The prevalence of travel booking presents a staggering revenue opportunity for financial institutions.
People spend more discretionary income on travel than home improvements, financial investments, or health-related products. In fact, a trip was the largest discretionary purchase last year according to nearly 60 percent of leisure travelers. What if all those “large discretionary purchases” were made using a particular credit card or its rewards program?
With the right strategies in place, brands have a greater shot of securing prime billfold real estate and increasing travel redemptions.
The travel customer journey
Staying top-of-wallet requires brands to be present during the entire travel customer journey. Get in front of members during prime travel micro-moments: dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing. Be there with a game plan that’s relevant to your customers’ needs during each stage of their travel journey.
Before redemption or booking, customers are “dreaming,” looking for inspiration for their next trip. Be useful and relevant; address their needs in that moment by helping them in their search. Provide suggestions on top destinations and packages your program data indicates are most popular among your members.
After they’ve chosen their destination, help them book that dream trip. Provide the information they’re looking for – available dates, flights and prices – so they don’t have to search for it. Consider their process. Provide relevant information and remove obstacles throughout their travel customer journey.
Take advantage of the “halo” effect
Members using rewards points to purchase all or part of their trip experience a “halo” period following redemption. It’s the time when their trip is top-of-mind. They’re planning. They’re excited. And they’ve gotten in the habit of pulling out that card because it’s what enabled them to take that dream vacation or romantic getaway in the first place.
The period when that feeling is strongest is the optimal time for brands to impact consumer spending: both in dollars and points. It’s a crucial time for brands to act. But not without some thoughtful planning.
What kind of planning?
Start by looking at the data.
According to our 2016 Travel Trends Analysis, the average lag time for air travel is 55 days from redemption to flight. The halo effect begins immediately after redemption. If John just booked a flight to Orlando, you should have a plan for how you’ll get in front of John leading up to his trip, so your card will be his go-to.
Use your program data to determine average lag times for your members. Then create opportunities to communicate with John. Focus on: 1) providing value 2) being relevant to his travel booking journey and 3) keeping your brand top-of-mind.
- 30 days out: Travelers are beginning to look for hotels and car rentals. Be there when John starts his search. Send him a note reminding him he can also book his hotel and car rental with you using his points, or to rack up more.
- 15-30 days out: Send activity suggestions. If John and his family will be in Orlando for a week, they’re probably looking for a few things to do. Recommend activities he can purchase using his points or offer bonus points for using his card to book. Consider promoting other rewards like gift cards, merchandise or movie downloads as a thank you for using your rewards program. Evaluate your program data to see what timeframe and rewards options your members prefer.
- 5 days out: Tell him what the weather looks like in Orlando in the coming days or suggest local events happening during his stay.
- The day before: Remind John that his plane boards at 6 a.m. Tell him about the benefits your card provides like free access to a lounge, Wi-Fi, TSA Precheck or rental car insurance coverage.
When John does go out to eat at the restaurant you suggested, he’s likely going to pay using your card. He’s got to fill up on gas in the rental car you helped him purchase at a discounted rate – which card do you think he’ll pull out at the pump?
The entire travel experience provides opportunities to bolster your brand and encourage additional card use. Plus, travel is a memorable experience. Even after their trip, members realize the value of the program and benefits of their loyalty – it’s what allowed them to take that trip, experience new things and create lasting memories.