Taking the personalized route - Is it worth the effort?Published: Tuesday, 24 February 2015 10:15 by Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing
Does the amount of personalization that customers receive in their communications with airlines and hotels justify the amount of time they spend filling out detailed forms?
Over the past few weeks, Celebrus Technologies has been researching the levels of personalization that some of the largest UK and US airlines and hotel chains include in their marketing communications with customers. How effective are today’s airlines and hotel chains when it comes to email marketing, retargeting, mobile optimization and apps? 10 of the UK’s largest airlines and 12 of the US’s largest airlines were included in the research, together with 13 UK and 16 US hotel chains with the research findings came as quite a shock.
In the first blog of a three-part series outlining the results of the research, Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing at Celebrus Technologies assesses the amount of personal data and form filling that these large brands request today, and asks the question – do consumers receive adequate levels of personalization in return for their valuable data?
What was offered?
It is encouraging to see that on almost all of the websites we visited as part of our research, it was possible to sign-up for email newsletters, typically found on the home page. 100% of the US airlines and hotel chains offered this service, together with 100% of the UK hotels. Surprisingly however, only 89% of UK airlines offer visitors an email newsletter, and are therefore missing out on gathering valuable customer information that can be used to deliver highly targeted marketing campaigns.
When comparing the sign-up process and the amount of personal information that was being asked for, it is interesting that the US brands typically had longer forms and required more details than the UK brands. Whilst there is an argument to say that these brands have embraced the concept of personalization, the use of forms needs to be handled carefully. During the research testing, behaving as a typical consumer would do, the results suggested that some of the US forms were lengthy and could act as block to the customer journey. A delicate balance needs to be found to ensure that enough information is gathered, but that the customer doesn’t get frustrated and ends up leaving the web page without completing the form or making a booking.
What was delivered in return?
Having diligently inputted all the details requested by each company, it was only natural to expect that the brand would send a welcome email. With all the hotels in our research offering newsletter sign-up options it is surprising that only around half (54% of UK and 61% of US) sent welcome emails thanking the recipient for their details and providing useful, interesting ways for the recipient to re-engage with the brand. Some of the better examples used the email to promote deals, special savings plus information about social media channels and mobile apps available. The airlines actually fared much better in comparison to the hotels, with the majority of brands (88% UK and 91% US) sending a welcome email. Disappointingly, follow up correspondence was also poorly personalized, with just over half of all UK and US airlines and exactly 50% of UK hotels sending further personalized emails. In addition, only 8% of the US hotels actually sent follow-up correspondence – but each one was personalized.
Monarch is one example of an airline that seems to be getting it right. Having provided a reasonable amount of personal details, the follow-up correspondence has been well balanced, impactful and personalized. The emails contained useful information on places of interest relevant to the flight details originally searched and details on special deals to other similar destinations. It was encouraging to see them getting it so right.
Our research has found that the majority of airlines and hotels are doing the right thing by gathering consumer details and personalizing their communications. However, brands need to step-up their game by providing an enhanced level of personalized communication that is equal to the amount of data that consumers are providing. By rethinking and reworking long and complex forms, and using the data proffered to deliver highly relevant, personalized communications, airlines and hotels in both the UK and US will drive greater customer loyalty, improve the overall customer experience and ultimately increase sales.