Skift Take

As travel brands navigate a new frontier of customer expectations, they must start by rethinking their online checkout journeys. Decluttering the e-commerce experience can create a more focused merchandising strategy that drives ancillary revenue and deepens customer loyalty.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

The travel industry may be on a promising path to recovery, but there are still plenty of headwinds creating some major challenges. High taxes, landing fees, fines for delays, and inflation pressures are all squeezing profit margins. At the same time, labor shortage issues are leading to poor service, which puts customer loyalty up for grabs.

SkiftX spoke with Holly Aresty, Rokt’s deputy chief commercial officer, to understand how this e-commerce technology leader can make the online reservation process — the first step in a traveler’s experience — more relevant for customers and more profitable for a brand’s bottom line.

SkiftX: Can you explain the importance of the confirmation page in the customer journey?

Holly Aresty: The confirmation page is when your customers feel their best. Research shows that during the purchase journey, consumers are at their happiest when they reach the confirmation page. They have booked their trip and they feel the joy of what’s ahead — they’re also up to seven times more likely to engage with related offers at this stage. With travel, consumers have a range of decisions to make about the trip, such as how to make the flight more enjoyable, what kind of hotel room to book, which restaurants they want to try, and more. Those are fun decisions that create a deeper sense of anticipation and excitement for the actual journey.

Most companies use this moment and the real estate on the confirmation page in one of three ways. They show nothing, and the customer exits their site. They show everything, which overwhelms users. Or they show static options that are not personalized or relevant to the customer, and the customer feels completely disconnected from the brand. In today’s connected world of e-commerce, customers have come to expect relevancy when they are buying online. They want a company to demonstrate an understanding of how to make their trips better. This means that what a brand shows on the confirmation page plays a crucial role in keeping up with those expectations — and overlooking this could mean losing customers to competitors.

SkiftX: Ancillaries have become an important part of revenue management for travel brands. Does the unbundling of so many products, offers, and services complicate the checkout process and create that tendency to ‘show everything’?

Aresty: You don’t need 100 versions of ketchup on a shelf. Instead, you might just need three great versions. If you’ve reached the confirmation page with an airline recently, you’ve likely felt bombarded with offers to download an app, apply for the credit card, upgrade to a different class of service, sign up for a loyalty program, and more. The list goes on, and ultimately, it just overwhelms the customer. It creates the paradox of choice.

It’s important to recognize that your customers don’t want to see every ancillary offer available. Instead, they need just three or four options that feel tailored to their needs. Travel brands are sitting on an immense amount of data from their customers, but most fail to utilize it properly. By looking at a passenger’s profile, buying habits, and preferences, companies can intuitively identify customer intent and focus on real-time predictions of implicit interest for tailored offers that are the most relevant to that customer and experience.

SkiftX: Can you share an example of the type of personalized experience that customers appreciate?

Aresty: Relevancy lays the foundation for what we do at Rokt. Our technology is built for a real-time assessment of what the customer is most likely looking for during the transaction. For example, Ticketmaster uses the Rokt technology to deliver a highly-curated selection of offers and choices at checkout. If the data shows that the customer values VIP packages, our proprietary machine learning technology will help Ticketmaster prioritize the type of exclusive, high-end experience offers that will appeal to that individual.

It’s not just about knowing what to show, either. It’s equally important to understand what not to show. Our technology enables Ticketmaster’s system to recognize that the customer lives in New York but is seeing a show in Las Vegas, and thus it will not show a parking offer. Since the customer is likely staying at a nearby hotel, anything related to driving will be wasted real estate.

SkiftX: We’ve talked about the individual transaction moment, but what about the bigger picture? How can travel brands refine their strategies to cement long-term loyalty?

Aresty: Simply having a loyalty program does not motivate customers to return on a regular basis. The program must entice them to join, stay, interact with the brand’s communications, and buy its products and services. Is your brand keeping it fresh? It’s crucial to deliver messaging that goes beyond a widely advertised sale. Is it attuned to what matters to your members? Rewards need to actually feel rewarding. They need to be the discounts, products, and services that customers genuinely appreciate. And is your brand regularly connecting with current and future customers in creative ways to build membership? Numerous channels give brands the ability to reach and interact with customers in unique and engaging ways.

The Ticketmaster experience is a great reference point for the way Rokt can put travel brands directly in front of the customer who needs them. When a customer in New York books tickets for one of Adele’s residency dates in Vegas, they will clearly be planning a trip leading up to the event. It’s an ideal time for an airline or hotel to reach these customers when they are in the mindset to engage with these brands. We help connect those dots to maximize digital real estate.

SkiftX: How is the travel industry changing, and how will the new future shape the e-commerce experience?

Aresty: When I joined Rokt in 2016, the travel industry looked very different. The pandemic was the biggest shake-up imaginable. Now, we are beginning to see how a new approach to work and life will reshape how customers approach their trips. As more professionals embrace a login-from-anywhere model, they are considering a wider variety of destinations and travel windows. There is plenty of pent-up, post-pandemic demand that is causing a rise in ancillary purchases like rental cars and live experiences for travelers looking to get more out of the experience. Ultimately, I think that the aim to get more value from every trip is here to stay — and the transaction moment is such a massive opportunity to deliver this. Brands must focus on creating a customer experience that feels seamless and leads to the most important outcome: a happy customer and a better bottom line for the company.

For more information about how Rokt can unlock value for travel brands at the moment of transaction, visit Rokt.

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

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Tags: checkouts, customer experience, guest experience, rokt, SkiftX Showcase: Technology, travel tech, travel technology

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