Maximising Asia’s millennial travel opportunity: no longer flight of fancy

Chang's way millennial hearts: mobile-led digital strategy, context-based data, machine-learning technology

Criteo’s executive managing director, Asia-Pacific Yvonne Chang takes a look at how travel brands can tap and grow the millennial market

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” This couldn’t be a more accurate description of the motivations and expectations of millennial travellers. This cohort has a unique way of seeing the world (both literally and figuratively).

Fifty-five per cent of them believe that travel is all about discovery and adventure. Seventy per cent want to explore and learn from the cultures and communities they visit. When these young travellers take flight, they don’t see themselves as just tourists – they consider themselves to be ‘experience pioneers.’

It is therefore no surprise that the top places on millennials’ travel bucket list are not just ‘destinations’ – these experiences include bathing in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza and walking the Great Wall of China, just to name a few.

Chang’s way to millennial hearts: mobile-led digital strategy, context-based data, machine-learning technology

By 2020, millennials in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to spend US$340 billion on international travel. Eighty per cent aim to visit places they have not been to before, with 61 per cent preferring a customised sightseeing experience over a packaged tour.

To avoid missing out on the opportunity presented by today’s globetrotting millennial generation, travel brands must find ways to resonate with them and deliver exactly what they seek (even if they themselves don’t know it yet). On that note, here are two things you need to know to engineer ‘pioneer experiences’ with millennials.

1. Millennials research and book travel on mobile – and on the fly

As a start, you need to be where millennials are – essentially, anywhere and on smartphones. More than any other demographic, millennials in Asia-Pacific turn to smartphones when searching for and booking travel. The prime reasons for smartphone use are “the ability to browse on-the-go”, “convenience over using desktops or laptops” and “ease of comparing travel products and services.” This means that a mobile-led digital strategy cannot be up in the air – it is now a prerequisite for initiating engagement.

During a visit to Hanoi, a millennial might Google transport options and end up skipping taxis in favour of GrabBike bookings – for convenience and to enjoy the experience of riding through the bustling streets on a motorcycle. He or she might then research the limestone caves at Halong Bay, discover a promotion for a day trip and make an impromptu booking out of the city to visit the heritage site.

Unlike their predecessors, millennials are less likely to plan their travel itineraries to a tee. They constantly consume online information and are open to altering their plans in-destination if they find better options. Apart from booking in-destination activities in the spur of the moment, millennials are also attracted by app-specific perks like exclusive products and services that point to unique experiences, as well as promotions and discounts.

In response, it is imperative that you invest in apps that have an intuitive interface and are populated with relevant products and services for millennials to discover – all while including allowances for flexibility and change.

Intuitive app interface a worthwhile investment

2. Engineer discovery through context-based data and machine-learning technology

Millennials only spend a small portion of their time on mobile visiting your travel site or app. In fact, they check an average of 10 sources before eventually settling on a travel purchase. This means that if you’re not going beyond the walled gardens of your mobile assets to actively engage millennials at their precise moment of want or need, you could very well be missing out on travel sales.

Eighty-six per cent of millennials have been inspired to respond and book a trip based on a piece of content they happened to view online. You would want to be part of that instantaneous event that triggers a purchasing decision. To do so, you will need to supercharge your mobile-led digital strategy with context-based data and machine-learning technology.

When a millennial visits your mobile website or app, their browsing journeys and patterns already leave strong indications of their personal preferences. Using machine-learning technology that automatically aggregates and analyses context-based data from the country’s travel seasonality, the individual’s navigation patterns on mobile devices, likely destination and pre-booking window, you would have a strong understanding of what he or she would need or want the most.

After the consumer inevitably leaves your platform, you can then engineer serendipitous discovery by automatically delivering personalised travel recommendations on the other sites and apps that the individual spends most of his or her time on. If the individual is planning to spend time at the Great Wall of China, your brand can be the one that introduces him or her to the possibility of leaping off the edge of the Simatai wall section and paragliding 300m into the valley below, or trekking off the beaten path to the nearby rice paddy fields implemented in Chinese farming for centuries.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” This classic quote reinforces the desire for wanderlust and its ability to broaden one’s world view. For travel brands, the struggle is not about getting millennials to proverbially read more pages, but to get themselves on the same page as millennials.

For a better read on millennials’ specific travel preferences and expectations, there’s no better time than now to supplement mobile-led digital strategies with context-based data and machine learning capabilities. This approach will truly allow you to upsell and cross-sell millennials on exactly the kind of memorable and pioneer experiences they truly desire.

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