Guest Post: Travel marketers should learn from retail how to improve the customer experience

Guest Post: Travel marketers should learn from retail how to improve the customer experience

Mike Austin explores why travel marketers should look to the retail sector for inspiration

Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder of Fresh Relevance explores why travel marketers should look to the retail sector for inspiration on how to engage holidaymakers.

Travel and retail – two sectors that share a lot of the same challenges. How can they stand out online to capture the imagination of the holidaymaker and the shopper? What do their customers want? What can they offer that is different? Where are their customers looking? What are customers’ routes to purchase? How can they be relevant to the individual? The list goes on.

An important difference between travel and retail is that booking a holiday is a more momentous action than the everyday fashion or cosmetics purchase. For the average holidaymaker, organising the annual trip away requires more thought and planning than that of an online order. And buying a new jumper is unlikely to come at the same price tag as a trip. So, the final click to book a vacation online is a much bigger decision for a customer to complete.

The purchase of holidays online isn’t anything new or unfamiliar. The proportion of UK vacations booked online has steadily remained at 80% for the past couple of years, according to ABTA. When you consider the prevalence of online purchases alongside the requirement to make booking a holiday as stress-free as possible, you would think that the travel sector would be leading the charge over other industries in offering an outstanding consumer experience over the web.

However in our new Digital holidaymaker trend report, we uncovered that poor customer experience offered by travel brands prompts purchase anxiety – a phenomenon far less prevalent with retailers. Research involving a representative sample of UK holidaymakers found that just 10% of consumers feel more confident completing an online holiday booking than making an online retail purchase. Particularly younger holidaymakers are frustrated, with 22% of Gen Z and 21% of Millennials stating that an online holiday booking is more difficult.

This then might explain two other findings we made. When it comes to brand loyalty, our study revealed the travel industry has some catching up to do, with one in five (20%) respondents saying they don’t have a preferred travel company but do have online retailers that they’re loyal to. And, all in all, only 12% of UK vacationers feel that travel companies are better at understanding and offering what they want than online retailers.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a retail or a travel purchase, consumers expect the same highly personalised experience. Holidaymakers want confidence throughout the customer journey that they are investing in the best option. Yet, even though travel marketers have significant data at their disposal, many aren’t matching their retail counterparts in how they use it to make shoppers feel understood.

It’s time for travel brands to look not just at their direct competitors for inspiration – but look cross sector to offer retail-style experiences that engage consumers by creating a more personalised experience for those researching trips. Instead of approaching marketing with a one-size-fits-all mindset, travel marketers should look to curate tactics, content and offers for each individual. By reflecting the shopper’s browsing and purchasing behaviour in their marketing, travel brands can reduce friction and provide customers with useful information when it’s most relevant. It will be those brands which offer an experience that delights who will ultimately secure the booking.