How brands are winning loyalty from today’s frequent travelers

This month we introduced marketers to the high-value traveler. They are frequent travelers with high expectations who aren’t consistently loyal to a brand or company.

Consumer behavior is constantly shifting thanks to an abundance of choices and access to information, and the high-value traveler poses two challenges for travel brands: earning attitudinal loyalty (how loyal a traveler feels) and winning behavioral loyalty (how loyal a traveler acts).

The No. 1 reason a high-value traveler chooses to book with a particular brand is customer service, not a loyalty program.1 In fact, customer service is considered significantly more important than rewards programs. Think of every interaction you have as a chance to provide customer service to assist travelers as they are dreaming, planning, and experiencing travel.

During our introduction of the high-value traveler, we challenged travel marketers to think beyond the loyalty program. Now, we’re sharing three ways travel brands are already working to win real loyalty with technology and digital marketing.

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1. Deliver assistance from the very first touchpoint

Assistance should start from the very first sign of intent. According to the recent travel research that we conducted with Greenberg, search is the channel these travelers turn to first,2 so it’s important that travel marketers surface the right information, at the right time, across devices.

Having a comprehensive strategy can pay off with your high-value customers. Allstate organized its customers into more than 40 different groups, and used insights to inform their messaging tactics. If a high-value customer who already has auto and home insurance searched for life insurance, they might be connected to a page describing the benefits of bundling policies. This approach paid off: Allstate found that cross-selling existing customers on search and YouTube is 4X more cost effective in generating sales than trying to acquire new customers.

2. Put the traveler in control

As exciting as travel is, the process comes with a certain amount of uncertainty — will my flight be delayed or even cancelled? Will the room look anything like it did in the pictures? What if I lose my luggage or something valuable?

Not surprisingly, online reviews are the third-most important consideration for choosing a travel brand.3 In the past six months, 70% of high-value travelers researched the best time to book a flight online,4 and 66% used an online service to track a flight.5 That reveals how much travelers crave useful, assistive information and assurance.

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The ability to choose your seat is one of the most fundamental parts of the airline experience, but travelers have no idea where in a hotel they’ll be sleeping. Hilton changed that, letting Hilton Honors members choose their exact room ahead of time from its app. Its app now has an over 90% retention rate.

Likewise, Delta knows how stressful it is to lose your luggage. First, they introduced RFID tags to help airlines better identify bags, then they went one step further to reassure travelers by helping them track their bags from check-in to baggage claim.

3. Enable and augment the traveler experience

Easing common travel pain points helps create much needed differentiation in the industry. It’s how your brand goes from selling travel products to actually improving the experience.

Nearly 3 in 10 high-value travelers for hotels say not speaking foreign languages prevents them from traveling more.6 Hostelworld, the No 1. booking platform for hostels worldwide, wanted to address this barrier with technology. The company integrated a translation feature into its app, allowing users to engage in fluid conversations in up to 43 languages, which turned its app into a truly assistive travel companion. The results of Hostelworld’s “Speak the World” campaign show how relevant this utility was: it saw +259% increase in app installs at a 300% lower estimated consumer price index.

Nearly 3 in 10 high-value travelers for hotels say not speaking foreign languages prevents them from traveling more.

Taking customer service to the next level

Customer service has always been an integral part of the travel experience and the creation of loyalty. The difference now is that travel brands have countless opportunities to provide service before, during, and after a trip — and to know what type of service will be most useful. These examples show that digital marketing and technology can help companies exceed customer expectations — and drive both attitudinal and behavioral loyalty — like never before.

Why it’s time for travel marketers to rethink loyalty