How to use data to inspire customer loyalty in the travel industry

Lack of customer loyalty is a key problem in the travel industry. We take a look at some of the ways data can tackle the issue.

“Data is one of the strongest allies travel marketers have in the fight against fickle consumer behaviours”

The travel industry has a big problem: Customer loyalty.

Last year, a Digital Consumer survey that tracked hotel and flight shopping habits to see if customers stayed loyal to subsequent bookings found that: 

  • 80% people booked with a different hotel
  • 77% people booked with different airlines
  • 40%+ frequent fliers booked with an alternative airline

Despite being one of the most forward-thinking sectors when it comes to data use96% of marketers and data influencers in the travel industry say data is importantthe industry is struggling to use it to keep customers from slipping through their fingers.

In fact, the speed at which the industry has adapted to a digital, data-driven world has proven to be a double-edged sword. Ease of booking and supercharged customer journeys have given individuals so much choice they see little value in staying true to one brand.


Fortunately, data is also one of the strongest allies travel marketers have in the fight against fickle consumer behaviours.

Let’s look at some of the ways travel industries can use data to inspire customer loyalty. 

Personalise the experience… then personalise some more


We probably don’t need to tell you that personalisation is a biggie across all areas of marketing. But in the travel industry it’s mission critical. And it’s no longer enough to add first names to marketing emails: 86% of travellers say they value personalised offers.

Targeting and remarketing ads well is one approach to personalisation that every travel marketing team worth its salt should be using. 

“Using data to craft the vision of the perfect holiday will make you stand out”

In particular, geo-targeting ads has proven to have extremely successful results. Best Western used this approach to send specific and relevant offers based on the holidaymakers location by tracking where the user opened the email and saw a 43% uplift in downloads of its app. 

But building loyalty in a competitive market means pushing everything further. And when it comes to the travel industry, ‘selling the dream’ is key – and using data to craft the vision of the perfect holiday will make you stand out.

Iberia Airlines are a great example of a company that’s ahead of the curve when it comes to using data to push personalisation that little bit further. 

Over the Christmas period in 2016, the company sent out emails to its customers asking questions about their ideal holiday and the email address of a friend they wanted to travel with. Iberia Airlines then sent emails to the friends letting them know a special holiday card had been created with them in mind. If the recipient clicked on the link (accepting cookies as they did), they’d see targeted banners and ads suggesting they buy their friend the holiday as a ‘perfect Christmas gift’. 

Personalising customer experiences to this degree will ensure you stand out from the crowd, and keep you top of mind when they are looking for their next break.


The right customer, the right time

Data excels at identifying customer patterns. And understanding their patterns means you can pin down exactly when is the best time to contact each customer. 

For example, your data might tell you that customers in their 50s tend to book their summer holiday about a year in advance. This means you’d be best off contacting this target audience shortly after they’ve finished a trip with rebooking offers.

“Data excels at identifying customer patterns”

If you want to keep customers in a rebooking cycle, then you need to show them that you know them – and a big part of that is understanding when they want to be contacted.

Reward customers differently based on their spend

Of course, we can’t talk about brand loyalty without bringing up a staple from the travel industry: Loyalty programmes

“Travel companies need to offer a more personal approach, using the the data they hold on customers to reward them in ways that are specific”

Loyalty programmes have long been used by travel companies. But, as Thom Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty at Marriott, told USA TODAY: “Points are not the point anymore,” when you’re not “keeping track of how consumers are changing their behaviour.”

Instead, travel companies need to offer a more personal approach, using the the data they hold on customers to reward them in ways that are specific to them. 

JetBlue are one company that have capitalised on this. Trying to make their customers add more extras to their journeys, they offer their customers the option to earn points by purchasing extras, such as more legroom or travelling with pets. They then give 3 points for every dollar of customer spend, 6 on online purchases. 


Customers have the opportunity to earn more points depending on the options chosen, much like other tiered customer loyalty programmes. By rewarding customers who spend more, high-spenders are more likely to become return customers.

Create assets based on customers content preferences

Despite the travel marketing industry’s openness to adopt data-driven practices in the last decade, many have overlooked a crucial source of powerful data: Content.

Each individual has their own unique content preferences, and they can be a powerful tool to tailor the content you are sending to each individual. Content data and customer preferences can be gathered by analysing the relationship between user engagement and the individual features present in ads – a process called content atomisation.

“Understanding customer content preferences means your assets will keep you top of mind – inspiring the kind of customer loyalty that lasts”

When using content atomisation, you’ll have access to powerful information on what kinds of content your audience wants to see. What kind of content moves them and makes them hit that all-important ‘Book Now’ CTA. And you’ll be able to create assets that pack a punch, making your customers feel like you understand what they want from a travel experience.

Coupled with the other approaches discussed, understanding customer content preferences means your assets will keep you top of mind – inspiring the kind of customer loyalty that lasts

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Jergan Callebaut
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