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How travel companies are using AI to acquire, engage, and retain customers

How travel companies are using AI to acquire, engage, and retain customers

The online travel industry is growing at lightning speed, with estimates saying it will generate $1,091 billion, globally, by 2022, according to Allied Market Research. To pair with this growth, companies are increasingly using artificial intelligence to speed up processes and bring greater value to their customers. Here are four ways travel companies are leveraging AI to bring their customer service to the next level.

AI-powered Website Optimization

“Conversions” in the world of online travel commonly equate to bookings – flights, hotels, cars, and of course, the all important upgrades. Booking travel online can be one of the more complex online experiences with travelers commonly needing to click through multiple pages – home/welcome, flight/vacation search, traveler information, payment, etc, – before they convert to an eventual purchase. With this lengthy path to walk before conversion happens, there are a multitude of different points where potential buyers can drop off, lose interest, or abandon the process entirely and it’s this that makes website optimization an especially key area that travel companies can and should be exploiting.

Luckily, there have been a number of AI-led advances in the world of conversion rate optimization (CRO) which are helping travel companies rapidly optimize their websites and drive the highest possible conversions from visitors. Website optimization historically involved A/B testing, a drawn out process of comparing the performance of one static version of a website design against another. Advances in the space however have led to the emergence of multivariate testing technologies which allow users to test multiple different website elements – from font size, to layout, to color scheme, etc, – across multiple pages at the same time and rapidly define the most effective combination that drives the highest conversions from customers.

Using what are known as ‘evolutionary algorithms’, advanced AI solutions are able to take this even further, testing constantly and “breeding” successful website designs in order to continuously evolve the ‘winner’. With the help of AI, travel companies are custom-creating the most appealing website funnel and delivering the most seamless route to purchase for their customers.

AI-powered personalization of ad placement and creation

According to a study conducted by Marketing Insider Group and Onespot, 78 percent of US internet users said personally relevant content from brands increases their purchase intent.

With this in mind, an increasing number of operators throughout the travel industry are adopting AI solutions able to attract customers through personalizing advertisements.

Whether it is displaying ads with the most appropriate images and text likely to trigger interest within a defined demographic, or strategically changing ads on-the-fly in order to display alternative flights, carriers, destinations, etc, which are highly relevant to those being searched in that moment, AI and machine-learning algorithms working in the background are able to optimize experiences allowing companies to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Chatbots (AI-powered customer service)

AI powered chatbots are growing in popularity within numerous industries but particularly within travel. According to SITA, a Geneva-based aviation technology firm, 52% of airlines say they are planning major AI programs in the next three years and 68% of airlines say they intend to adopt AI-driven chatbots to drive customer service.

With the ability to answer a multitude of commonly asked questions quickly, efficiently and at scale, chatbots are able to relieve strained customer service operations by enabling human advisors to deal only with more complex issues when required. Not only does this help process customer queries and concerns more efficiently, it has also been shown to impact job satisfaction in customer service professionals, especially younger ones. In a customer service survey conducted by Aspect Software and Conversion Research 50% of millennial agents felt a greater sense of commitment and satisfaction if they were given more complex questions to handle.

AI-powered email marketing

Within an almost infinite capacity to collate and utilize complex data, evolutionary AI algorithms can be used to clearly identify target demographics – such as gender, age, location, and even their propensity to travel – and generate strategic content most likely to engage those customers based on their likes and preferences.

With hundreds of marketing emails sent and received each day, AI is helping travel companies create highly personalized email marketing campaigns designed specifically to deliver tailored content to the right people. Cross-channel marketing firm Yes Lifecycle Marketing found personalized subject lines generate a 50 percent higher open rate than generic ones and therefore, there is little doubt that personalization is the name of the game when it comes to email.

AI is bringing the travel industry into the new digital era

As is the case across numerous other industries, the advancement of AI is bringing major change to those in the business of travel. Whether AI algorithms are being used to answer customer support questions, personalize website designs, ad content, or email marketing campaigns, they are ultimately helping to bring much needed efficiencies and to ensure that, as much as possible, the journey to booking a vacation is as painless as the vacation itself.

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