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Caring Isn’t Creepy: Personalization in the Travel Industry

Caring Isn’t Creepy: Personalization in the Travel Industry

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

On a recent business trip, I was greeted at my hotel check-in desk with a pleasant surprise:

“Thanks for staying with us again, Ms. Stein. As usual, we’ve provided you with a feather-free room on a high floor away from the elevator. Also, since it’s your fifth stay with us this year, we have a special welcome gift for you. We know you love chocolate, so our waiter will be right up with a plate of hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries.”

Did somebody mention chocolate? I was instantly won over.

Making customers feel special

This is a hotel I have stayed at in the past, but never with any particular feelings of loyalty. That all changed, thanks to something that cost the hotel almost nothing… well, nothing but a simple plate of strawberries and a bit of a personal touch.

In short, I felt special. I felt like a VIP. And I immediately opted to book with them again for my next stay. All because they had taken the time to go that extra mile. It didn’t matter to me that they were using data I had provided to them in the first place, via my online booking profile. It only mattered to me that they used this data in a way that improved my overall experience.

Hotel doorman is welcoming in a mature couple for a weekend break.

And I’m not alone in this. Research conducted by Yieldify shows that, while 35% of consumers are uncomfortable with brands collecting personal data, 8 in 10 are actually in favor of providing personal data when booking travel—as long as they get something in return. That “something” could take the form of a loyalty discount, a special service, or a more personalized booking or travel experience.

In other words, travelers will share their data with you as long as you make it worth their while.

Personal data: A fine line

But there’s a fine line. Collect too much personal data—or use it irresponsibly—and you’ll scare off your customers and probably lose them forever. When it comes to collecting and using personal data, there IS such a thing as overkill: use too much of it and you’ll come across as creepy rather than caring.

So how can major airlines, hotel chains, and other travel and tourism businesses bridge this gap? Obviously there are a lot of things to consider, but here are the five that are first to our minds:

  1. Be transparent

    Let your customers know what kind of data you’re collecting, and exactly what you plan to use it for. Don’t bury this in the fine print; be up front and conversational about it in your messaging.

  2. Communicate the incentives up front

    Want to know my birthday? Promise me a card, a booking discount, or a piece of cake, and I’ll happily provide it. (Yes, I will sell my soul for chocolate. We’ve established this already.)

  3. Use data to simplify the booking journey

    Travel and tourism companies are increasingly struggling to encourage travelers to book directly, rather than via third-party booking engines. One way to encourage this is to use previously-provided customer data to simplify the booking journey, pre-filling information or skipping steps when you already know the answers to certain questions.

  4. Tailor your communications to make every customer feel like a valued guest

    Think about what channels and tools you will use to accomplish this—email, CRM, marketing automation, pre- and post-stay communications—and tailor the messaging at every step of the user journey. It’s especially important to remember the offline touchpoints, too. After all, check-in agents, flight attendants, and duty managers will make or break this experience.

  5. Respect data privacy legislation (e.g. GDPR)

    Most travel and tourism companies operate internationally, so you want to make sure you comply with the strictest of the data privacy laws worldwide. Even if you’re not physically operating in a certain country or region, chances are some of your customers come from there—and so do their expectations. Always err on the side of being safe, not sorry.

By respecting these guidelines and using personal data in a smart, savvy way, travel companies can earn loyalty from travelers and keep them coming back. After all, every guest wants nothing more than to feel unique, valued, and special. (Free chocolate never hurts, either.)

Want to get more personal with your audience? We’ll help you build a digital strategy that reaches the right people with the right message at the right time—and it all starts with a friendly chat. Contact DAC today.

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