Personalisation is a familiar buzzword in many industries. The concept is often associated with travel, as it is so personal and data-rich.
In travel, the focus is not just on converting a looker to a booker; it’s about personalising the shopping experience so that the traveller finds what they’re looking for as quickly and accurately as possible. The purchase process is just the first stage in the traveler’s journey; personalisation then extends to the actual experience of travel.
For the UK consumer, there are some important ways that travel agents can acknowledge their relationship with travellers through personalised service. Last month, I launched some exclusive research into how UK consumers perceive personalisation in travel at a public forum we held as part of London Technology Week. The goal was to identify opportunities for travel suppliers to offer an improved personalisation experience to travelers, while also learning more about consumer expectations.
First, the research sought to reveal what people understand personalisation to be about, and how important it is to them. More than half stated the most basic form of personalisation to be important – addressing them by name in communications. But the following findings show that many people’s ideas of personalisation are more in line with what the travel industry is trying to achieve:
- 42 percent expect past behavior to be reflected in communications with travel brands;
- 49 percent say personalisation to them means being sent only offers and services that are relevant to their interests and situation;
- 27 percent now expect to be sent communications based on their locations
The expectation is that travel companies have information on past behavior and should use those historical customer profiles to build personalised service. The appreciation of personalised experiences is clearly high, and the desire to share data comes with an important caveat – provide true value to the individual consumer and not only for the business pushing the offer. The mantra “know you customer” has never been more relevant in travel. It’s significant that a clear majority of consumers express a preference that also makes travel companies more money through traveller loyalty.
Perhaps the most significant finding to come from our research is UK consumers’ willingness to spend on extras during travel that can personalise their experience. When asked how much they would spend, respondents stated an average of £61 on air extras and £56 on hotel extras. Fifteen percent said they would spend over £100 on air extras and 17 percent would spend this amount on extras in their hotels. Currently, average spend on air ancillaries is around £10 per head, so this represents a huge retail opportunity for brands that can offer their customers what they want, when they want it, at the right touchpoint.
Don’t think that the benefits of this retail opportunity are limited to airlines and hotels; for them to grow, the next phase of ancillaries have to be sold through the indirect channel. And with this, travel agencies have a real opportunity to become expert advisors to their travellers. As hotels and airlines continue to personalise their offerings and expand the services they offer customers, booking travel will become more complex. The more complex the choice of products, the more complex it is to comparison shop – this is when consumers will want an experienced consultant.
For agencies, the value of this inevitable growth of ancillary sales doesn’t look obvious at first; it takes extra time to book ancillaries for travellers, and there’s no incremental revenue associated with selling them. It’s easy for agents to refer travellers to their competition (direct channels), but consumers’ desire to purchase extras will present the perfect opportunity for agencies to differentiate themselves and deliver greater service and value to their customers.
It positions agents to be the much-needed experts in travel and strengthens their value proposition to customers by saving them valuable time and money. Put simply: the increasing options give agencies a better opportunity to help their clients and demonstrate their expertise.