Personalization and data-driven marketing strategies are more ubiquitous than ever in the travel industry. Today, a growing consensus of executives recognize the importance of utilizing such strategies to their overall business goals. Perhaps more importantly, mounting evidence suggests that brands that do not embrace such strategies face negative consequences for their success. Research and advisory firm Gartner recently estimated the revenue risk for brands that do not take the issue seriously. The company found that brands could lose as much as 38 percent of their customer base because of poor personalization efforts.

In spite of this overwhelming recognition of the importance of data-driven marketing personalization strategies, travel industry marketers say they are at vastly different stages in their implementation and use of such techniques. That’s the key takeaway from the results of a new survey and accompanying white paper produced in a collaboration between Skift and Adara, and available today for download.

The study, which investigated the marketing strategies of close to 500 US-based travel executives, found that many have gotten proficient at creating simple rules-based marketing strategies (i.e. those involving manual oversight). But not nearly as many have progressed to incorporate more advanced personalization techniques into their business practices, referring to more data-driven strategies involving artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, or delivering more complex cross-channel customer experiences.

Where are travel industry marketers in their journey towards more advanced marketing and personalization, allowing them to meet customer demands while more delivering effective and engaging content? Below is a preview of whitepaper’s key takeaways.

A Widening Gap Between Consumer Expectations and Marketing Reality

The reality of today’s marketing environment is that consumer expectations related to personalization continue to grow. When a consumer has a personalized experience with a retailer, social media site or travel aggregator, that experience becomes the standard by which they judge all other brands, irrespective of their industry or product category. These best in class experiences have a well-defined set of characteristics, in that they tend to happen: seamlessly (without additional input from customers), pervasively (regardless of device of timing), and adaptively (they get better as brands learn more about you).

But according to the results of the Skift and Adara survey, few brands in the travel industry have been able to achieve this level of personalization in keeping with the rising standards that travel consumers now expect.

It is true that 47 percent of marketers in the survey said that they already practice multichannel campaign orchestration, which is a good start. But at the same time, more than one third (35 percent) of marketers said that their different marketing technologies are not well integrated at the moment. Another third noted that data from different channels is hard to compare.

Furthermore, less than one third (31 percent) of brands currently said they used derived data at an individual level, meaning they are able to build compelling long-term customer relationships using data that can readily be gleaned and analyzed. Perfecting these fundamentals will be critical to travel company success moving forward.

Taking Advanced Marketing to the Next Level

Beyond the fundamental techniques described above, a growing number of marketers are starting to explore the “next level” of data-driven marketing and personalization. This more advanced capability moves beyond the fundamentals, using technology to deliver more sophisticated predictions of what consumers will need at any given moment based on changing customer demands.

Consider the example of traveler that’s just booked a ski trip to Colorado. Using the advanced marketing techniques described above, that consumer would expect that subsequent communications would personalize potential offers relevant for your stay, customize the trip provider’s website and mobile app based on the customer’s upcoming trip, and simplify the during-stay process by providing contextually relevant information (for instance a map with the address on the day of travel).

According to the results of whitepaper, many travel brands recognize the importance of these types of advanced marketing techniques, even if they are still in the early stages in developing their own capabilities to utilize them. Today, for example, the survey found that only 10 percent of travel brands have employed extensive predictive personalization.

There was a similar sentiment in the survey with regards to using emerging personalization tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Such tools will help marketers to detect customer behavior patterns hidden within large sets of data. But setting up these types of systems can be daunting: today, only nine percent of travel marketers are employing AI or machine learning for personalization across multiple channels. And just under one quarter of travel brands felt that their organization was good at using a broad set of data and using machine learning and AI to inform tailored customer communications.

Conclusion

For the travel industry, achieving great personalization is a competitive advantage today and table stakes tomorrow. But based on the results of the Skift and Adara survey, some aspects of this advanced personalization future are still a work in progress. As marketers work to make the case for additional investment in advanced personalization, predictive insights and other AI-driven marketing tactics, it’s important to keep in mind the end goal – keeping customers and growing business.

The good news is that many marketers have plans in place to advance their marketing efforts through better insights and more sophisticated technologies. However, these advancements require strategic thinking: understanding what customer insights matter most for predictive models, engineering moments with customers that compel them to further engage with the brand, and adding each individual action together to create an ongoing test-and-learn process that builds over time.

To review the full conclusions of the report, download a copy here.

This content was created collaboratively by Adara and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.