When you break the travel customer journey down into stages, it quickly opens up a goldmine of opportunities to for Personalisation to transform your customer’s experience.

There are all sorts of things you can do to make your customer’s life easier, from a general experience point of view, but where can Personalisation really add to this, to take your customer’s experience from good to great?

Join me as I walk you through some ideas of what an ‘ideal’ personalised travel customer journey might be…

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Your customer is triggered by something (a thought, image, conversation or feeling) that makes them begin to consider their travel options. How can you be part of the trigger, directly or indirectly? For new customers it might be difficult to personalise at this stage, but where can you collect data to allow you to do so further along the customer journey?

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Social media can be great for reaching new customers and inspiring them with rich media including user-generated content, which is easier than ever thanks to constant innovations by the social networks. Social media is great for personalisation purposes and competitions work very well here, but simplicity is key. An amazing example by KLM was flagged to me by our Senior Marketing Manager, Lauren, and I just had to share it with you!

Image shows KLM iFly 50 competition with travel personalisation

Breath-taking imagery, engaging video, beautiful user experience and personalisation in the form of picking your favourite five destinations to enter the competition to win the trip of a lifetime. Sadly, Lauren didn’t win this time, but is she inspired now? You bet! And now so am I.

Cue an email follow up with an offer based on the choices she selected…

If you don’t have the resources for a competition, you can still inspire with eye-catching imagery, coupled with a question to trigger thinking, like our clients Explore:

Image shows Silverbean UNIFIED client Explore, with eye catching imagery for their travel personalisation approach

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To effectively begin using personalisation it makes perfect sense to be where your customers are, like British Airways in 2013 who used a scenario we can all identify with – looking up and seeing people jetting off somewhere fabulous, with technology plugins telling the viewer the plane’s destination. Enough to make you green with envy and start your holiday research then and there on your phone.

Image shows British Airways marketing campaign with the travel personalisation touch of planes that were flying over head

With greater capabilities now wouldn’t it be great to interact with a travel inspiration screen in your local transport exchange when you’re trudging home from work? You pop some basic details in and you receive an inspiring personalised list of recommendations for your next holiday.

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To activate existing customers using email can be as simple as segmenting by where and when they last went on holiday with you and sending them some inspiration for their next trip.

If you wanted to make more of a project of this, you could provide (or team up with another company to provide) a log-in area of your website or an app where your customers can track the places they’ve been on a map, turning areas a different colour when they have visited. They could also list the next places they want to visit and hey presto, you have the info you need to inspire them with wonderful imagery, personal stories from visitors, reviews, etc.

This image shows a travel personalisation map of the world

Image: www.amcharts.com/visited_countries 

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When researching, it’s tiresome for customers to have to keep putting their details back in every time they press the back button. In an ideal world you’d be able to log into a travel website and create and save some settings for your search – e.g. two adults travelling for three nights and then every time you returned to do some research again you could select that trip and everything would pre-populate. Booking.com goes some way to this, allowing customers to create lists of properties:

Image shows example of travel personlisation with the feature on booking.com where it allows customers to create a list of properties

This would also give you an opportunity to present (immediately on-site, or later on email) some recommendations for where two adults travelling for three nights might like to consider, taking account of where in the world their IP address is, likely distance they’re willing to travel for a three-day break and that they might want to travel out of school holidays and away from kids’ resorts.

Even just making it easier for your customer to find options they’ve explored before will help, as Airbnb does:

Image shows travel personalisation from Airbnb, where it will display where customers have previously explored

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Following on from the previous example, if you had that person who’d saved a two travellers, three nights’ trip… Imagine now they’ve further narrowed down to a place and are comparing hotels/flights and selecting additional extras.

Your website could build them a comparison table against certain criteria as they searched, allowing them to remove any they had decided against by clicking a cross on the option. The criteria could depend on what they’ve inputted for their search, for example ‘near to airport’ since it’s a short trip, or ‘adults only’ since they’re not travelling with children.

What would also be great is if any options you presented to them were relevant to their needs. So it’s unlikely, for example, that this person will need a 22kg baggage allowance, buggy or other child options. However, the family of two adults, one junior and one infant? Yep – they’d definitely appreciate all that being top of the options!

Giving the customer their options at this stage allows them to evaluate their options fairly with all costs included for their specific requirements.

An example of this not happening is when booking with Expedia. I have to go through the faff of putting in traveller details before I can see if I’ll get the option to add baggage and other extras and get a final price for my trip:

Image shows an example of poor travel personalisation from Expedia.

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I’m going to be slightly controversial here, as I know some people won’t agree. What’s more important than getting the customer to the final checkout is that they’re happy with their selection when they arrive there.

Don’t distract the customer at this stage with loads of added extras – you’ve hopefully given them a full overview of all the great things you can offer them already. However, do make it easy for them to make changes to their order if they’re not fully satisfied – without having to input loads of details again.

They might need to check something before they’re in a position to complete their booking – can you make it easy for them to save all the details of their trip? Virgin Trains East Coast do this well:

Image shows an example of good travel personalisation from Virgin East Coast. You can save journeys for later.

When they return, if the same options are no longer available, can you make relevant alternative suggestions to avoid them having to start their search all over again?

If they’re logged in, give your customer chance to save their billing details so that they can check-out quicker next time.

If they’re not logged in, auto-fill fields that make it easy for your customer to get through the process quickly are always going to make for a smoother, more pleasant experience.

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Once they’ve booked their trip, if you had the customer’s personalised world map, they could colour their destination a colour to show the trip is pending and another when they get back (or if really clever your system could do it for them!).

Logged in accounts could have a countdown, itinerary builder with suggestions you can ‘pin’ and you could review the places you’ve been from within the site as you go through your holiday if there were push notifications.

Thomson cleaned up at The Travel Marketing Awards 2016 with good reason. Their MyThomson app is a great one-stop-shop for their customers’ post-purchase organising and building excitement. With itinerary, flight details, the ability to book excursions, checklists, countdown and destination details it allows the customer to get excited immediately. Social sharing on the countdown screen allows excitement to be shared – and envied, possibly providing a trigger for a new customer.

The app is also still there for them while on holiday, with weather and easy contact systems.

Thomson obviously realise they’re on to a good thing – they have recently expanded the app to allow customers to book holidays and check-in online, seeing the customer through even more of their purchase journey.
Image shows example of travel personalisation from Thomas Cook. Their app sees their customer through the purchase journey

Image: www.thomson.co.uk/myapp/mythomson.html

Making your website a wider planning tool like this will give your customers a reason to keep using it. You can email them when they come back from holiday and ask them if they’d like to set a reminder to book the next destination on their bucket list.

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With many travel company’s personalisation efforts sadly going unnoticed by customers according to eDigital Research’s (edr) latest benchmark report, it’s clear there is plenty of opportunities for improvement in how travel companies use their data and create new functionality for their website.

I hope these ideas have inspired you a little; I’m sure you’ll have loads more. Download a blank customer journey map template here to get them out of your head and start working on making them a reality.