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How the Travel Industry Can Use Customer Journey Analytics for COVID Recovery

There’s no question that the travel industry was one of the hardest hit industries from COVID-19 during the past 14 months. Now, some of the industry is starting to bounce back and regain the course that was leveled last year. As the industry begins the legwork of recovery, analyzing the customer journey can play a key part in understanding how customers are engaging with the brand and buying.

Customer journey analytics is the approach to building informed customer experiences to maximize the impact of marketing efforts and minimize waste in marketing dollars. As it evolves, it requires some new skills and approaches to get it right. It starts with informing how we understand the customer, then it influences how we design the experiences, informs how we operationalize the changes, and helps to shape individual experiences in real time. At its best, customer journey analytics ensures a systematic means of evaluating and monitoring outcomes and continuously improving the process.

Segmentation is Key

Not every customer is the same or wants to engage with your brand the same way. Therefore, one of the biggest focus areas of how to manage customer journey analysis and planning for the travel industry is around segmentation.  Everything needs to start with the customer segmentation in mind and tie back to that, especially during the COVID-19 rebound effort. The segmentation type can be selected based upon comfort level as well as desired speed to market.

Common Segmentation Approaches:

  • Statistical clustering to build mutually exclusive personas – An ideal approach that can inform media and creative strategy but takes longer to develop
  • RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) rules-based – Higher speed to market but less accurate/holistic

The value component in segmentation greatly aligns with loyalty and how much someone spends with the travel company. Communication plans need to be very tightly informed by this information.

At a high level, a basic customer journey segmentation could look like this:

High value customer

This customer is in the ideal spot where we want all customers to land. These customers are brand advocates, are all in on your loyalty program, and they frequently support your brand. This segment should be used as the lynchpin to follow for other groups. Understanding what makes this segment valuable to your brand (beyond potentially having higher disposable income) and how they engage with your marketing touchpoints is crucial and can be teased out via the customer journey analytics process.

Medium value customer

Insert marketing touchpoints that are relevant to the high value segment to help replicate the high value segment success. You may find that the medium value group responds to a certain channel over another to bring more conversations. Double down on what is successful to make this group successful. Do you need to give incentives for lower groups? They could command a lower income and could benefit from deals or offers, or a more specific type of offer that helps them convert. Analyzing existing customers will inform how to build lookalike audiences to talk to prospects in a similar manner. Not every customer is the same, and because of that, marketers need to think like that today, especially in paid media activation.

Low value customer

These customers are low spenders and may only purchase when you have deals. However, this group is also important in your customer journey analytics as they can be studied to find targeting attributes or touchpoints to omit in your marketing efforts. It is important to understand what motivates this group and understand why they don’t make more purchases. This information can be used to avoid wasting ad dollars on similar customers.

Another important segmentation to consider is prospective customer vs. current customers. To do this, take all your data points, lay them out, and see how conversions are driven from your prospects and your current customers. What is drawing in new customers, and what are you doing that is keeping them coming back? Extract insights to find what makes high value customers, then try to replicate further (extract specifics on what makes them valuable). As an example, think about a frequent flyer loyalty card. If you don’t have a loyalty program, these analyses will be made from scratch. The focus should be on driving profitable conversions, so conversions shouldn’t be looked at as a whole but instead broken out using your segmentation framework.

Most travel organizations have a loyalty component. Therefore, loyalty needs to be instrumental to your strategy in this process. From here, depending on the company, it may make sense to create subgroups to hone into specific audiences based on your goals. Customer journey analytics analyzes what happens today and where to be to bridge the gap, so think about the segments that make up your most valued customers.

Common Pitfalls of Customer Journey Analytics

  • The journey analysis needs to be grounded in data from start to finish. It’s a science and an art but goes beyond simple gut feelings
  • What you want customers to do is one thing and what they actually do is another
  • Misconceptions of what customer journey mapping actually is. Start with data analysis and evolve it into a strategy. Start with the facts, layer in a measurement framework to understand how people are moving from step to step
  • As you’re developing your creative/messaging strategy from the customer analysis, avoid tone deaf messaging, personalize, especially for your known customers. People expect personalized experiences and if you don’t do it, they can become a detractor for your brand 

Want to learn more? Check out our handbook, The Ultimate Guide to Customer Journey Analytics here.

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