Millennials can no longer be treated as a generation of fresh-faced daisies, who are on the throes of entering adulthood. It is passé to assume that their purchasing power is limited to shopping on Black Fridays and Cyber Sundays. Because the average millennial is growing up fast. They are no longer people we can talk down to, about how things were different back in the day. Pretty soon, they will be the decision-makers, who will be responsible for shaping the economy itself.
Today, the not-so-subtle changes can already be seen in the business of customer experience. Many are in their peak earning and spending years. They are disrupting everything that was once a norm, including the choice to travel – which has occupied a high position in the totem pole of their actualized needs.
For many millennials, including myself, traveling is a way to experience life. It is not about moving from point A to point B – with a specific agenda in mind. Traveling has become our gateway into understanding how things work in the real world; a chance to unravel the secrets of happiness. Beyond materialistic purchases like expensive watches, automobiles, or jewelry - the thrill of gaining something or making a permanent change in life has taken the front seat in our list of priorities.
In the current experience economy, millennial expectations are transforming the travel industry. With retailization on the minds of virtually every industry out there, travel brands have no other choice but to jump on the bandwagon. Or else they just might be left behind in the race to delivering great experiences.
Four trends that are transforming millennial behavior
1) A bleisure to do business
Bleisure. Yeah, I know. What will we think of next?! But, mixing business with leisure is becoming popular with the millennials. An Expedia survey reveals - "employees under 30 are traveling 4.7 times per year on business compared to those over 30 years old who travel 3.6 times". This proves that 62 percent are likely to extend their business vacations to experience the local surroundings.
2) Travel on a shoestring budget
If you thought millennials travel the length of the year and spend too much on it – you may have got it wrong. Many choose wallet-friendly options like hostels over hotels and backpacking over luxurious holidays. We make the most of our savings with the best deals we can find. As a generation that has grown up having experienced economic depressions, we have realized that things can be fulfilling yet inexpensive.
Traveling makes us feel independent and individualistic. As millennials, we consider travel an integral part of our lives. We believe that experiences surpass second-hand knowledge. This is why we visit unconventional destinations to get out of our comfort zones and get a 360-degree experience. Not all of us want to visit popular tourist places and walk away with postcard experiences.
In case, TaaL becomes a popular buzzword in the future. Remember, you heard it right here.
4) Technology first
Over the last few years, we have taken the motif of travel to fit into our tech-savvy expectations. While a few may believe cutting off from humanity is the obvious choice to rejuvenate during a holiday, others opt for destinations with Wi-Fi and Internet access to stay connected. According to a report," 70.9% of millennials consider free Wi-Fi as an important factor while choosing a rest stop during a vacation". Similarly, doing it for the ‘gram has become a social norm where they are obligated to share travel experiences online along with reviews of their overall experience.
So, what can the travel industry do for millennials?
We want our travel experience to be close to perfect. We want brands to understand that our hard-earned vacations cannot go wrong. Hence, they must capitalize on the above trends if they want to be known for offering great customer service. More importantly, it is crucial for them to go the extra mile to keep us happy throughout the travel experience.
Customize service through social data
To provide millennials with a great experience, it is essential to know our behavioral patterns. Data mining tools can be used to seek insights from social media interactions and preferences. By linking demographics with interactions, customers belonging to different segments can be targeted for different campaigns. It can also be useful to offer suggestions on vacation spots we are likely to visit or the kind of travel information we may require through Next Best Action engines.
Demand for actionable information
We, millennials, are a new breed of travelers. We need to be fully aware and in control of our experiences. We seek transparent and real-time communication from companies at all stages of travel, from start to finish. Providing location-based recommendations and context-specific communication including flights, baggage, and even the weather can help travelers feel empowered to take charge of their overall experience.
Gain from personalization
As millennials, we demand distinct experiences that reflect our personalities. Hence, with the help of analytics, travel companies can nail the hyper-personalization of service . Brands such as Airbnb have given travelers great freedom to customize holidays that suit personal tastes. With real-time data, personalization can be offered across the journey based on millennial needs, along with opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. For example, customers traveling to Singapore can be informed about a bigger package that covers Malaysia and Langkawi for almost the same price.
The travel industry has not fully adapted to the way millennials are perceiving the business of travel. Many still lag in offering a new-age experience that does not feel outdated at any step of the travel journey. Studies have shown it may be because of the extra expenses that travel operators need to incur while catering to a smaller select group with individual preferences.
But, it’s 2018. And there are no excuses for brands. Whether they want to admit it or not, millennials comprise one of the largest consumer groups. And the number has nowhere to go but all the way up. So, it’s time for companies to pay attention to how we want the travel experience to be.
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