The connected consumer takes flight: Creating seamless buying journeys with data

Business and Technology Writer

To outpace competitors, leaders in the travel and hospitality industry need to identify ways to reach today's connected consumer. These most desirable consumers of travel-related services are willing to share data if travel, hospitality, retail and consumer packaged goods companies are using that information to improve their personal experience on future journeys. In that dynamic, opportunities for better engagement and greater revenue can soar.

As ICEF Monitor reports, 57 percent of consumers "are willing to share additional personal information such as their location, their top five Facebook friends' names and information about family members in return for financial rewards and better service."

Hotel News Now calls on the hospitality space, in particular, to turn to the Nordstrom model. That is, travel leadership should empower employees, as the retail store does on its sales floor, to "track customer needs and requests online" and then satisfy those needs in person. Their technology-driven approaches enable them to provide seamless interactions with the brand, whether they are connecting in person or online.

Travel suppliers should be poised to leverage the connected consumer's willingness to share data, and in so doing create a seamless journey experience. Today's travel industry leaders are making choices that engage travelers with relevant information through every trip.

Airlines and airports make connections with travelers

Start with the basics of getting around. Geospatial data linked to connected consumers' smartphones via airline and airport apps create opportunities for positive experiences that grow the consumer–brand relationship. Push messages, as SITA reports, can make navigating the airport a more seamless experience with prompts about gate locations and nearby conviniences, or the nearest lounge with a special offer for a one-day pass.

Beacons also represent opportunities for contextual marketing. If a consumer has already demonstrated loyalty with certain brands, sending them in-terminal offers: a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a special deal on a new pair of Bose headphones before a long flight, for example. Point is, connections with travelers start with data, but they solidify around real-world experiences that make a difference throughout the journey.

Joining data with circumstance

Hospitality industry leaders also know that the connected traveler is likely to broadcast their wants and needs via posts and updates to the social Web.

As Hospitality Net reports, hotel marketing and operations can respond with offers and loyalty-building experiences when they watch for data about specific scenarios. A stranded group of travelers at an airport, for example, is a prime opportunity to offer a special rate via social-media platforms such as Twitter. The social Web channel becomes the platform of a two-way conversation, solving the challenges travelers present and earning their repeat business.

Responsive customer service

In an example of how one rental car company envisions integrated data, Fox Rent A Car recently described its goals in a Skift report.

Linking all the company's available data sources — including connected customers' details flight schedules, car inventory, and in-app information — Fox wants to respond in real time with real actions.

For instance, if you leave your passport in one of their rental cars, their mobile and integrated data tools allow employees to identify your airport gate or other destination, then dispatch staff to return your valuables. That's the kind of experience that creates meaningful relationships between brands and customers, providing invaluable connections that will live on long after the customer has returned home.

Ancillary avenues to the connected traveler

As a recent ClickZ article points out, innovative insurance companies are turning to anonymized data — primarily from the social Web — to identify other, at times non-traditional, traveler-insurance opportunities. These include policies that cater to climbers, who might encounter altitude sickness — and what mountain climber doesn't want protection from altitude sickness or base-camp injuries? Again, the linking of specific data-driven observations to offers represents an opportunity to reach travelers, even across industry lines.

The above examples show how travel leaders are just beginning to use data analytics to tap the connected consumer for opportunities for ongoing engagement in real time. The next steps rest in industry leaders' hands. Savvy travel brands will leverage, manipulate and take advantage of data to enhance the experiences of their connected travel consumers, one journey — and one new and loyal relationship — at a time.

Connect with consumers via data—learn how on IBM's Travel and Transportation Industry Solutions Page.