14 May 2018

Data isn’t just extra baggage – handle it with care

This is a viewpoint from Ollie Gandy, client services director of Yes & Pepper.

For most travel companies, data is the aeroplane that’ll fly them into a consumer’s inbox, psyche and wallet. With the growing desire from consumers for an exotic social media cover photo parading some adventurous holiday location to show off to friends/followers mixed with the increase in cheaper chartered flights, the travel sector is experiencing an influx of customers wanting the perfect getaway.

This volume in customers means communication is vital, and what better way to know how to communicate with them than with the right data that will illustrate their likes, habits and choices. These companies have a duty to ensure that firstly, any data used is done so responsibly, which will be especially key with the new GDPR laws, and secondly, that this information is being used to deliver the experience people expect, or at least have paid for. Using data this way is how travel companies can turn themselves into the destination of choice for holidaymakers.

Be on target with the consumer

Travel should be an easy sector to build a relationship with consumers as it’s all about the emotion. Holidays are meant to leave you feeling something, whether that’s joy, peace or thrill.

In most cases, when someone goes on holiday once, the nostalgia sticks and attracts the anticipation to book another holiday and what better way to beat the post-holiday blues than by perusing a new set of brochures? It’s more likely than not that if the previous company they booked with offered them an enjoyable, engaging experience, that’s who they’ll book with again.

There’s also so much potential for loyalty schemes so it’s important for brands to realign their campaigns to work effectively for customers and communicate the value and simplicity of these programmes, as these are what will make consumers return in their masses.

It’s also essential to know when to communicate with your customer and not batch and blast a bunch of daily emails that’ll most probably be ignored. In a recent travel report conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 32%  of respondents said they are interested in receiving notifications when they need to complete important steps before their holiday e.g. organise their visa, vaccinations etc. and 26% want reminders for when holiday options they are interested in change in price.

This shows that companies don’t need to constantly promote their products and services, but target individuals on what they’d like to see. This in time grows reliance and confidence in the consumer that the travel company is delivering relevant information.

Don’t be a robot!

How a company can go wrong with its dialogue is by communicating with customers through blanket automation. Generic emails, which are aimless and obviously off a template, are begging to be closed and dragged to the junk folder. Using data collected to deliver bland and untargeted marketing is like buying a plane ticket then missing your flight, and never arriving at your chosen destination. Data supplies all the tools to deliver amazing experiences for people and drive loyalty for businesses which is why it shouldn’t just be thrown around aimlessly, but used to target precisely.

Making sure the campaigns that brands build from data are targeted is essential, however saying that, it’s also important to not be too targeted. There was a recent case where I needed a new bin for my home, and this somehow led me to being inundated with adverts about the most stylish and innovative rubbish dispensers, but it was relevant to me, so I had a browse. Fast forward two months, I now have a lovely peddle trash can in my kitchen, and to my annoyance, I’m still seeing a truck load of ads about bins.

This example is one to learn from for companies, and especially travel ones. Consumers are happy to be bombarded with campaigns, if it’s what they want to see. But as soon as ads and campaigns become too focused on consumer habits, that’s when they’ll lose direction. Companies need to stay away from this robotic use of data. And there’s only so much annual leave any one person can take in a year.

Build credible reviews

Finally, to gain trust, brands need to communicate their values authentically, to show they are genuine, fair and honest. This includes validating reviews to ensure consumers believe what they’re reading from your company. Nearly half of respondents from the DMA report said they find it difficult to know which brands or companies to trust and 68% rely on customers reviews to make informed decisions. People would much rather read honest reviews, even if some are not positive, rather than a tonne of fake reviews, all boasting how amazing the experience with the business was. People feel they can trust the collective voices of their fellow customers. Remember, a lot of people would offer a positive review in return for a freebie and consumers are aware of this. Showing honest reviews may not paint a business in the best light always, but it’ll certainly build credibility for the brand.

When choosing travel companies to use, 46% of those interviewed in the DMA report deem ‘they use my personal data responsibly’ to be important. Responsibility means using data to create targeted content that’s relevant to the receiver, whether that’s discounts/incentives/offers, or targeted campaigns based on their habits.

There are a wide range of travel brands and lots of competition, but this also means there’s the opportunity to stand out by doing what the competitors aren’t – enhancing the customer experience and not just winging it.

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

Photo by H E N G S T R E A M on Unsplash

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