Travel Industry: 2017 Digital Trends To Watch

The travel industry is going to be a hot topic for marketers in 2017. Want proof? Ok, Warren Buffet just divested his entire Walmart stock portfolio to invest more heavily in travel (and banking). He is a smart guy, arguably smarter than myself or any of my peers.

So, if you don’t have time to read this post, the long and short of Travel Trends this year are: Personalization, Interactive/Immersive content, Data lead efforts via social and mobile and Platform ownership.

I truly believe that if content is king, the platform your brand owns is the kingdom and the experience is the queen. Ok, enough with the monarchy.

Want more? Please read on…..

Here is where the modern tech-fueled “Experience Economy” rubber hits the road:

Going Places is the new Having Things (Baja California Toni On New York on a Lindblad Expediton)

Consumers are spending less on material goods (see Warren Buffet reference earlier), instead casting votes with their wallets and spending on ‘experiences’. This trend is strongest among the less career minded Millennial set (the 18 to 34's) but also your married couples, sabbatical rechargers and empty nesters. The travel industry (hotels, airlines, ships, but also photography, technology, and food) are all well positioned to benefit from this.

Big Data Personalization and Programmatic will play a Big Data Role….

Since people are seemingly increasingly concerned with experiences, they surely don’t want the same experience as everyone else, do they? More than likely, they want some level of unique & personalized experience. Big data is key to achieving this by allowing brands to deliver customized offerings and to track preferences for further engagement after the experience. In August of last year, a study conducted by the ABTA revealed a couple interesting pieces of information.

(ONE) 43% of travel companies regarded “targeting and personalization” as the top priorities in their digital strategies. 25% of companies focused on mobile optimization for their online properties.

(TWO) A third (33%) of people aged 16–24 and 28% of people aged 25- 34 are planning to spend more on holidays this year. Families will also play a key role in the market as the staple family holiday remains a firm favorite.

Further, in an American Express study, 83% of millennials said they would allow travel brands to track their habits in exchange for a better, more individual experience. 85% of respondents across all age groups said that customized itineraries are far more appealing than one size fits all solutions. As analytics fueled marketing becomes more sophisticated, travel companies should be targeting different customer demographics in vastly differing ways.

By combining big data with AI, such as chatbots, dynamic video offerings and unique user driven mobile UX, the travel industry is facing the immediate prospect of highly customized ‘virtual travel assistants’, rewards, curation and development of ecosystems of like minded individuals, regardless of age.

So what about Technology?

Yes, the now bleeding edge VR/AR type offerings will become mainstream “try before you buy” capability. Virtual & Augmented reality are both guilty of being the “next big thing” for the past 3 years. I believe this is about to radically change as the technology is finally mature enough to offer an incredible virtual reality experience, without much of an investment from the consumer or the brand. Affordability will drive adoption. Adoption will drive the need to compete. Travel brands who want to stand out, will deliver content in unique and immersive ways in order to ultimately drive bookings, increasingly via mobile.

AR may be the first mover in travel

In the AR travel future, you will be able to view moving images on printed collateral. Travel brands still tend to prioritize the brochure and email, so AR will allow those 1 dimensional pieces to “come alive”

In a VR travel future, you’ll be able to look around the room, the ship, the landscape, see what appeals to you, customize your trip and even check out what is happening there right now. However, this will only happen if the brand steps up and creates those platforms or channels AND if the target audience becomes “goggle savvy.”

Lastly, I’d like to offer up some bullets on what is possible right now to increase sharing and awareness, build relevant audience KPI’s online and active social channels to secure a larger share of voice, resulting ultimately in increased sales… how?

> —Over a period of time in 2017, involve guests and personalize a “thanks” message (dynamic video) while asking them to share, for perhaps some additional and unique rewards.

> Attract new eyeballs and their friends by showcasing stories of satisfied customers.

> Empower your data to develop an even greater sense of targeting. Communicate with people who are ready to convert with authentic stories, employee activation and social content, based on an editorial cycle.

> Own your sector by sharing content that is unique to your brand offering, that is discoverable and socially sharable.

> —Build audience and heightened engagement while demonstrating the commitment to families, children, CSR and the industy in which you are a member.

I hope this was useful in some way. If you are associated with the travel industry, I would love to hear from you. I am @broadbandito just about everywhere. Get in touch.