The digital age has changed the way holiday-makers research and book travel, presenting big opportunities for the industry. Almost half of UK travellers booked a holiday abroad online last year, according to the latest ABTA Consumer Trends Survey.

At the same time, customers are also becoming increasingly empowered through the access to review and aggregator sites. So how do travel providers ensure they retain a share of the customer’s wallet and capitalise on this lucrative market?

The key is to stay front of mind throughout the travel process, from the point the customers book through to the start of the trip. The good news is, whether you’ve sold the flight, hotel or whole package, you know when the customer is travelling - a vital piece of knowledge..

As the departure date gets closer, customers begin to look for and purchase the little extras they need, starting their holiday countdown. This might include parking, insurance, trips, in-flight extras, car hire or foreign exchange. The golden opportunity is to make sure they come back to you for these items, which can represent significant additional profit in a world of cut-throat pricing.

Here’s a 5-point guide to our holiday countdown methodology.

1.          Understand the customer purchase journey

If you already offer holiday extras, you will have a vast amount of data at your fingertips that you can analyse to understand patterns of behaviour. Proper analysis will help unearth common purchase points and afford you opportunities to employ this knowledge to increase sales. For example, there is a clear time period when customers purchase foreign exchange.

2.         Create a data environment

If rich data is not immediately to hand, it is probably because it is held up in an inaccessible booking system. In order to exploit the intelligence in your marketing, you’ll need to develop mechanisms to extract and corral the data to avoid any unnecessary and unwelcome impacts on the delivery of your service.

3.         Develop your communication platforms

There are myriad ways to communicate with your customers during the countdown period. For example, we’ve used combinations of direct mail, micro-personalised emails, personal websites, SMS, social channels, outbound calls, all driven from a highly flexible CRM system.  It’s also important that the sophistication that you can build into your CRM system, with multiple variables, can be technically executed on other platforms, for example, on your email platform.

4.        Establish models and rules to optimise your communications

As is the case with all CRM approaches, it is necessary to ensure that your communications are prioritised according to their likelihood to yield a result. Developing rules and hierarchies is commonplace, but there is still value in examining whether you can make them work harder by being as thorough and as granular as possible through the use of models and data triggers, for instance.

5.         Implement micro-personalised communications

An approach that allows you to develop components of communications you can bolt together specifically for an individual, according to what they’ve already bought and are likely to buy at that point in time, requires both a clever creative approach and smart digital systems. It is truly worth investing in these in order to achieve the results you need.

The holiday countdown method is a simple concept that requires a number of disciplines to come together to achieve it. However, the benefits of this level of customer relationship management are evident in the results we’ve seen. For example, we’ve helped leading UK travel operators achieve a 30% increase in ancillary product sales or a nine times increase in credit card sales using this method. Showing products and features that are of most interest to consumers at the very time they are looking to make a purchase means you will deliver trust, brand fidelity and ultimately drive results.

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