Opinion

Summer Romance? CX and Brands on Holiday.

Having recently returned from annual leave, it seems a holiday abroad feels less and less ‘disconnected’ from the real world of work and home life as the years go by.

Why is this? The smart phone or mobile device means we take our every day cares and concerns with us. Around the pool, in restaurants or travelling, the young and the ‘young at heart’ are constantly swiping, gaming, reading and connecting with friends, family and colleagues. On one occasion I overheard a conversation between a mother and son out for a meal. Mum asked, “do they have wifi?” to which the son replied “do you want to use my data?” A short discourse that speaks volumes about our inter-generational use of the mobile internet and (sadly) the breakdown of spontaneous conversation over dinner.

Does this ongoing evolution in our use of the internet during our holiday ‘chillax’ offer anything to brands? I believe it does:

  1. On ‘le grand vacance’ customers succumb to a greater opportunity to make spontaneous purchases with that all too handy credit card while in ‘holiday mood’! In-flight tax-free gifts, designer shops, and last-minute purchases before heading for the departure gate – there is a rich seam of data available here for brands to make new customers where all previous marketing attempts may have failed – if the analyses is done.
  2. It can also be a time for making major purchasing decisions. Partners get to discuss larger life plans that are difficult to address at home. Home refurbishment or re-location, a new car, gym membership or even next year’s family holiday. IP analyses can alert brands to unusual browsing activity which when matched to concurrent and time-stamped customer inquiries can unlock potential sales opportunities on their return.
  3. There are purchases specific to the trip itself of course – flights, accommodation, hotels and restaurants – all can tap into the positive energy of the customer off work and away from home to drive brand advocacy and referrals. At one hotel restaurant for example I was handed a Tripadvisor slip with the waiter’s name encouraging me to provide a testimonial as soon as I was online.
  4. The power of online in particular has to be appreciated for its reach to customers – even when abroad on vacation. Purchasing goods to arrive when the travelers return including the next week’s groceries, birthday presents or long standing items that have languished in ecommerce baskets for months. In this regard, price comparison will be just as relevant as at any other time of year, but there are still opportunities that stem from the positive mood of the holidaymaker to make high value purchases to give them an ‘easy come down’ when back home.
  5. What of the future? IoT and wearable tech means it will become even easier in the next few years to understand these patterns of behaviour associated with customers leading up to, during and after vacations. Of course this requires the proper customer consents but triangulating past purchasing data with unusual activity will provide insights that can be used to drive special campaigns that are more relevant to the customer who is preparing for the ‘off’.

There is good evidence that this area is now important enough to retail brands to merit surveys and the attention of the major consultancies. In 2017 Deloitte reported on the spending habits in the US market. A familiar tale was revealed: “While shoppers [during the holiday season] may aspire to be less consumed by consumerism, the numbers tell a different story—namely, that the lure of shopping, with its own type of experience, is likely to remain in high demand.”

According to Deloitte, there are a mix of factors influencing customer behaviour and spending patterns during the holidays:

  • Improvement in household finances
  • Updating personal items such as clothing for the family
  • Number of people to buy gifts for
  • Budgeting for better holidays
  • General increase in costs
  • Feeling more generous

When we consider the many different sectors customers are engaging with and being tempted by on holiday, it is easy to see the value of dedicated and comprehensive analyses of the holidaymaker’s behaviour as a customer to a brand’s attraction and retention strategies. Whatever the driver, from the pre-departure spend on clothing, toiletries, top-up gym sessions and tans to the spontaneous in-flight purchases of a new watch and a pair of Ray Bans, it is a brave retailer that abdicates any responsibility for understanding their place in the ONS estimated £43BN spend of UK residents who travel abroad.

While the Christmas holiday season gets a great deal more attention, there is clearly a role for analyses, forward planning and good old fashioned proactive brand engagement to maximise the spending power of summer holidaymakers to the benefit of a brands bottom line and advocacy. With the near future more automated and online than ever, the brands that engage the right blend of marketing services that can help unlock these opportunities will be the winners, and will be taking the real gifts home from the annual vacation.

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