Can the Travel Industry Redefine Personalisation to Actually Include the Person?
In our search to engage the modern traveller, do we need to clarify our travel terms?
The fragmentation of the travel industry is no more evident than in the language we use. Whether you are a tour guide or a brand nurturing a lead, to build trust, to bring people on a journey there has to be a common starting point.
Currently, the easiest way to unite a group of travel executives representing the industry is to talk about President Trump. No specifics needed, just mention his name.
Undoubtedly, he is proving very difficult for the industry.
Trump masterfully used the same tactic throughout his campaign, and now, ironically, his name is the very catalyst for creating common ground in a very fragmented industry.
Nothing galvanises a diverse group like a common enemy.
Recently, at the Skift European Forum, Richard Solomon, CEO of Intercontinental Hotel Group spoke of the seminal boutique brand Kimpton. He spoke of it in the wider context of their 9 other brands, 5200 hotels and their 350,000 staff members.
Later on in the day, the co-founders of Mr and Mrs Smith spoke of boutique hotels in light of seeking authentic hidden gems of hospitality in unlikely places. “We wanted to cover the real stuff we didn’t feel was in the guidebooks.”
Then Claus Sendlinger, founder and CEO of Design Hotels spoke of hospitality in the vein of Boutique-pioneers Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. He suggested there is a change afoot, going beyond design into community curation.
A room clearly united on how detrimental Donald Trump might prove to the travel industry could not be less clear of the greatest branding term in hospitality over the last 20 years: Boutique.
As with most terms that capture the imagination of an industry, they become jaded from overuse. The term gets dragged into different contexts and takes on conflicting guises which dilute meaning; where once stood a definitive ice sculpture, now a mirky puddle exists.
Similarly, Personalisation has become one of these terms.
Personalisation can mean anything from using someone’s name in the title of an email, to customising services based on Big Data trends, to metasearch pursuing the human touch to render data inspirational.
Using someone’s first name in the title of an email doesn’t arouse the same expectation as it once did.
Every spammer knows your name.
Wherever the lines fall in your understanding of personalisation, might I share, I received 53 emails from travel brands and airlines in the last 90 days, all of them personally addressed with my first name, and not a single recommendation in the content that was relevant to me.
Is not a recommendation by definition a response to specific knowledge of the recipient?
Oh, you love seafood, well the best seafood restaurant on this side of the city is…
Without parameters and data-clues, a recommendation is cold-call selling by another name.
All of these travel brands would claim a personalised service and yet, notably absent from the marketing collateral was the person: me.
1) To provide a personalised service, a travel brand requires more information than a name, gender, age and last visited city.
Seriously, try and make a good travel recommendation based on these four data points. It will be generic at best.
2) Do not use someone’s first name if you cannot follow it with a recommendation that will interest them.
An irrelevant travel recommendation, straight to your inbox, is all the more repugnant when it employs a familiar tone and uses the recipient's first name.
This tactic will be tolerated once or twice and thereafter, every email will be ignored.
3) To purchase any travel requires an email address. This is considered a soft opt-in to a brand's marketing collateral.
In any other industry these customers would not be considered sales-qualified and a cycle of customer nurturing would begin with great content and transitional Calls-to-action.
In the travel industry, we move right to the hard sell; we have earned the title "transactional" by reducing the transformative nature of the journey to selling seats.
Is it any wonder we are struggling to create loyal customers when we misunderstand why most people are travelling?