Predictive Personalization: The Next Frontier of Online Travel

By Mark Simpson President & Founder, Maxymiser | March 31, 2013

Personalization is undoubtedly an overused (if not abused) industry term. Almost any online marketing vendor will tout it as a way to say they can help you target your consumers. Fair enough to them, I say, because the potential impact of personalized online marketing is enormous, but companies must be careful with what personalization means to them, their business, and most of all their consumers. And this holds even truer for travel marketers.

The problem is that after years of vendor hype and over-promises, personalization has not lived up to it's billing in the industry.

So when it comes to web sites, mobile sites and apps and CRM platforms, the travel industry needs to realize: only through a combination of 'self-learning', predictive personalization and multivariate testing technologies and services, all delivered through a single platform, will they begin to reap the benefits of truly personalized marketing to each and every customer. But it must be an ongoing commitment – it's about evolution rather than revolution.

Defining Personalization

Personalizing the customer experience has been marketing's holy grail for over a decade. Yet ask ten marketers to define personalization and there will be no consensus answer. And in reality, very few are looking to achieve anything more than product recommendations and rules-based re-targeting.

According to Forrester Research, web personalization is "creating experiences on web sites or through interactive media that are unique to individuals or segments of consumers."

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.