Digital Marketing Trends for Travel and Hospitality: Engaging an Audience on the Run

Real-time analytics is key to enhancing customer experience.

Travel and hospitality (T&H) was one of the first industries off the starting block to use digital in their customer acquisition strategy. Initially this was to make trip planning easier, but today’s digital strategies are much more involved. As Adobe’s 2017 Digital Marketing Study shows, winning brands are looking for ways to be with customers well before and well after a hotel or airline booking — keeping pace through the whole customer journey without dropping the baton.

To accomplish this goal, T&H companies are focusing their efforts on two major fronts: mobile and personalization through real-time analytics. Using these two strategies, T&H companies are getting into customers’ worlds and staying there, providing amazing experiences — both physical and digital — in order to secure long-term customer loyalty.

Customer experience is pivotal

The success that some T&H companies enjoy may look like an easy win, but it’s actually a no-holds race due to disruptions in the industry. Julie Hoffmann, head of travel and hospitality strategy at Adobe, says, “There are a lot of new disruptors coming into this space and taking a lot of share. Low-cost airfare providers can now make international flights. Room-sharing services mean anyone’s spare room can replace a hotel room. The traditional providers are facing competition from new, unexpected sources, and they have to ‘up their game’ to stay relevant.”

In addition to the pressures of rapidly increasing supply in the industry, T&H companies also have to deal with reaching customers. Historically, travel agents booked trips for customers. Today, customers book their own flights, rental cars, cruises, hotels, and more. Companies have to learn how to reach customers wherever they are and present a unified, seamless experience while doing so. Given the increasingly competitive market, this is no easy feat.

Mobile is mandatory in travel and hospitality

In order to reach customers, T&H brands are going mobile. According to the 2017 Digital Marketing Study, two-thirds of T&H brands say mobile web development and mobile app engagement are very important to building their customer experience capabilities in the next three years. This is particularly important for reaching the rising generation who have grown up digital.

These younger audiences are pushing digital access from desktops to mobile. The digital marketing study indicates that 48 percent of digital visitors to T&H online sites are engaging via mobile. This is more than any other industry, and it makes sense because customers are on the move when exploring digital sites and making travel arrangements.

In order to attract these customers and earn their business, companies like Marriott are rolling out new apps with upgraded immersive features that reach beyond placing reservations. These new apps include information about experiences near an intended hotel, extending the utility of the app and encouraging a deeper connection.

Real-time analytics and personalization are winning the experience game

Of course, in order to truly reach customers and provide content that is both compelling and relevant, companies first need to understand their customers. For that, T&H brands are turning to artificial intelligence-driven, real-time analytics engines. These sophisticated programs can learn customer preferences and then infer the next best step to take autonomously.

Julie explains the connection between gathering data and enabling automated analytics. “We think of data as the new oil,” she says. “It needs to be refined to be useful, and you need to own it. You don’t want somebody else owning your data. The second piece comes once that core base is established, and that’s to let the machine do the work.”

The Digital Marketing Study reveals that 50 percent of T&H companies today are gathering and using real-time data; 47 percent are using automated personalization. Another driver for this instant-turnaround mindset is that cross-sell opportunities in travel often last only as long as the trip itself. Companies don’t have days to tease over the data to glean solutions. Automation enables immediate turnaround, thereby enabling those cross-sell opportunities.

Travel and hospitality are poised for continued success

With a majority of people more interested in travel experiences than additional material goods, the T&H industry is in a good position. The only remaining question is which companies will stay in the race. The answer is the ones that embrace mobile and real-time analytics. By leveraging these technologies, T&H companies can connect with customers, provide winning experiences, and earn their place on the podium.

Read more industry-specific digital marketing insights by checking out the complete 2017 Adobe Digital Marketing Study.