Ai Editorial: Cracking millennials’ travel booking funnel

First published on October 31, 2006

Ai Editorial: Consumerism and workplaces are undergoing societal and technological transformation at this juncture. And at the forefront of this phase are millennials, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


Millennials as a group is immersed in their individuality and doesn’t always fit within stereotypes. An example being, “if you can’t trust your workforce to their job flexibly, why hire them?” Productivity is being explored in a new way, especially when emails and business applications can be accessed via mobile devices. The 20 and early 30-somethings are re-shaping everything with the way they communicate, they way they interact with brands, the way they shop etc. In fact, technology needs to adapt to them, rather than the other way around!

As for the travel industry, start-ups are responding. Today there are offerings that serve best airfare available as proactive alerts or one can avail an on-demand, personal travel service through a smartphone app. Before we delve into how the travel sector is responding to this age-group, lets assess what millennials tend to prefer and how the same can affect their booking funnel:

The key takeaway is immersive travel experience.

Sabre, in their blog posts in September this year, shared that the dreaming phase is marked by visit to social media platforms, with Instagram being the most common source of inspiration, followed by Facebook. However, inspiration does drop down to the bottom line: 39% of millennials ultimately book a trip. As converting inspiration into travel for millennials, Facebook contributes most (66%), followed by Instagram, Pinterest and blogs. Other findings: Millennials want to keep their itineraries flexible; Millennial travellers trust word-of-mouth recommendations – ones from friends and social networks matter; Ready to count on expertise of an agent; Technology is an integral part of the journey, ready to pay more for removing pain points from travel; compelled to share their experiences.  


Source: Hitlist 

Responding to millennial psychographic  

Two of the speakers – Hitlist’s Gillian Morris and LikeWhere’s Simon Dempsey - who attended MegaEvent16 in Toronto, Canada last week, both representing start-ups, shared their perspective on being focused for this generation.

San Francisco-based Gillian, CEO & Founder of mobile app Hitlist, a personalized mobile travel agent, underlined that new business ideas have a certain gestation period before they go mass. “Disruption doesn’t come out of the blue. It’s a process, where trends develop over a long time before they hit the mainstream,” Gillian said.

She noted that “millenials” and “mobile” are two trends that are tipped to signal a new era in the flight search category.

Referring to emerging trends in the flight search space, she mentioned that this segment is witnessing several approaches. These include assisted (FlightFox, TRVL, Lola, Slingshot), inspirational, proactive alerts (Hopper, Hitlist), customer-first (Skiplagged) and socially integrated, shared Gillian, who took an unusual career path, marked by her journey of staying in different countries and opting for different assignments in around 10 countries. She eventually ended up a venture-backed start-up. As for Gillian’s company, Hitlist proactively finds best itineraries for users, helps them to make the most of data in their social graph to provide them with relevant destinations and deals.

“Millenials buy in a different way,” she said. It is being estimated that 40% of overall travel spending is going to be contributed by this segment by next year, as the level of spending from this age-group is set to go up. As for mobile distribution, Gillian mentioned that the industry is yet to see the real shift the way travel is marketed and distributed. “(Mobile) is a personalised, super-computer in your pocket, present all the time,” she said. This group embraces mobile offerings faster than “older” generations, and it is time for travel companies to engage millenials on their terms, offer a range of payment methods.

“Their (millenials) “value” set can’t be ignored, it is fundamentally different from previous generations,” mentioned Dempsey, founder, CEO at Ireland-based LikeWhere. The start-up uses the local knowledge each passenger has of their home city to help them unravel an unfamiliar destination based on the data they provide as they are about to browse, and this propels airlines in a position to shape up the entire experience. “Millenials seek convenience, seek to belong and co-create, for them it’s about creating stories around travel, and being part of an authentic experience. Airlines need to recognize this and serve their mentality,” explained Dempsey.  

Be open to change

It seems things millenials are engaging in, business processes aren’t accustomed to. For instance, this generation hangs out on messaging apps, speak their language – we are already talking about paying with a “selfie”. If Facebook isn’t sure of a check-in from a new location, a way to confirm the user identity is to recognise photographs of connections. So yes, travel brands may have to invest in digital assets or even ecosystems owned by 3rd parties, but there is no way businesses can ignore what millennials are doing today.  

Last year around 43 trillion mobile messages were sent globally through social networks and mobile devices, according to Juniper Research, with traffic expected to reach an astounding 438 billion messages daily by 2020. As CellPoint Mobile points out, airlines need to find a way out to capitalise on this steady streams of mobile communications for travel-related interactions and transactions.

Airlines need to prepare brand-owned channels wherever possible for planning, booking and servicing. For instance, if a traveller is waiting at the airport lounge, he or she decides to use personal digital assistant and asks: “Can I have mango pudding during the flight? Is it part of my dinner or lunch?” Is it possible for technology to answer this question? And can the price be known if the same traveller wishes to buy and can it be bought, say via Apple Pay, via the same device? Is this what is going to define digital commerce? Other than letting millennials buy the way they want, they also need to be informed and inspired. Here social or micro influencers, who possess relevant influence around specific topics and can influence the decision-making of their “connections,” are playing a key role. So there is a need to minutely look at the booking funnel, and gear up for each phase with apt blend of mobility, cloud, social media, big data and analytics and artificial intelligence while gearing up to serve millennials.

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