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Airlines Look to Differentiate With Personalized Customer Experiences as Traveler Loyalty Takes a Dive, According to New Boxever Survey

DUBLIN, IRELAND--(Marketwired - February 16, 2016) -

Key Findings:

  • Airlines and hotels are missing the mark on customer loyalty: Only 22 percent of travelers care whether their preferred airline or hotel is offered during the booking process.
  • Relevance versus cost: Only 47 percent of travelers surveyed prefer that airlines and online travel agents (OTAs) present the cheapest flight options first in online search results.
  • The no-frills experience: Budget fliers show willingness to give up basic in-flight amenities for more affordable tickets.
  • The booking window: 67 percent of travelers spend weeks researching and considering their travel options before making a purchase.
  • Travelers crave personalized booking experiences: 85 percent of travelers would value travel websites that remember personal preferences and automatically present the best and most relevant options based on individual needs and travel history.

For the modern traveler, brand preference is one of the least important factors when searching for and booking trips, according to a new Boxever survey of more than 500 travelers. In fact, only 22 percent of travelers surveyed said they care whether a particular airline or hotel is offered during the booking process. This finding is supported by Deloitte, which reports that only 44 percent of travelers fly at least three-quarters of their air miles on their "preferred" airline.

"The lack of brand loyalty shown by today's travelers creates a massive opportunity for airlines and travel companies to rethink the experiences they offer and revamp how they engage with customers," said Dave O'Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of Boxever, the data science and omni-channel marketing personalization provider for airlines and travel companies. "While travelers typically book based on price and schedule, there are many travelers looking for more, craving personalized and memorable experiences. Customer loyalty is available for the taking."

Boxever's research found that providing a better customer experience and a more personalized booking process can help airlines and other travel providers stand out from the competition. While cost has long been the number one consideration for travelers, only 47 percent of those surveyed said they prefer airlines and OTAs to present the cheapest flights first in online search results. Nearly a third of travelers prefer relevance, wanting the best, most appropriate options presented first, taking into account a spectrum of key elements: price, timing, duration, personal preferences, travel history and needs.

The booking practices of today's travelers are also creating a window where travel companies can influence purchase decisions. According to Boxever's survey, more than two-thirds of travelers spend weeks researching and considering their options before booking the actual trip. During the booking process, the three most important factors to travelers are:

  • A solid understanding of all the options available, such as price, schedule and brands (important to 76 percent of travelers)
  • A clear understanding of all the taxes and fees associated with the trip (important to 70 percent of travelers)
  • Predictions on whether prices will rise or fall in the coming weeks (important to 51 percent of travelers.

"In a sea of similar prices and schedules, travelers are looking for more from airlines and travel providers," said O'Flanagan. "But few companies are proactively taking action to differentiate themselves with more relevant offers and experience, and instead leaving the consumer's decision up to price, convenience and timing."

Creating a seamless experience: The blurred line between intrusive and convenient

While many consumers are hesitant to share personal data, travelers' desire for a more personalized and seamless experience is beginning to trump privacy concerns.

More than 75 percent of those surveyed would find value in an airline or hotel auto-synching relevant trip details with their calendar and mobile devices. Frequent travelers (those who travel at least once a month) are willing to go even further, with 54 percent desiring airlines, hotels, ground transportation providers and other travel companies to automatically share their travel information to create a more connected travel experience. The majority of those surveyed would also find value in airlines automatically knowing information like their seat preferences (87%), dietary needs (72%) and drink preferences (68%).

"Travelers ultimately prefer that things are simple, and want airlines and hotels to have the necessary insight to make their experience easier," said O'Flanagan.

However, travelers draw the line at a certain point. Fifty-eight percent would find it intrusive if airlines had automatic insight into their vacation or destination plans, and 62 percent would find it intrusive if an airline knew the hotel that they were staying at.

The no-frills experience: Travelers willing to ditch basic in-flight amenities for cheaper tickets

While many travelers crave and will pay for more comfortable, customer-centric and luxurious flights, that's not the case for all flyers. With the rise of low-cost, no-frills flying, large airlines are looking for new ways to compete with low-cost carriers. According to Boxever's survey, many deal-seeking travelers are willing to give up basic in-flight amenities for cheaper tickets, including:

  • Access to in-flight movies, magazines and music (73%)
  • Drink services (49%)
  • Boarding zone (board the plane last (48%)
  • Seat size/leg room (19%)
  • Carry-on luggage (18%)
  • Bathrooms (8%)
  • A seat in favor of standing room (8%)

"While some of these options may not be practical, the findings underscore one simple fact: no two travelers are the same," said Flanagan. "One traveler wants a larger seat and in-flight entertainment; the next might forgo simple luxuries to get to their destination as quickly and cheaply as possible. In both cases, airlines need insight into what matters most for each customer and the ability to personalize the experience accordingly."

For the full survey findings and more insight into what consumers want when booking travel, download Boxever's full report: The Rise of Relevance and Customer Intelligence: Driving Travel Bookings through Seamless, Personal Experiences.

About Boxever
Boxever is the leader in data science and omni-channel personalization solutions for airlines and travel companies. Boxever's Customer Intelligence Cloud enables travel marketers to build a 360 degree view of every customer and apply predictive analytics and machine learning to automatically create personalized, one-to-one marketing experiences that lead to higher conversion rates, increased revenue and truly differentiated customer experiences. Boxever's platform represents a new class of enterprise IT and enables digital transformation within airlines and travel organizations. Today, leading travel brands from all across the globe -- including Emirates, Air New Zealand, eDreams ODIGEO, Cebu Pacific, Alitalia, AeroMexico, Brussels Airlines, and Aer Lingus -- rely on Boxever to help acquire, convert and retain customers. The company is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Learn more at www.boxever.com or follow us on Twitter @Boxever.