September 01, 2013

Millennials represent the fastest-growing group for travel spending and, according to American Express Business Insights, their spending grew 20% in 2010 despite the down economy and poor job market. While this is good news for airlines, destinations and hotels, effectively attracting Millennials requires a specific approach. And once you reach them, the real opportunity is to help them become your advocate and create more customers.

Tailor your approach

Behaviorally, Millennials differ in the way they go about researching and booking travel. They are truly multi-device planners often starting their research on their smartphone, continuing at home with their tablet and then completing their booking at work on a PC. In addition, they typically do more research than others…averaging 10.2 information sources while planning. Given both, effectively targeting this group requires a truly integrated cross-platform strategy.

Millennials also like having everything easily accessible and have little tolerance for experiences that are burdensome. As example, while airlines want people to book directly online, few airline sites enable easy booking for multi-stop trips and their site experiences often lag behind those of other aggregators and OTA’s. Winning the hearts and wallets of Millennials will require tailoring your user experience to them.

Flash sale sites like Gilt, Jetsetter, and Groupon have made finding last minute deals on great experiences like a game and on average, Millennials book closer to the time of travel (1.5 months in advance versus 3 months for older generations). Hotels and airlines may have to adjust the traditional revenue model of raising prices as the travel date approaches to attract Millennials. Look for ways to entice them with interesting experiences that have a limited lifespan that create urgency and a fear of missing out.

Millennials also put more trust in their peers than any brand or “expert” which is on reason why TripAdvisor is a popular place to get the answers they seek. Travel marketers could benefit by aggregating their customer’s reviews and photos on their owned media properties.

Help them attract more customers.

With the right tools, you can help your Millennial customers become your advocates and attract more customers. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Millennials are twice as likely a non-Millennials to share pictures or recount travel experiences online using their mobile phone. They also like to share in real-time so there’s an opportunity for travel marketers to capitalize on their influence with their family and friends and build tools to facilitate sharing their experience. What if an airline could partner with Spotify and Vine to enable creating interesting vacation videos that are easily shared on their trip?

We know that Millennials are experience driven so look for ways to create moments in your experience that surprise and delight and beg to be shared. In start contrast to the “pay for everything” mentality of most airlines, Hawaiian Airlines serves a complimentary Hawaiian cocktail before landing in Hawaii. Small things like this enhance the fun of the experience, are easy to share and make others want to do the same.

And finally, being the social people that Millennials are, the BCG found they are more likely to travel in organized groups of friends or extended family. Consider offering group discounts or custom experiences for groups and find ways to enable social itinerary building. Alaska Airlines has a cool app that enables you to overlay your Facebook friends with their routes to see what it would cost to go where your friends live. Imagine if it also enabled you to invite other friends, build an itinerary and group book.

By Mike Doherty
Mike Doherty is president of Cole & Weber United.
Courtesy of MediaPost

 

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