3 ways to edge closer to destination personalisation

Weather related promotions, considering the last search, and going for a ‘majority fit’ are all ways that travel suppliers can enhance their personalisation efforts, writes Tom Bacon

When the daylight hours are short, and temperatures plummet, very often people keep going by imagining their next trip, maybe even planning a short-break to weather the winter. You only have to look at the January travel promotions to see that this is one way for brands to personalise. ‘Personalisation’, and even ‘hyper-personalisation’, seems to be a strategic imperative for many travel brands in driving profits.

1. Making the most of the weather

At EyeforTravel Las Vegas last year, a number of travel marketers outlined how they were using the weather as a tool to aid their personalisation initiatives. New York based low-cost JetBlue, for example, has directed promotional initiatives for winter breaks to travellers experiencing extraordinarily cold or snowy weather. Celebrity Cruises designed special creative content for customers in bad weather locations that reinforced the benefit of cruising in warm, sunny weather. The firm then displayed that content specifically for those targeted customers.  Weather-related initiatives don’t have to know anything about individual travel patterns or demographics. They simply capture the specific needs of certain travellers in a particular moment in time! In this sense, ‘personalisation’ isn’t necessarily very personal but can still be very effective!

2. Stealing the show with ‘last search’

The ‘last search’ is a popular factor for many e-tailers, and there are lessons here for the travel industry. Already, airlines automatically fill in the origin, the destination and the date when customers return to their sites after an initial search. However, there is a growing view that travel merchandisers could go further by, for example, showing imagery that corresponds to the last search. Indeed, why continue to show the New York City skyline if a customer is searching for a Florida beach? Many e-merchandisers have found that customers are highly responsive to more personally relevant content. Japan Airlines’ Akira Mitsumasu, VP, Products & Services Planning, Japan Airlines, has not missed this point. He told EyeforTravel in a recent white paper that: “We are really changing from being just a mode of transport to becoming a retailer in the true sense of the word.”

However, he also acknowledges that they can’t do it alone. “There is a limit to what airlines can do in-house, and “we are looking a number of different ways to work with partners,” he says.

3. Majority rules

Sometimes it is impossible to identify the exact destination or product a traveller is searching for. However, even when ‘last search’ isn’t available, suppliers can develop a mechanism for better meeting their customers’ needs. By honing in on how different destinations are more attractive to different customers, suppliers can display more meaningful product information and drive more conversions. 

Celebrity Cruises and Occidental Hotels worked with digital marketing company Multiplica, an EyeforTravel sponsor, on a concept coined ‘majority fit’. Danielle Schlolow, a senior growth strategist at Multiplica, explained that rather than knowing precisely what destination or product an individual traveler might be most interested in, companies can use broad customer data along with artificial intelligence to match customers with products or services. To view the video please click here.

Of course, this is one objective for airlines’ new branded fares. Re-bundling the otherwise optional features into one new fare targets a ‘majority fit’ of travellers. Since many passengers wish to check bags, the bare bones ‘basic economy’ fare may not meet their needs. So, a new re-bundled sell-up fare generally offers more than just bags and is easier to purchase than opting in/out on an ala carte basis.

Notwithstanding ‘last search’, airlines don’t necessarily feature different destinations to different customers. Travellers in certain parts of the US or in different demographic groupings are more likely to visit different vacation spots or to dream of travel to different parts of Europe or Asia. 

With Multiplica, Celebrity Cruises has adopted a ‘majority fit’ approach for featuring different cruises to different customers. They know the standard profile aka majority fit for Caribbean cruises versus Hawaii cruises, and display different content based on such broad segmentation. 

‘Majority fit’ is a step that most suppliers can take right away to go beyond, for example, what airlines have done with branded fares. To highlight the point, there are typically three or four branded economy fares but there are dozens of airline product combinations and prices for each of hundreds of possible destinations. 

Arguably, travel suppliers could:

  • Assess what type of customer buys what combination of products and feature a more personalised menu of alternatives
  • Display imagery that better represents the type of destination sought (beach, mountain, city, family visit) along with personalised traveler images (single, couple, family)
  • Design promotions on a more segmented basis targeting different customers and travel options

So, majority fit is a version of segmentation techniques that most marketers have used for decades. With e-merchandising, however, targeting customers can become even more and more refined. As techniques like this becomes more sophisticated, destination personalisation looks ever closer.

Tom Bacon, a 25-year airline veteran and industry consultant in revenue optimization, is a moderator at the upcoming Analytics & AI in Travel show in San Francisco. Tom is a regular EyeforTravel columnist and leads audit teams for airline commercial activities including revenue management, scheduling and fleet planning. Email Tom or visit his website.

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