of data and will state that these lockdown times is the very time and opportunity for brands to look at their internal systems and data sources and start doing some strategic “house cleaning”.
Step 1. Take a full measure of data
Unify your data to derive critical insights.
As COVID-19 has necessitated the implementation of social distancing measures by governments to arrest the pandemic’s spread, travel brands are no exception to the need to undergo a drastic shift towards digital to stay in touch and continue to nurture customer relationships.
More often than not, this digital shift is undermined by the fact that brands’ audience data is scattered across siloed systems and channels. Such a fragmented data foundation will make it impossible for brands to engage their customers in consistently relevant digital experiences—something that will only become more critical in the absence of face-to-face interactions.
The first step, then, would be to map out all of the brand’s data sources: booking systems, web, mobile app, call centers, OTA, offline travel agent systems, social media, ad platforms, CRMs, and so on. The brand then needs to introduce the right tools, such as an integrated CDP, to consolidate all of these sources to create one continuously augmented data foundation.
Step 2. Add a big splash of insights
Create offers and experiences that matter.
What a unified data foundation can deliver is a singular, evolving view of the customer as they interact with the travel brand across digital touch points. This paves the way for deriving insights into diverse consumers that will drive meaningful communications and offerings. Indeed, you can do much more than reminding your customers that their loyalty points will remain valid when everything reopens.
Understand your existing customer behavior and look at frequency of travel or stay to a particular destination or a hotel location. Deliver “We know you have not been able to travel or stay at this location but we are here for you when the curtains are lifted. Here are offers for you to block in advance for instance.
For instance, we’ve seen international students around the world either stranded or prevented from resuming their education because of quarantine measures. Others, like people in distant relationships or with families who reside abroad, are unsure as to when they can see their loved ones again. Airlines can identify such groups from their existing audience database and target them with discounted tickets and count-down personalized communications to give them something to look forward to once the lockdown is lifted.
Partnering with Virtual Experience companies to continue to give experiences within the comfort of their home, travel brands can still quench consumers’ thirst for travel and experience new locations with innovative digital experiences. They can leverage their extensive local knowledge and partner with VR companies to develop virtual sightseeing tours. They can even design more immersive experiences such as virtual running and group exercise set against select backgrounds.
Step 3. Stir in a generous helping of context
Watch carefully. Listen closely. Respond contextually.
Although customers may not be visiting that often travel and hospitality sites to do bookings, leveraging social channels to keep conversations going but embedded with intelligent technology such as our Smartlink can still drive and bring customers to your digital properties ‑mobile app and website. The technology can enable you to capture insights on what the prospective customer or existing customer is navigating through, what interactions they are doing so that you can contextually respond. This is the time to sit back,watch, listen and capture intelligent data to be able to react and communicate better.
There is a lot to be done and no time to be wasted!
How do you think travel will change after COVID-19? Leave a comment below or speak to our experts to see how we can help.
CEO and Co-founder of Resulticks
Co-founder and CEO of Interakt Digital Group and Resulticks, Redickaa’s hands-on leadership has been the guiding force behind the launch and success of Resulticks as a global marketing technology solution.