How to Generate Real Customer Loyalty in the Travel Industry

By Small Business FOXBusiness

Customer loyalty in the travel industry is not what it used to be. With increased transparency on comparative prices and easier access to booking tools, travelers are increasingly loyal to those that provide the best prices and experiences.

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After attending PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit in November, we noticed how appropriate the summit’s theme of “cult of context” is in today’s market. Travel organizations can no longer afford to be generic, or attempt to appeal to everyone. Customers expect contextual relevancy and companies are expected to deliver.

If I’m on a business or leisure trip to Asia, I probably want to know every detail about cost, flight routes, class of service, location and amenities. A few years ago, I’d have to cross-reference this information from books, websites and phone calls to travel agencies. Today I expect the most optimized solutions tailored to my individual needs. After all, in a hyper-connected world, why would I settle for anything less?

The key to winning in a commodity-based landscape is to offer a contextual experience without increasing marginal overhead or sacrificing brand equity. This sounds simple enough, and in many instances it is. Knowing where a user is going, when they’re leaving, and why they’re traveling is now par for the course. Matching this information with user interests remains difficult.

Below are three ideas we have to help do just that.

  • Pay attention to their data. A customer’s data is more readily available today than ever before. Capturing the information you need to know your customer is female, from Beijing, 43 years old, works for a Fortune 500 company and enjoys hiking in her spare time isn’t rocket science — API plugins to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms have made this simple. But overlaying this information onto your preset messaging and up-selling suggestions is challenging. Target’s ability to accurately guess a teen pregnancy is an extreme example. There are many less complex ways to tell your customer that she can hike Mt. Rainer on her day off in Seattle or point her to the top five neighborhood sushi restaurants from Yelp.
  • Speak their language. Fact: 72 percent of customers prefer to make a purchase in their own language. This isn’t to say that customers don’t understand English. This simply means that customers want to know that you’re paying attention to their needs. If you’re dealing with a customer in an emerging market or an established market, it’s critical to not only recognize their primary language but to demonstrate that you appreciate their native tongue. This leads us to our final point.
  • Change their perception. In today’s global economy, formerly distant cultures are connecting through new mediums faster than ever. This could leave your brand exposed to misinterpretation as your messages travel from one culture to another (we’ve seen plenty of corporate ads mistranslated). As you’re working on anticipating your customers needs, don’t shy away from trying something new and potentially resetting the watermark. Dropbox did this by giving away free storage. Charity:water did this by asking their members to donate on their birthdays. The travel industry is notorious for pushing the same holiday-centric buttons over and over. That’s fine, but it’s not going to change a customer’s perception of your brand.

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Making an impression in today’s world requires taking a risk. Just make sure the risks you take are in context. Otherwise you’re just another meaningless product and the only way you’ll win is with price.

Ryan is the CEO and Co-Founder of VerbalizeIt, the company that delivers instant access to a global community of translators. Ryan received his MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and a Bachelors of Arts degree from Haverford College in 2006. Ryan is a 2012 TechStars alumnus, former private equity investor for Goldman Sachs and an endurance athletics enthusiast. Visit to learn more.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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