If you’re looking for customer loyalty, you won’t find much of it in the travel industry.
NB This is a viewpoint by Deren Baker, CEO of Jumpshot.
While 74% of business travelers claim to prefer booking travel through one platform, only 34% actually do.
To establish loyalty in a disloyal industry, travel brands must foster real relationships with their customers and that happens by understanding the entire online journey – including knowing where customers are booking if its not with you.
Insights from competitive sales information
While competitive sales information isn’t easy to get, it’s worth the hassle. By identifying your direct competitors based on your customers’ behaviour while developing an understanding of others’ sales funnels, conversion flows, and destination-specific conversion rates, you can see how your performance truly compares.
Let’s look at search.
You know the approximate terms people search to reach your site and what they search when they get to your site. But knowing the same information about competitors’ sites can help you understand the intent of an audience that isn’t engaging with you, but should be. When you know what your prospects search for on- and off-site, you can optimise your outreach, content, and website to increase conversions. If you know that potential customers search for “cheap tickets to [destination]” on competitors’ sites, you can add that long-tail into your content.
Your customers’ browsing and purchasing behaviours, including what sites they came from, what they did on your site and where they went afterward, can differentiate a high-quality lead from a potential dead end.
If customers are comparison shopping by visiting multiple sites, you can see they are cost-driven and probably won’t be loyal to a single platform. Engaging them by determining why they are jumping around (price? perks?) is the key to fostering long-term relationships and customer loyalty.
Using the consumer journey to succeed in booking
Just because customers frequently spend big with your company doesn’t mean they are loyal. Without knowing their purchasing habits away from your site, you have a huge blind spot.
Take the analytics company Cardlytics, for instance. One of its clients assumed that because 61% of sales came from 20% of its customers, that 20% was loyal. After examining the behaviour of those customers more thoroughly, though, it turned out that a mere 5% of that 20 was loyal. The rest just spent heavily in that category with several different companies. Armed with this knowledge, the brand adjusted its campaigns to reach the rest of that subset.
Take credit cards: Many companies have their own loyalty programs, but it can be hard to tell which customers are truly loyal because they might be signed up for a variety of programs. Companies can use clickstream analysis to understand aspects such as competitive market shares and consumer trends in order to target whichever groups show the most loyalty.
My company is currently doing a study about this very topic, looking into consumer behavior based on credit-card type: loyalty, business, or regular. By examining these different card users’ search, browsing, and purchase behaviors via clickstream data, we can determine whether loyalty card owners are making more purchases on one site or are booking on a number of competing travel sites.
Getting business professionals to book
Once you’ve identified your target segment’s purchasing habits, use this information to influence how you woo them. Pair your customers’ destinations with their previous purchasing habits (on your own site as well as on competitor sites and third-party marketplaces) to give them the most relevant perks.
For example, if you find out through clickstream data that most of your frequent New York-bound customers are luxury car fans, giving them a complimentary private luxury car service might drastically improve their loyalty.
You can also inspire loyalty by offering perks for the people in charge of organizing travel plans. Reward those with the difficult job of planning, arranging, and coordinating executive travel schedules. Understanding where else those people, not just the ones taking the trip, purchase corporate travel will reveal opportunities.
And finally, use consumer journey insights to increase the strategic partnerships you’re developing. Corporate travelers want to get the most out of their loyalty, so reward them with more than just perks with your company. Partner with other companies to give more value to your loyalty points. The value in these partnerships is not lost on Priceline, for one, which acquired the startup RocketMiles last year for about $20 million. The company allows customers to build up frequent flier miles with several airlines by booking hotel rooms through them.
Business travelers aren’t loyal to one specific brand or platform, so if you don’t know where else your prospects book, how can you compete? When you understand the entire customer online journey, you can better focus your efforts to grab their attention and keep them hooked.
NB1 This is a viewpoint by Deren Baker, CEO of Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers marketing analytics solutions tailored for the travel, retail, media, financial, publishing, and ecommerce industries. He previously held senior roles at Travelocity and Switchfly.
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