October 28, 2020
Travel is a unique, personal end-to-end journey that begins with a dream and ends with new experiences and lifelong memories. Many travel plans, bucket-list vacations, and memories were put on hold as COVID-19 swept its way across the globe bringing the travel and tourism industry to a grinding halt.
Recent insights into the recovery of global tourism show that travel recovery scenarios vary from sector to sector and destination to destination and are in no way linear. Recovering from a pandemic is a long road and will be a challenge for many, however, there is hope on the horizon. Travel will return, we will rebuild and we will emerge stronger and wiser, and those that put in the hard work will reap the benefits.
How do we grow our way out of the COVID-19 crisis and arise stronger?
Listen to Your Customers
Restoring traveler confidence and trust is more important than ever! Transparency, flexibility and truly understanding your customer needs is the key to enhancing the customer experience (CX) and staying competitive. Market research is no longer enough, it’s time to dig deeper use modern technology to analyze the data (searches, clickstream activity, mobile app usage, search engine activity, booking values).
Microsegmentation is a term relatively new to the vacation rental industry despite being used by the retail and e-commerce sector for years. It involves the grouping of customers into small segments to gain a deeper understanding of behaviors and needs, using this data to know where your demand is coming from, then capturing that demand to market your brand on a personal level. It allows you to forecast demand, predict customer patterns, gain a deeper knowledge of your market, and build your brand for a complete end-to-end customer journey.
A recent McKinsey survey found that good CX can lead to a 20 percent improvement in experience satisfaction, a 20 percent lower cost to serve, a 15 percent increase in revenue through retention and acquisition, and a 30 percent increase in employee engagement.
Make It Better, Not Just Safer
Safety is a top priority for travelers looking for an escape during the coronavirus outbreak and flexible cancellation policies, clear communication, local Covid-19 updates, limited contact, and natural social distancing are of utmost importance. But, how can we make the customer experience better, not just safer?
Listening to your customers and using data-driven research to understand their needs is the first step! Now you have your data, it’s time to leverage it to enhance the CX, market your brand wisely, and generate a strong ROI. As we work through the travel recovery process, it’s crucial to put old monolithic practices behind us and embrace the new norm. Seize this moment to review and rethink your procedures, develop and build brand loyalty, and plan smartly for recovery.
A strong online presence and smart digital strategy ensures your brand is in front of travelers, where ever they are booking from! Customer behavior has seen a big shift in travelers turning to digital. In 2019, 40 percent of US travelers used their smartphone to book travel. In addition, 90 percent of travelers were influenced by online reviews and with the majority of the US working from home, bookings on digital platforms have increased substantially since January.
Matt Roberts of Vacasa states that tech investment is one of the big priorities in the next few months: “We think that technology is going to play an important role in this, the way that we deliver value and services going forward—in particular, where we can apply those to some of the needs in this pandemic environment, like keyless entry, housekeeping, field apps that allow for really thorough checklist approaches to cleaning standards, those types of things.”
Expand Your Horizons
The coronavirus pandemic has brought our industry together and now is the time to develop a broader vision, team up, and build trusted partnerships that restore traveler confidence, ultimately boosting recovery (and again improving the CX!). It’s time to think out the box, adopt new and effective promotional strategies to boost your market growth, rethink your business model and distribution channels and identify opportunities to collaborate with industry partners to help get the industry back on track.
Stay Nimble Beyond the Crisis
With a deeper understanding of customer behaviors, be quick to act on your findings, identify issues, implement new ideas and technologies, and if need be, reinvent the wheel. COVID-19 has changed travel as we knew it forever and while there is no pandemic playbook to follow, we need to remain agile in our approach, embrace these changes and streamline every process for a positive outcome. Research has shown that agile companies have a 1.5x higher likelihood of overperforming their competitors financially in the long run.
Many companies have seen lay-offs and substantial cutbacks so now is the time to review your talent. Identify the critical roles within your team and link your talent accordingly, bearing in mind the industry is more customer-facing than ever before. Frontline staff have a huge impact on your brand and can make or break the customer experience so training your team to understand customer needs and behavior is vitally important to increase customer loyalty.
So, while the road to recovery may be uncertain, there is hope on the horizon! Listen to your customers, make it safer and better, expand your horizons, stay nimble, and together we will arise stronger!