The creation and delivery of compelling content that enhances the customer experience

A recent piece of research by Expe­dia showed that trav­el con­tent is wide­ly con­sumed in the UK, with dou­ble dig­it growth year over year. We’ve now reached a tip­ping point where, in the UK at least, mobile engage­ment with trav­el con­tent has sur­passed desk­top. Trav­el is a gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered a time-con­sum­ing pur­chase, lead­ing trav­el book­ers to make hun­dreds of vis­its to trav­el sites in the weeks lead­ing up to a pur­chase. Search engines, OTAs and air­line sites were the most com­mon start­ing point for a trav­eller decid­ing on their des­ti­na­tion and engage­ment with trav­el con­tent increas­es dra­mat­i­cal­ly in the weeks lead­ing up to a book­ing being made.

If we fac­tor in oth­er research that shows us that mar­ket­ing teams are cre­at­ing 10x the assets they had to in order to sup­port increas­ing chan­nels and that 76% of mar­keters have seen an increase in the need for more assets due to per­son­al­i­sa­tion and that the book­ing process is just one part of the over­all cus­tomer expe­ri­ence – where should trav­el brands even start with a con­tent strat­e­gy? This was the ques­tion that I posed to var­i­ous mem­bers of the trav­el indus­try at two round­ta­bles at the recent Avi­a­tion Fes­ti­val in Lon­don.

We began the con­ver­sa­tion with a dis­cus­sion of who owns the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence with­in the organ­i­sa­tion, with one par­tic­i­pant stat­ing that there is a clear sep­a­ra­tion in the air­line that they work for between the own­er­ship of the online and offline expe­ri­ence. This is obvi­ous when it comes to dig­i­tal touch points like app and web, but less clear when it comes to dig­i­tal­ly enabled touch points in the air­port, like check in kiosks. An exam­ple of where this has caused issues, is in adop­tion of con­sis­tent iconog­ra­phy between the web and self-check-in process on the kiosks, with the par­tic­i­pant see­ing this as a stake­hold­er edu­ca­tion chal­lenge. The Glob­al Head of Mar­ket­ing for anoth­er air­line sees the need for a change in the own­er­ship mod­el, with air­lines start­ing to put the con­sumer first – this was echoed by anoth­er par­tic­i­pant who stat­ed that ven­dors in the trav­el sec­tor often get caught up focus­ing on the oper­a­tional aspects of the busi­ness, for­get­ting that the real focus should be on the needs of the cus­tomer.

 

This change in focus is being reflect­ed in some inter­est­ing ways, as air­lines start to work out the best places and ways to com­mu­ni­cate with their cus­tomers — par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for some air­lines, where up to 70% of their cus­tomers come indi­rect­ly to them through trav­el agents. The Pro­gram Devel­op­ment Lead for a Euro­pean air­line talked about how 50% of sales come through loy­al cus­tomers, and those cus­tomers like to engage through the airline’s app. The app gives the air­line more flex­i­bil­i­ty to pro­duce and make changes to con­tent and so in turn they push cus­tomers to the app as a pre­ferred means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple means of reach­ing cus­tomers also relies on hav­ing good qual­i­ty data to under­stand cus­tomer pref­er­ences and enable a detailed view of the cus­tomer, enabling seg­men­ta­tion of mes­sages by cus­tomer type and plat­form for exam­ple.

 

Data was a key area of the dis­cus­sion, with one par­tic­i­pant quot­ing Michael O’Leary of Ryanair, who said that trans­paren­cy comes through data. For an air­port, it’s vital to cap­ture as much data about pas­sen­gers using their ser­vices as pos­si­ble – one air­port in the con­ver­sa­tion indi­cat­ed that they only have data on less than 2% of the pas­sen­gers that pass through each year. A par­tic­i­pant from the agency Acx­iom said that they’ve been work­ing on this chal­lenge with air­ports like Heathrow. By using anonymised data they have been able to cre­ate a way for the air­port to share it with oth­er ven­dors, like on-site retail­ers, in order to bet­ter analyse cus­tomer behav­iour. Indeed, they envis­age a seam­less cus­tomer expe­ri­ence based on the stream of data that a pas­sen­ger gives off, enabling the air­port to work with the air­lines and retail­ers to pro­vide an enhanced expe­ri­ence at every stage of the jour­ney. The air­lines at the table saw more chal­lenges with this idea of data shar­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly where geo­graph­ic con­sid­er­a­tions come in to play – in Ger­many for exam­ple where data use is much more heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed than oth­er coun­tries. One air­line par­tic­i­pant said “it’s a cur­rent­ly a game between the air­port and the air­lines [around data own­er­ship]” and anoth­er felt that they would “nev­er tell the air­port when a pas­sen­ger is com­ing, but [we might] say what seg­ment they are in”.

 

Brands also need a con­tent plat­form – text, imagery and dynam­ic media – that can sup­port the deliv­ery of the expe­ri­ence wher­ev­er the cus­tomer is look­ing to engage. One par­tic­i­pant spoke about the 18 month-long project that their air­line had under­tak­en to source and cen­tralise imagery, and how this was par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for them to take con­trol of sit­u­a­tions where, for exam­ple, spon­sor­ship deals end, and man­age­ment and restric­tion of use of asso­ci­at­ed imagery becomes a real prob­lem.

 

Sum­ming up, the dis­cus­sion took in many aspects of how con­tent can and should affect the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. We saw that estab­lish­ing own­er­ship of the expe­ri­ence is crit­i­cal as well as using data to under­stand what cus­tomers want and how to get con­tent to them at each stage of the jour­ney. Final­ly, trav­el brands have to change their think­ing to move away from being pure­ly oper­a­tional to putting the cus­tomer first – I’ll leave the last word to one par­tic­i­pant who said that brands “have to become design-cen­tric, think­ing about the entry points to the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, where the air­line [or trav­el brand] should be present and look­ing at new oppor­tu­ni­ties to use con­tent to engage and delight the cus­tomer”.

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