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Building Loyalty for a Generation That Can’t Sit Still

Millennials aren’t satisfied with run-of-the-mill travel experiences. To break through to this demographic, put your efforts into delivering social experiences, unique loyalty rewards, budget friendly offers, and 24/7 customer service

Chris Morrison
07 August 2017

Millennials are the biggest spenders in the travel industry, taking more trips and spending 23% more than their elders in the Baby Boomer or Gen X generations. As the first digital natives, Millennials have significantly different travel habits than their predecessors.

This younger age group forgoes waiting until their golden years to embark on journeys despite economic turmoil, and stay in touch with friends and family through travel apps and social media. “Millennial travelers represent a lucrative source of spending for travel brands but also a confusing web of contradictory habits than can be difficult to unravel,” says Wanderlust Strategy group’s Jeremy Kressman .

From the travel blog to the bucket list, Millennials—and the ways in which they move around the world—have much to teach the travel industry, and every other industry seeking their attention.

They collect experiences, not things

Guests at the Residence Inn weren’t loving the traditional sit down dinner events. The younger crowd especially wanted more interaction with fellow travelers, so the hotel brought in food trucks and local food concessionaires, hosted grilling parties by the pool, and held movie nights by the fire pit. The programs worked. Today Residence Inn’s millennial demographic is 25% higher than the market average.

The takeaway for any industry: Millennials crave social experiences, but specifically, experiences that can be shared on their social networks, a trait that brands can leverage for both customer satisfaction and marketing strategies.

They look for more than free nights and flights

Preference for experiential travel also extends to loyalty programs. A trip to the F1 race track, a tour around local Thai markets with a renowned local chef, and concert tickets with artist meet and greets are just some of the perks open to members of Hilton HHonors loyalty program. “We are curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for our members,” chief marketing officer Geraldine Calpin said in an interview with Hotel News.

The takeaway for any industry: Millennials want more than the standard discounted flights or a free night at a hotel. Even as younger consumers hop between one service to another for the best deals, 68% of millennials  will stay loyal to brands in exchange for satisfying and creative rewards.

They see budget hunting as a sport

While they don’t skimp on travel, millennials are still budget sensitive, and pride themselves on knowing the best sites and apps for value. They love “travel hacking,” or putting together their own travel plans sourced from different articles and online deals. “Millennials don’t need tour operators, since they compose their own trips, preferably on the spot using the Internet and various information sites,” says Gert Nieuwbower, the founder of travel site YOMADS.com.

The takeaway for any industry: Brands should recognize that millennials do their own research and keep them coming back by aggregating content like Airbnb’s guidebooks, Trip Advisor’s blog articles, and Hotels.com’s price comparison charts.

They expect customer service to follow where they go

Aloft Hotels’ chatbot, Botlr, assures that each guest receives direct and 24/7 customer support, which would be difficult with limited human manpower. TripAdvisor’s chatbot saves users from digging through pages of content by recommending lodging and food based on user reviews. Spanish airline Avianca allows passengers to check-in via Facebook Messenger, as well as send real-time alerts about flights and weather conditions.

The takeaway for any industry: Millennials expect brands to always be available to assist them through social media. Many millennials initially reach out to brands on Facebook. And given the wealth of personal data customers willingly put online, 57% of younger consumers think it’s acceptable for brands to use their data for personalised suggestions.

If there’s a single word that boils down the expectations of Millennial travelers, it may be thoughtfulness. Not only does this generation put more attention and focus into researching trip details, but they expect brands to do the same in return, offer convenient apps, social experiences and service on-the-go.

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Chris Morrison

Chris Morrison is a reformed game developer and a freelance writer specializing in game design, app marketing, marketing technology and other areas. He was previously a writer for VentureBeat before trying his hand at game design.

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