Skift Take

As blended travel comes of age, traditional segmentation is no longer effective. This year will require a major overhaul in e-commerce strategies to ensure the individualized needs and expectations of the blended traveler are addressed in a more relevant way throughout the customer journey.

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

More and more travelers are combining work trips with vacation time. As Skift reported in our annual look ahead at the megatrends that will shape travel in 2023, blended travel is here to stay, and addressing the needs of today’s blended traveler — a wide spectrum that includes remote workers, digital nomads, families, and people booking workcations and corporate retreats — is now top of mind for every major travel company.

With post-pandemic “revenge travel” subsiding and a recession looming in this age of permanxiety, blended travelers are also more cost-conscious. They want to be sure they’re spending money on trips and services that align with their unique wants and needs — and that’s why targeting them at the right time with the right message or offer is so important.

SkiftX spoke with Elizabeth Buchanan, chief commercial officer at Rokt, to explore how travel companies can drive long-term loyalty through personalization and optimize the transaction moment by unlocking value for the blended traveler.

SkiftX: Do you consider yourself a blended traveler? How do you combine your work and personal life when you travel?

Elizabeth Buchanan: Absolutely, I’m a blended traveler. Everywhere I travel, I end up doing some work, whether it’s planned ahead or not. That’s a mix of loving what I do, working in a global company, and also tapping into our company policy for one work-from-anywhere week per quarter. Accordingly, I always ensure that my travel plans include the services and facilities I require for both work and leisure. For example, if I’m considering an Airbnb for a blended trip, I value the ability to filter for critical requirements such as strong Wi-Fi or a quiet office setup (my kids also want it for movie watching of course!). The ability to quickly narrow down choices and only see the ones that are most relevant to me makes the entire booking experience more relevant.

SkiftX: What are some other ways e-commerce travel companies can better address the individualized needs of blended travelers?

Buchanan: The challenge with travel is that the default position tends to be offering too many choices, and that can be overwhelming. I want the site I’m booking on to know what I need and what is most important to me — high quality Wi-Fi, a desk, and a well-lit, quiet space to work. Curating relevant options is not only critical in e-commerce but often the only way to ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately the highest profitability. While most sites currently lack the ability to offer true relevancy, I imagine most of them will prioritize one-on-one experiences as consumers increasingly expect a value exchange in turn for their data, time, and loyalty.

SkiftX: What are some of the ways that machine learning and other technologies are getting smarter to address the unique needs of today’s blended traveler?

Buchanan: There’s a big opportunity for sites to use best-in-class technology to make more informed decisions and anticipate what travelers need to make their travel experiences richer, more rewarding, and less stressful.

Machine learning combined with first-party data allows e-commerce sites to intelligently present consumers with relevant messages and offers they’ve come to value and expect. Ultimately, delivering value and the right message or choice at the right time is what makes for happier customers.

SkiftX: How does Rokt’s new payments marketplace help e-commerce brands offset the cost of operating the payments page and turn it into a profit center?

Buchanan: Traditionally, paying fees for financial services has always been seen as a necessary expense for most e-commerce businesses. Rokt’s Payments Marketplace allows e-commerce brands to actually generate revenue on the payments page instead of it just being a cost center. It converts static, fixed real estate into a flexible experience and utilizes one-to-one targeting that tailors to each individual based on the payment message they’re most likely to be interested in. It’s a win-win for the payment provider, the e-commerce brand, and the end customer.

SkiftX: Can you share the results of Rokt’s partnership with TravelPass?

Buchanan: TravelPass Group, a digital marketplace for hotels, needed a way to monetize its onsite traffic and drive incremental revenue. By delivering personalized third-party offers and optimizing engagement on the booking confirmation page, Rokt helped them unlock incremental profit in each transaction and increase the revenue potential of their travel sites so they could reinvest in growing their products and services. TravelPass now generates an additional $11,000 for every 100,000 transactions, with this net new revenue expected to increase as the partnership grows.

SkiftX: With fears of a recession and uncertainty about global politics contributing to “permanxiety,” what can e-commerce companies do to gain traveler trust?

Buchanan: An integrated and personalized e-commerce experience truly enhances customer loyalty and trust by fostering one-on-one connections. Similar to the experience of a barista remembering your preferred coffee order, if your favorite travel provider recognizes you and serves travel ideas and offers most relevant to you, you’re more likely to convert and become a loyal customer with repeat visits and purchases.

In challenging times, individuals tend to be more aware of where they spend their dollars, making it crucial for brands to secure a place in their inner circle of trusted sites and services. Employing machine learning to deliver relevancy and an “I see you, I remember you” moment can spark joy and enhance customer experience and loyalty.

SkiftX: Do you have anything else to add that might help e-commerce travel companies navigate this moment?

Buchanan: Agility is crucial. With machine learning, there’s no need to involve the engineering team in every customer experience scenario. The technology can personalize experiences and anticipate the needs of blended travelers in real time. This flexibility is vital in adapting to market conditions, especially in times of change and uncertainty such as the Covid pandemic, economic instability, war, or other unpredictable events. The best way to communicate with customers is to be dynamic and relevant.

During periods of change and uncertainty, demonstrating brand purpose can be a powerful way to differentiate. Our collaboration with Pledge, a leading platform for charitable fundraising, enables Rokt to offer add-to-cart donation options during the checkout process. Partners can choose from 2 million charities to present to their customers, enabling them to donate to causes they love while they have their wallets open. Rokt’s machine learning technology ensures customers are presented with causes that are most relevant to them.

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: blended travel, ecommerce, permanxiety, rokt, SkiftX Showcase: Technology, travel booking, travel technology

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