Part I: DMA presents customer engagement in travel | DMA

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Part I: DMA presents customer engagement in travel


It’s no secret, there is a real opportunity for brands and agencies to get holiday-goers really excited for their trip. Equally, there is also a lot of opportunity to get things wrong. Stakes and customer expectations are high so even the slightest damper of spirits can quickly escalate into an aggressively typing or verbal rant.

The DMA and Foresight Factory carried out some consumer research into what makes good customer engagement, by speaking to consumers themselves. The base was 2,009 online respondents in Britain aged 16 and over. Here’s what they found.

1.Consumers are demanding more from travel brands

The DMA asked consumers, “When choosing the following types of brands/companies to use, which of the following, if any, are important to you?

Functional demands topped the consumer wish list with ‘value for money’ (59%) being the top purchase driver when choosing a brand. In joint second comes ‘ease of use’ and ‘good customer service’, with 58% of customers choosing a brand for those reasons alone. Just taking these top three demands, it’s no surprise that we have seen the rise of disruptive brands challenging the market and stealing customers.

2.Travel brands are only just coping with customer expectations

Service is the biggest variant in the demand equation. There is a clear gap between what customers are expecting and what the travel industry is delivering. So, how are travel brands delivering against consumer priorities?

The DMA asked consumers, “Thinking about the brands/companies that you use most often in the following sectors which of the following do they best deliver for you?”


Only 32% of companies are delivering on the demand “they do not lie to me” however, this is 18% below customer expectations, and the highest discrepancy of all consumer demands.

Other demands include:

  • They reward me for my loyalty
  • They are genuine
  • They use my personal data responsibly

To find out the rest of the consumer demands and the discrepancy between delivery and expectations, get in touch with our PR & Marketing Manager, Emma Lloyd.

3.Less and less warmth on the exchange

App driven companies and technology are taking the warmth away from customer interactions. On the face of it, trust is strong amongst consumers and brands in the travel industry. However, the reality is somewhat different.

The DMA asked consumers, “Thinking about the following types of brand/company, how much do you trust them to do business fairly?


Percentage of people who say very much/quite a lot:

  • 65% of people trust hotels
  • 55% of people trust airlines
  • 55% of people trust online book

However, digging a little deeper into the data only 12% of consumers say they very much trust hotels, airlines and online booking providers. Compare this to 16% in the retail industry and you can see the travel industry has a long way to come in order to keep up with rising consumer demands better matched by other industries.

So with trust being low, it poses the question, how loyal are customers in the travel industry?

This is where it becomes slightly trickier in the travel sphere because brands and agencies can't assume what their customers’ next purchase move is going to be, based on their current purchases. Therefore, each transaction has to be treated as if it were a brand new customer.

The DMA asked consumers, "Have you sometimes continued to use the same brands even though you knew you could get a cheaper deal elsewhere?"


Percentage of people who say yes

  • Hotels travel accommodation 27%
  • Airlines 24%
  • Travel booking sites 16%

What this actually tells us is, more people are disloyal in order to get a cheaper deal. However, with 7/10 people purchasing emotionally as opposed to rationally the opportunity is rife for the travel industry to flip this stat on its head.

When asked who their favourite travel brands are, these brands appeared as the top ten – this list is in no particular order.


3.Thomas Cook


5.British Airways






Consumers chose the above brands for various different reasons. Unsurprisingly, was favoured for its convenience, offers, low prices, good service and verified reviews. Compare this to British Airways who were favoured first for their loyalty/rewards scheme, good service and heritage before their offers and convenience.

For more details on why some of these other brands were favoured please get in touch with Emma Lloyd our PR & Marketing Manager

4.New channels/tech will improve travel experience

Virtual reality

The rise of VR will dramatically change the way we shop for a holiday. It won’t be long before mainstream consumers are seeing what their holiday destination is like in virtual reality, before they book.

An example of a company who are using VR to transport people to places they could otherwise not go to is The Farm 51. Their Chernobyl VR Project combines video games with educational and movie narrative software. It is the very first virtual tour around the Chernobyl and Pripyat area, compatible with multiple VR headsets, such as Oculus and PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, or the mobile Samsung Gear VR solution.


50% of consumers would like to use Chatbots for translations which makes inventions like The Pilot translation earphones extremely exciting. Launching in English, French, Spanish and Italian, it’s not a Chatbot, but a device of two earpieces to be worn by people speaking different languages. If someone does not want to wear the second earpiece, you can use the smartphone app which can be used on speaker mode.

Instalocate are using AI to build a network of travel assistants. Their mission is to modernize the travel experience and reduce anxiety often associated with travelling. It tracks your flight in real time, predicts possible problems with your journey and converts your flight delays into money. It’s available through a Chatbot inside Facebook Messenger.

Consumers appreciate Chatbots because they are present within native environments they are already inhabiting (like Facebook Messenger). The simplicity and ease of use makes them second nature. Consumers don’t want to have to download new apps which use up more of their precious data and storage.

  • 52% of consumers are interested in using Chatbots to ask questions about their flight for example, boarding time and delays.
  • 51% of consumers are willing to share data so they can receive tailored information that enhances their travelling experience.
  • 44% of consumers are willing to share data so they can receive discounts.

The research tells us there is a huge appetite for a personalised consumer experience but brands need to do more convincing into why consumers should be sharing their information and the benefits this can bring them.

Augmented Reality

45% of consumers would be interested in seeing an overlay of information when visiting points of interest while travelling. The Timetraveler application uses Augmented Reality (AR) so smartphone and tablet owners can view historical content about the Berlin Wall, in and near the locations where it used to stand. Content includes historical film footage, reconstructions of demolished sites, and stories about the divisive impact the wall had on Germany during the Cold War.

52% of consumers are happy to share location data in order to receive recommendations on what there is to do nearby when on holiday, but again, brands need to be explicit in why consumers should share this data and communicate how it will improve their holiday experience.

A great in-market example of this is Carnival Cruises small, wearable medallion that pings you on board offers depending on where you are on the ship. It can capture where you've been and what you've bought which can then be used to tailor your experience on board.

Other advances in the travel industry that we thought are worth mentioning

1. Aloft launches World’s first emoji room service

Aloft TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji room service launched in the Manhattan, Downtown Financial District with plans to roll out across their hotels in Europe and Asia.

Guests can simply text an emoji of what they want to the hotel’s front desk and their delivery is made in minutes.

There are six speciality kits on the emoji menu to choose from, for example you can request a phone charger by texting the phone or their munchies package by texting food emoji’s.

Paige Francis, VP of Global Brand Management for Starwood’s Speciality Brands says, “We look to consumer behaviour and think about how to integrate these trends into the Aloft experience. The rise of the emoji was a logical next step, the perfect new wave of guest communication.

2. Delta, the first airline to visually map out the luggage journey

We all do it. Eagerly rush to stand as close to the conveyer belt as possible anxiously waiting to see if our luggage has made it through to the other side. The pangs of dread getting ever stronger as another suitcase which isn’t yours drops out. This is one worry Delta have listened to, and resolved (albeit your luggage ends up in the same country as you).

We’re the first carrier to offer this level of visibility,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Senior Vice President, Airline Operations and Airport Customer Service. “From the moment our customers drop off their bag, we want them to know we’re looking out for it every step of the way and working to take the stress out of flying one innovation at a time

3. Seatfrog provides visibility around seat upgrades

Seatfrog is a mobile app where customers can bid for a seat upgrade. They notify you when the auction starts so you don’t miss out. Customers have the ability to see the current price and what other passengers are bidding

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