Without a doubt, the idea of travelling has changed drastically in the last half-decade. Especially with the rise of social media and platforms such as Google, and with various data analytics tools, travel marketers have a whole new insight into traveller data. However, with the wealth of data available, many travel marketers are actually looking at the wrong set of data to determine their best strategies to best engage their users.

On top of that, many are not taking into account a traveller’s emotional connection. With something as emotive as travel, we need to start moving away from basic demographics and look at psychographics, which includes a consumer’s lifestyle, interests and even values. This allows online travel agencies (OTAs) to develop more targeted approaches and plans to ensure that they are reaching consumers more effectively.

Case in point: a recent report by Amadeus found that 64% of APAC travellers would give up access to their personal data in exchange for receiving more relevant offers and personalised experiences.

Travel in APAC is showing no signs of slowing down – outbound travel is expected to grow by 6% annually through 2021. To effectively capture the attention of this market, OTAs have to refine their strategies to connect with them effectively and meaningfully. Moreover, in the age of instant gratification, OTAs need to be able to understand the 21st century traveller and what they want, even before they themselves know what they want.

While Millennials account for a large percentage of travellers of the 21st century, we should not overlook Gen X-ers. In the Internet age, they have access to the same information as everyone else and are increasingly seeking out travels that are less restrictive and similarly, have a general lack of interest in package bookings. The truth is, if a traveller does not fit into an OTA’s defined target audience, it does not mean they do not have an affinity for travel.

The way people fundamentally approach travelling has changed dramatically and OTAs have to keep up and be one step ahead of their users. Additionally, people today have a wider array of reasons on why they travel: they want to get out of their comfort zones, learn about the unknown, for ecotourism, spiritual travels and Singaporeans especially, gastronomic travels.

Extracting the essential data

Understanding the demographics and statistical information only draws up a two-dimensional picture of your user. The intangible information that your user holds – from their intention for travelling to bringing home experiences that would turn heads – will provide OTAs with a comprehensive model of their users and the touchpoints to best engage with them. For instance, a 45-year-old could share the same travel intentions as a 25-year-old, and vice-versa.

With a sketch of what a modern traveller looks like, how do OTAs then fill in the sketch to paint a full picture? A thorough understanding of your consumer’s journey – from the point where they are first thinking of taking a trip, right up to the point where they return from the trip. This means piecing together historical and anecdotal data to plot out the key markers that would outline the most effective strategy for engaging with your users.

It is no longer effective to expect your target audience to fall into well-defined boxes. More often than not, when we dissect our channels with an objective to maximise any marketing spend, we are at risk of losing out if we miss the bigger picture - which is to ensure a holistic customer journey. One of the neglected portions of the journey is during the brand’s engagement with the consumer during the post-purchase stage. Even though this stage does not produce immediate quantifiable results (like with discounts or coupons), brands need to realise that the quality of engagement was what placed consumers in the consideration mindset for travel in the first place.

If efficiency was the only goal of marketers, we would then be spending everything on search but not grow a customer’s lifetime value. Being an OTA, we are very much like a utilities provider, however, it is the understanding of the brand’s consumer psychographics that will allow us to foster an emotional connection with the consumer. Society has moved on from a stereotypical/traditional idea of what travel means to be a traveller today and so should marketers.

The writer is Arun Ratnaa, head of marketing and digital customer engagement, ZUJI. 

(Photo courtesy:  123RF )

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