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Travel industry faces ‘personalisation pressure’ in 2018 as consumer appetite splits

15th Jan 2018

[LONDON - 11 JANUARY 2018] Travel brands will come under pressure from a highly competitive online market and conflicting customer appetites in 2018, according to new research from Qubit.

The survey of more than 1,000 UK and US consumers highlighted that plenty of the 2018 market is still available as we approach Blue Monday* and February’s peak period, with nearly two thirds [65%] of all UK consumers yet to book a holiday for the year ahead and almost half [48%] admitting they haven’t even started researching yet.

Qubit’s research also revealed that three out of five respondents will only consult two to five websites when booking their holiday. Facing stiff online competition and a discerning customer base, travel brands will need to move swiftly to secure revenues if they’re to benefit from 2018’s peak booking period.

Personalisation Demand
As we enter the peak business period of 2018, Qubit’s research showed that there are clear opportunities to appeal directly to customers through using the most effective personalisation techniques - such as tailored recommendations and social proof. These are set to serve brands particularly well with younger travellers and those bookers with families. However, brands also face a challenge from older travellers who appear to be more resistant to personalisation.

- Younger travellers and those booking for families were found to be most eager for tailored, personalised experiences. Three out of five [60%] under 35-year-old travellers and more than half [56%] of family bookers found recommendations received from travel websites very or extremely useful.

- Among the available personalisation techniques, social proof – which involves influencing decision-making with the behaviour of other customers – was found to be particularly appealing to families and younger travellers. 37% of all customers wanted to know what holidays and destinations are popular while booking online – this rose to more than half of under 35s [57%] and family bookers [53%].

- 49% of under 35s and 46% of families said it was helpful for brands to display counters showing the demand for a product or service. Likewise, more than two thirds [67%] of under 35s and half [54%] of families said it was helpful for brands to display counters showing availability or offers that would shortly expire.

- Qubit’s research revealed that travellers over 35 years old were more resistant to personalisation and were instead motivated by cost and seamless user experiences. Four out of five (80%) older travellers agreed that their favourite travel websites were those that were easy to use, and over half [51%] said price was the most important factor when considering which holiday to book. Almost a third [32%] of older travellers would consider switching brands if another website could provide more choice or better prices.

Customer Response
Qubit’s research indicates that travel brands’ personalisation efforts are being recognised by consumers, with nearly half of respondents [45%] saying their favourite travel booking sites made an effort to personalise the experience to their preferences and interests. This rises to 56% for under 35s and 58% for families.

This has driven a strong consumer appetite for tailored, relevant experiences when it comes to interacting with travel brands, indicating it will be a key tool for brands aiming to secure revenue in the peak period and beyond. Around half [49%] of all customers said they enjoy being recommended holidays that fit their interests, but this rose to 69% for under 35s and 63% for families. More than half of customers [49%] said they would share their preferences with a business in order to make the booking experience better – this rose to nearly three quarters [71%] of under 35s and nearly two thirds [64%] of families.

Channels of Choice
While online continues to dominate, Qubit data shows that customers have firmly moved on from more traditional channels, with 11% reporting they visit in-store to research destinations and just 13% choosing to book their trip in-store. Less than 2% of customers said they used travel call centres for inspiration, booking or post-booking advice.

Qubit data also shows there could be opportunities for brands to upsell ancillary options to existing online customers. When planning a booked holiday, the majority [60%] of customers used Google, but more than a third [36%] used the website of the brand they’d booked with.

Dan Bensley, Travel Industry Lead, Qubit said:
“As we enter travel’s peak period, brands will come under pressure to deliver more sophisticated online experiences if they’re to win over those customers yet to book holidays in 2018. Businesses that invest in AI-powered personalisation technology will be well positioned to capture the low hanging fruit of the younger and family travel market. However, brands will also need to deploy an array of methods to appeal to the high-spending older demographic. This research shows that a one-size-fits-all digital approach is not enough in this increasingly hyper-competitive market.”

* The ‘most depressing day of the year’ on which high numbers of consumers are known to book holidays

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

About the survey
An online survey of 529 consumers in the US and 523 consumers in the UK was conducted by Toluna Quick Surveys on behalf of Qubit on November 2 and October 31 2017.

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