Americans are ready to travel. With the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifting travel restrictions for the more than 100 million (and counting) vaccinated adults, people are dreaming of summer getaways. Many hotel and rental property managers in Maine, Cape Cod and other New England resort areas report 2021 bookings far outpacing 2019 demand. From campgrounds to beachfront hotels, it’s a similar situation across much of the country.
According to a new Dynata survey commissioned by Redpoint, 79 percent of people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 say they will travel either about the same or more as they did before the pandemic.
While everyone wants to enjoy a long, hot summer day at the beach, lake or mountains, the pandemic has altered expectations. Traditionally, many travelers primarily associate value with low-cost options. Post-pandemic, cost must be weighed against a raft of new considerations for determining value – does the destination state have a mask mandate? Is a proof of vaccine required? What are the social distancing protocols?
Re-write the Travel Script
With the change in how customers place value on travel experiences, understanding an individual customer’s preferences, and communicating timely, relevant information becomes more important than ever for travel and hospitality companies that essentially must re-write the script for how to engage with consumers in a post-pandemic world.
In the Dynata survey, 73 percent of respondents said that they expect personalized, real-time messaging from travel companies to satisfy their need to feel safe and comfortable – including clear information and real-time updates on mask mandates, crowd management and other pandemic-related issues. Furthermore, 69 percent said that they expect seamless, personalized communication across the entire travel experience (from pre- to post-trip) to last long after the pandemic. Yet just 24 percent said that travel companies meet this expectation today.
Be Consistently Relevant with a Single Customer View
What could a personalized approach look like? If a travel brand knows, for instance, that a customer is wary of crowds and has searched for a rental with a kitchenette and private bathroom, displaying a banner image of a crowded nightclub might be a turn-off. By the same token, a vaccinated customer who has posted on social media that they’re tired of seclusion and anxious to mingle with other families might be excited by an image of a busy water park.
To consistently provide the most relevant experience for an individual customer or prospect on every channel, a travel brand needs a complete picture of each customer. A unified profile might include – as a start – preferences, behaviors, tolerance for risk, travel history, household status, location and search history. A single customer view that combines customer data from every source provides travel brands with a foundation for consistent relevance. Importantly, an ability to deliver a real-time, hyper-personalized omnichannel experience requires that this unified profile or golden record also include customer data across unknown to known records and consist of data of every type – structured, semi-structured and unstructured.
Applying advanced identity resolution capabilities to forge a golden record helps ensure relevance by eliminating guesswork; a travel brand that displays the busy water park image within milliseconds of a website visitor landing on the page will be confident that the image is tied to a unique customer profile versus simply to a device.
Deliver Personalized Experiences at Scale
Real-time updates are vital for ensuring persistent relevance across the entire travel experience. If a hotel guest posts negative feedback about a breakfast buffet on Facebook, it will be to the travel brand’s benefit to present a relevant offer that day – or at least before the guest checks out. An offer for a free dessert does little good if the guest has already left the premises.
“Working with Redpoint for years we’ve been able to create a hyper-personalized guest experience that is customized from end-to-end.”
– Andrew Heltzel, corporate director, Marketing & CRM, Xanterra Travel Collection
To present a personalized, next-best action at scale for hundreds of thousands or millions of customers, marketers need a platform with embedded automated machine learning and a real-time decisioning engine. Because each customer has a unique journey in terms of how and when they engage with a brand and the status of travel from pre- to post-trip, an ability to deliver precise relevance in the cadence of each journey is beyond the capability of human-driven segments. Evolutionary programming in the rgOne platform, by contrast, allows for hundreds of inline, code-free, self-training models optimized to deliver a next-best action for a segment-of-one. When a decision or next-best action is automatically rendered, intelligent orchestration capabilities ensure that it is always in the context of a customer journey and delivered at the right time and on the right channel.
The Redpoint platform makes a next-best action available along with a single customer view that is instantly accessible for marketers and for customer-facing associates such as call center reps, front desk clerks, reservation agents and other front-line travel and hospitality workers.
“Working with Redpoint for years we’ve been able to create a hyper-personalized guest experience that is customized from end-to-end,” said Andrew Heltzel, corporate director of Marketing & CRM for Xanterra Travel Collection. “Because of this access to customer data, we were able to hear directly from our guests about the type of messaging they wanted and quickly deliver that content. We have prioritized health and safety messaging since the early days of the pandemic and highlighted travel options based on guest behavior and travel preferences across our portfolio.”
With Americans eager to end a year-long exile, the travel and hospitality industry is primed for a comeback. Personalized, revenue-generating customer experiences are possible for travel brands that recognize that traditional methods of engagement – including a one-size-fits all approach with a focus on cost-savings – are as out of favor as time shares. Unique customers deserve unique experiences, and the technology is available to turn every adventure into a dream vacation.