Building customer loyalty is a tricky business for travel brands. With so many choices, traveler loyalty is always on the decline. They are looking for the best experience, and the best price, and will go to the brands who can deliver both.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that brands should abandon all hope of building long-lasting relationships with customers. In fact, by creating a lifetime plan for each and every customer you engage with, you can build longer, more profitable relationships.
Just as Amazon recommends what products we may be interested in based on our previous purchases, online travel brands can also use similar data and persona-driven insights to inform the suggestions on where the next trip will be.
The key to delivering this vision is to engage with customers post-trip to understand their detailed feedback about their search, booking, pre-trip, and travel experiences. Based on this feedback, and a range of other insights, you can build a trusted customer profile that can help you stay relevant as their personal situation and travel needs change.
When we think of the tactics OTAs use to inspire loyalty in travelers, rewards or membership programs are top of the list. After all, 91% of OTAs have loyalty programs according to Expedia research. However, there is much more to loyalty than rewards points and there are a number of key factors that will encourage a customer to book another trip with your OTA.
Aside from the obvious factor of price, travelers tell us that having the ability to book an entire trip in one place would encourage them to re-book with an OTA. The value of a convenient and user-friendly experience can’t be underestimated; while 73% want to be able to book an end-to-end trip in one place, 70% also tell us that a good mobile experience would encourage loyalty when it comes to re-booking with an OTA.
Of course, loyalty programs have their part to play in increasing your returning customers. 69% say loyalty points and rewards programs would influence them to book another trip with the same OTA.
Once the trip is done, one of your key priorities should be collecting feedback from your travelers. This feedback should relate to:
- The service the traveler received from your OTA (customer surveys)
- Their flight, hotel, and in-trip experiences (customer reviews)
Collecting this valuable data will not only allow you to measure your NPS score and provide feedback to your suppliers, it will also allow you to feature user generated content like traveler reviews across your website; an essential step in inspiring travelers on their first step of their next journey.
When it comes to getting the right feedback, timing is everything. Asking for feedback a month after a traveler returns from their trip will be of little value; you need to gather these insights soon after an event has taken place. For example:
- Feature a short survey on your app or website after the booking flow to find out more about the user experience
- Send a push notification after a flight has landed inviting traveler feedback
- You could even use geolocation targeting to send a push notification after a traveler has checked out of a hotel and is on their way to the airport to ask for feedback on the trip.
When and how you ask for feedback should form a core part of your traveler communication strategy. You can also offer incentives to encourage traveler feedback: 57% of travelers say they would leave feedback if they could get extra loyalty points for doing so.
While post-trip is the last step in a traveler’s journey, it is not so for your OTA. You have now built up a bank of insights with your traveler’s booking history, preferences, personal profile, and behaviors; all of which will be essential in re-inspiring your customer on their next journey.
By constantly enriching your traveler persona profiles with data, you will be armed with the intelligence to inspire, excite, and engage your customers. One way many OTAs do this is by sending newsletters to generate new bookings; however, it is essential that these newsletters are as personalized as possible.
In our research with OTA end travelers, we asked them the information they would be most interested in receiving in an OTA newsletter. Special offers and discounts are favored by 73% of respondents, which shows the immense potential for re-converting customers through this channel. Almost half of respondents would also like to receive trip inspiration based on their personalized preferences.
Free resources for OTAs
We have reached the final stage of the customer journey, however an OTA’s job is never done when it comes to turning one-time bookers into loyal customers. For more tips on how you can optimize conversion and improve customer loyalty at your agency, have a look at our resources for online travel agencies including eBooks, webinars, infographics, and more.