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. 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 people’s underlying emotional needs 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.
Still, I believe in the resilience and agility that travel and hospitality industry has demonstrated time and again in the face of other challenging circumstances. I’m convinced that brands will develop innovative recipes with creatively applied ingredients to sustain customer engagement and their businesses.
Now, I am a strong proponent of the primacy of data, and to transform these creative recipes into real solutions, brands must first get their data in order. The global lockdown provides a rare opportunity for doing just that—a space in time to reexamine their data ecosystems and undertake strategic efforts to fill in the gaps. Let’s look at how some brands in the industry have continued to engage consumers during the slowdown.
Unify your data to derive critical insights.
As governments have mandated social distancing and other measures to stem the pandemic’s spread, travel brands find themselves having to make a drastic shift toward digital just to stay in touch with their audiences and continue to nurture the customer relationships they’ve worked so hard to build.
More often than not, this digital shift is undermined by volumes of disparate audience data scattered across the brand’s 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. Then, introduce the right tools, such as an integrated CDP, to consolidate all of these sources to create one continuously augmented data foundation, which will allow the brand to identify, progressively profile, and engage consumers relevantly.
Create offers and experiences that matter.
A unified data foundation can deliver a singular, evolving view of individual customers as they interact with the brand across digital touch points. This enables you to glean the insights that can drive truly meaningful communications and personally compelling offerings tailored to diverse audience members. It paves the way for doing much more than politely reminding your customers that their loyalty points will remain valid when everything reopens.
Some brands have done this quite well. Booking.com, for example, launched an eDM campaign with the theme “The world is waiting.” The eDM as well as its related article and video all acknowledge the consumers’ desire to explore the wonders the world has to offer, all while reinforcing in the audience’s minds that Booking.com is the go-to place to book these trips once the crisis ends.
Why not take it one step further? Most of us have no doubt seen reports of international students around the world either stranded or prevented from resuming their education because of quarantine measures. Others, such as those in long-distance relationships or with families who reside abroad, remain unsure about when they will see their loved ones again. With unified data and the right tools, you will be able to more closely examine your customers’ frequency of travel to or stays in a particular destination. Airlines, for example, can identify such groups from their existing audience database and target them with discounted tickets to their frequently visited destinations or count-down personalized communications to give them something to look forward to once the lockdown is lifted.
Here’s what such a communication could look like:
Delight your audience with virtual adventures.
A travel brand could still satisfy its customers’ thirst for travel to new locations with innovative digital experiences. By leveraging its own deep local knowledge of a destination and partnering with a VR company, the brand could develop virtual sightseeing tours. It could create even more immersive experiences, for example, a virtual job in an exotic location for runners or group exercise for fitness buffs set against dramatic backgrounds.
The trip curator company Anywhr recently invited its followers to go on virtual tours of Taiwan’s most renowned locations. We have also seen the emergence of virtual tours and museum visits to satisfy the curiosity of even the most adventurous global travelers.
No more one size fits all. Watch, listen, and contextually react individually.
Although consumers may not be visiting travel and hospitality sites as often for bookings, brands can still sustain conversations with them through social media, mobile apps, and a host of other digital touch points. This is no time to slack off on engagement, but it does offer the opportunity to see, hear, and capture valuable data that will lead to actionable intelligence and smart engagement.
By expanding and enhancing their ecosystem of touchpoints with technologies such as Resulticks’ Smart Duo, brands can continuously identify, track, and facilitate individual customer experiences, while at the same time harnessing evolving insights—interaction history, propensities, interests, and much more—to contextualize digital audience engagement during the slowdown—in real time and at scale.
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.