Boxever has conducted some research into consumer expectations in the travel market, and identified a strong need for airlines to distinguish between each consumer and deliver an experience that aligns with their individual preferences. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The growing scale and speed of digital transformation in the travel industry landscape is continuous. Recent data shows that digital travel sales are set to reach more than $600 billion in 2018. While travel businesses are moving rapidly to adapt and deploy new systems to meet digital consumer habits, the truth is that most airlines are not prepared for this new reality.

Results from Boxever's 2018 travel research, which surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 65, reveal a substantial disconnect between what today's traveler expects and what airlines are currently delivering. However, airlines still have an opportunity to better connect with customers by reimagining their approach to marketing and making better use of data.

Based on survey findings, below are the top five ways airlines can achieve a superior travel experience for their customers:

  • Determine communication channel based on demographic: Consumer preferences differ with age when it comes to communication with airlines. Over half of millennials primarily use email (57%), while Gen X prefers to communicate over the phone and baby boomers prefer to use the airline's website. To effectively engage with consumers, airlines must understand these nuances and execute accordingly.
  • Remember personal details: Nearly 60% of all consumers expect airlines they've traveled with previously to remember their seating preferences. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to book extra days on a business trip for leisure. Offering a preferred seat or options to extend a trip proactively are simple ways that airlines can impress potential customers.
  • Respond quickly: Over 60% of American consumers expect airlines to respond to a problem (such as a lost bag) within 30 minutes. Further, almost all consumers (96%) expect a response within 24 hours. As such, airlines must have systems in place to collect this incoming consumer data, filter it by individual traveler and respond quickly via the traveler's channel of choice in order for the customer to feel satisfied.
  • Customize consumer loyalty perks: Over one third of respondents said collecting airline points is important to them. Other areas of importance include flight upgrades (21%) and priority check-in (16%). To maintain happy customers, airlines should offer these types of perks and reward travellers for their loyalty.
  • Keep customer trust through transparency: 57% of consumers said they will dump an airline over hidden fees and 44% won't re-book after unexplained delays. Therefore, airlines must be transparent throughout the entire booking and travel process to make customers feel informed and respected, increasing the likelihood they will re-book in the future.

"Higher consumer expectations place more pressure on airlines to understand their customers on a personal level and deliver the experience they"re looking for," said Dave O'Flanagan, CEO of Boxever. "This survey indicates that tailoring the experience for each traveler is the best way to establish long-lasting relationships. To accomplish this, airlines must re-evaluate their use of data and leverage the necessary technology to empower relevant, consistent experiences across all channels."