For years, marketers have been donning their anthropologist hats in an attempt to decode the mysterious generation known as millennials. From their predisposition for technology adoption, abbreviated lexicon, and befuddling approach to brand loyalty, companies have searched high and low for insights that can provide the key to tapping into the spending power of this cohort.
One area that has followed suit, is the travel & hospitality industry. With millennials’ propensity to spend on travel and document their experiences for the world to see, travel and hospitality companies have an enormous opportunity to cater to these influential wander lusters.
To quantify the opportunity a bit more clearly, there are more than 70 million millennials in the United States alone, and this generation is poised to outnumber Baby Boomersthis year. The United Nations has also reported that 20% of all international travelers are millennials, which amounts to around 200 million people.
With these numbers as a backdrop, here are five characteristics of millennials when it comes to travel that organizations and their teams need to keep in mind in order to maximize the opportunity they present.
Experiences Over Things
For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the ownership of items defined status. Purchasing a television, owning a car, and buying a house were all significant milestones that these generations strived for. Millennials, however, have flipped this paradigm, and thus, created the experiential economy, where milestones are marked by memorable experiences rather than material goods.
One study found that 80% of millennials were willing to give up Netflix, 77% coffee and 73% alcohol to travel. Millennials have even reported they’d rather spend their money on traveling rather than buying a house. And taking this to the extreme, 41% of these digital natives have even said they’d be willing to give up their cell phones!
However, despite millennials being a huge catalyst for the increase in popularity of alternative accommodation providers like Airbnb, who have won favor for the focus on providing guests unique local experiences, some studies show that millennials in large part prefer the full-service experience of traditional hotels. While that’s a good sign for traditional brands, the key here is customer service. More on that later.
Millennials have been found to travel more than any other generation. Quite simply, if travel and hospitality brands aren’t focusing a significant amount of energy and resources to cater to this demographic, they’re hurting their bottom line.
And while there were a record number of millennial travelers during spring break last year, this cohort isn’t just taking to the road or skies for leisure. 40% of millennials say they won’t take a job that doesn’t allow them to travel for business, and 75% say that travel is an important job perk.
With this demographic looking to their careers as opportunities to travel, hotels should make sure that they are offering them more than a free conference room and a copy of USA Today. After all, it’s quite likely that they’ll be looking to take an extra day to see the sights.
And when they aren’t traveling for spring break, or on business, millennials are more likely to use all or most of their vacation time (78%). With more than 40% of millennials being parents, it’s quite likely these frequent fliers aren’t traveling alone.
Propensity for Personalization
Today, 64% of leisure travelers and 52% of business travelers don’t show loyalty to a specific hotel. And when it comes to brand disloyalty, millennials are the biggest offenders.
To put it simply, the only hope you have in building brand loyalty is providing a truly unique and personalized experience. And when it comes to personalization, there’s no greater weapon than data.
By 2020, our data universe will have grown to 44 zettabytes. With more than 50% of millennials saying that they’d be willing to give up their data in exchange for personalized experiences, and 83% of millennials saying they’d be fine with travel brands tracking their digital patterns if it provides a more personalized experience, there’s certainly no shortage of data at your disposal — data that your millennial customers expect you to put to use!
From using this data to push traffic to your website through targeted ads, sending mid-stay messages to collect feedback and drive upsells, to following up with useful and personalized content post stay, hospitality companies can and should absolutely be leveraging data to personalize the end-to-end guest experience.
From discovery, to purchase and payment, mobile has reshaped the way we make decisions and buy products today. This has carried over to travel as well as 61% of travelers in the U.S. have booked and paid for travel through their smartphones within the past year.
The focus on the mobile experience should also include the discovery phase. Millennials spend an average of eight hours researching their trips. And, not surprisingly, they get bored within 40 minutes of the research. This is why 51% of this cohort books vacations to somewhere they’ve already been just to avoid the stress of research.
Organizations need to make it easy for their millennial customers to find the most important information they need to make their travel decisions in a timely manner. With 78% of consumers utilizing online reviews to compare hotels before finalizing their reservation, reviews are critical to the buyer journey. Consider utilizing guest messaging technology to communicate with guests in real time and prompt online reviews. A Harvard study found that every one-star increase in a Yelp rating means a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.
Mobile has also provided a way for millennials to document their entire lives for the world to see. 97% of millennials use social media during their travels, including to share recommendations and showcase highlights. This has become a powerful trigger for others to pack their bags and take flight. In fact, 87% of millennials turn to sites like Facebook for travel inspiration. Providing share-worthy experiences and engaging with customers through social media will go a long way.
Keen on Customer Service
The millennial population is projected to spend $1.4 trillion shopping each year by 2020. But if you’re not providing them with stellar customer service, you aren’t going to tap into that spending power.
As mentioned earlier, millennials are looking for a hotel experience that provides white glove service. One of the best ways to do this is to tap into their propensity for mobile and allow them to get in touch with you on the spot. By enabling real-time communication with your hotel, you’ll be able to afford guests that very convenience and service that optimizes their stay.
In the pursuit of providing real-time customer service in a way that lessens the strain on hotel teams, many in the industry are turning to technologies like chatbots. And while this technology can be effective when used the right way, only 30% of millennials report that they find chatbots more efficient than traditional customer service agents. It’s more important than ever that organizations consider a marriage of humans and AI that creates truly intelligent service. After all, 74% of millennials would switch to a different retailer or brand if they had a negative customer service experience.
Millennials’ preference of experiences over things, a penchant for mobile, and an overwhelming desire for personalization and customer service provide an enormous opportunity for brands to tap into their massive and consistent spending power. However, those who fail to do so will undoubtedly lose out to the next generation of brands that are catering to this generation of travelers.
What are some other characteristics of millennial travelers? Comment your ideas below.
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