With a focus on digital transformation, Leighton have plenty of experience with the marketing tips, tricks and tactics of the travel industry. Lyle McCalmont, CEO, spoke to Figaro Digital ahead of his presentation at the Travel & Leisure Conference to share his thoughts on the way that the travel industry is evolving its customer offering and where it must focus its efforts to maximise on the opportunities offered by digital.
Allaying Customer Fears
One of the key concerns for marketers in the travel industry today is cyber security. With details of hacks leaks and data breaches appearing in the news at an alarming rate, travel brands are working hard to restore consumer trust. “Cyber security always comes out as one of the top 3 priorities for digital transformation spend.” Says McCalmont. “And it’s really critical- I think it’s right that they’re focussed on that, we’ve seen some businesses suffer- it just shouldn’t happen.” Digital transformation offers all brands the opportunity to implement new technology solutions that will go towards a safer and more secure user experience, and this is one of the key areas with the potential to maximise that brand-consumer relationship.
Multi-Channel, Not Mix & Match
The digital travel space is one that is gaining industry-disruptors at an impressive rate. The successes of Airbnb and TripAdvisor are leading the charge for new, consumer-centric travel options, which offer holiday makers more choice and greater control over their holidays and experiences. “Apps are a big focus for a lot of travel brands now, and they’re focussing on that even more than their website, because they know that that’s where their users engage with the brand.” Says McCalmont. “But it’s all about an omni-channel approach, you need to make sure you’ve got that consistent user journey across all devices – tablet, mobile, website, online, offline. They are all important.” Customer expectations have never been higher. As it becomes easier for consumers to find that perfect break, this experience must move seamlessly throughout the whole customer journey, in order to maintain that relationship and maximise the chances of conversion.
But as the infrastructure and transactional face of the travel industry has sped up, McCalmont is wary that something special might have been lost from the offering of many travel brands. “If you look at airlines before digital was even a thing, the customer experience was a huge part of what they did. Flying was a real pleasure and it was a real treat.” Is it possible then, that as budget travel has become more accessible, that sense of luxury has been lost? “I think since the dawn of the digital age, brands maybe haven’t embraced digital the way that they should. If your consumers are embracing digital to engage with your brand and your business, then you should be returning the favour.”
As brands continue to strive to offer cheaper, faster or more efficient services, it’s important to make sure that the customer doesn’t feel like they are being forgotten about, or worse, seen as a number rather than a person. Digital natives, while fully embracing the opportunity to browse on their phones, tablets, and other devices, are nonetheless looking for this experience to continue offline too. “I think personalisation is key. Millennials expect relevant content, not just sent generic marketing campaigns.” Says McCalmont. “They want to be looked after, they want perks and benefits. A lot of the travel industry is adding ancillary services, added extras that they charge the customer for. Whilst this is understandable from a business perspective, companies need to be mindful of the customer to make sure they still feel valued and that they feel like they are receiving a good customer experience.” By adding value to the user experience, brands can make sure that consumers are coming to them for more than just a transaction, but getting an added bonus which will bring them back again and again.
Keep Up With Your Consumers
So what is the next step that Travel and Leisure brand marketers should be looking at taking to boost their digital offering? As McCalmont says, it’s time to put those data lakes to good use. “Big data. It’s a term that’s been used for five years now, but I think only now are we hearing that brands are actually using it to their advantage. We collect data all the time, but it’s now about what you can do with it, analysing it.” This in-depth data analysis will enable travel brands to further enhance the segmentation of their product offering, and carry out more efficient consumer targeting. “The consumer is at the heart of everything. Brands need to adapt based on what the consumer wants or they’ll be left behind. I think we’ve seen a lot of travel businesses get left behind, because they have traditionally been high-street travel businesses, and those succeeding are those who have adapted.” While digital is bringing more and more innovation to the purchase of travel and leisure products, marketers must remember the importance of going that extra mile, and drawing on that sense of wonder and excitement that has brought the travel industry to where it is today.