Millennial expectations of the travel and transportation industry

Information Strategy Consultant, IBM

We all wear many hats: parent, traveler, organizer, shopper, employee, employer, teacher, banker, patient and perhaps even Millennial. Depending on the circumstances, those hats set expectations and determine how we interact with businesses, as well as how we consume products and services. Take this opportunity to switch hats and look at the travel and transportation industry through the eyes of the now, and increasingly influential, Millennial demographic.


Considering the Millennial demographic

Is it the mobility of the Millennial, the anticipation that they will be the future majority of the workforce or the fact they’re traveling more than previous generations that has the travel industry shaping new ways to interact with this coveted market segment? The importance of the Millennial is demonstrated as hotels develop new Millennial-specific brands and have identified the Millennial as the key component for growth. In some cases, such as McDonald’s, the recent earnings miss is being attributed to a lack of connection with this young generation’s needs and wants. 

In today’s information rich and highly connected world, shouldn’t travel and transportation companies be able to target and develop a brand affinity much more easily than in years past? To address the opportunity, three foundational steps must be addressed: 

  1. Aggregate a complete view of the customer with a rich set of defining attributes
  2. Stream all current interactions with the customer
  3. Predict and anticipate behavior to drive personalization and a differentiating experience

Aggregate customer attributes

Millennials’ digital footprints are everywhere. The ability to capture these footprints in the context of an interaction with an organization is expected. The next step is to understand the person outside of the organizational interaction by mapping the interests, affiliations and attributes that make this person unique. Readily available information such as the restaurants where they dine, magazines they read,  clothing they wear and even their psycholinguistic profile can deliver deep insight on their propensity to perhaps join a planned excursion through REI Adventures, book a cruise through the Mediterranean or spend their vacation in remote hut, courtesy of AirBNB. The information can also be analyzed across multi-dimensions to determine the most profitable and influential customer sets. 

A quick exercise

Who is more valuable?  Let’s take customer A, who flies weekly to the same destination on United and is rewarded with an elite 1K status. Customer B also flies on United, but only every other week.

At a quick glance, it would appear that customer A is more valuable.  But when we look deeper into the aggregated data, we see that customer B is a lead for a design team and has at least three additional teammates flying with them each week. The analysis has just identified an influential flyer that is perceived as less valuable than the branded elite flier yet is potentially driving two times more revenue. 

Lets add one more piece of information: customer B is a Millennial and customer A is in their mid 50s, revealing that there is a much higher propensity of long term spending with customer B. Simple aggregation, in new ways, can uncover untapped long term brand affinity for customer segments such as the Millennial.


The Millennials are ever connected with their laptop, mobile devices and more. Knowing this market segment across these platforms can help you stay ahead of the trends. Travel and transportation companies can quickly review information to understand what events are starting to create a draw and from where.

For example, what is the social media telling you about people wanting to be a part (or not) of an event like the Super Bowl or World Cup? Or, how successful is a hotel going to be with their incredible value offer to visit an off-season golf outing in September at a northern hemisphere resort? Or, if a group of Millennials decide to stay at a casino resort, how will the casino operator be able to drive the customer (through real-time interaction) to a show and have dinner on property? It is the aggregation of historical insight with real-time streaming interaction that will help drive brand affinity with Millennials.

Predict and act

Blake Nordstrom, Nordstrom CEO, said in a shareholders meeting that Nordstrom is competing for the Millennial’s wallet share. Not just share of income planned for clothing or shoes, but discretionary income that could be used for movies, dining out or the next new shiny object. How can travel and transportation companies capture that wallet share? Deep analytics with algorithms and cognitive learning from every interaction can help immensely. 

An average guest at a Vegas casino or on a cruise ship may come only once a year. In that model, each interaction needs to be a learning moment and the full interaction and choice of action (or inaction) must be captured and analyzed to predict when they will visit next, what experience they may be able to afford and what marketing actions will be most relevant and compelling to draw them back.

Predictive algorithms have grown in power and complexity, and when applied across the aggregated data with little to no latency, an organization can more confidently anticipate how a Millennial will behave when acted upon or left alone. How ready are you for the Millennial?  Please share your thoughts on your organization’s readiness and join the conversation at the IBM Insight 2014 conference!