4 Things Any Great Travel Recommender Must Have

More and more people are returning to brick and mortar travel agents because of poor user experiences online. Currently, booking the perfect trip requires a lot of trial and error, which is frustrating. This also reduces loyalty, as many people have bad experiences on all kinds of travel websites. Then, next time they book a trip, they go to several sites again because no single user experience stood out. recommender

How can travel sites overcome this? A great first step is to use a recommender, an IT solution that automatically provides highly relevant recommendations to site visitors in real-time.

While several recommender products exist from various solution providers, many are much better suited to retail platforms than travel. But what makes a great recommender-driven personalised experience? Let us break down the four key components we’ve experienced with our travel clients:

#1 Personalised

Any recommender for travel needs to be personalised. What does this mean? Many travel retailers take the traditional retail-based approach of personalisation based on past purchases or frequency of purchase. They use buyer personas and segments to give recommendations based on other people or past behavior. Travel buyers don’t fit neatly into these categories, though. Unlike retail shoppers, a travel buyer may only purchase once or twice a year.

Often, one trip has a very different purpose from another. The first trip of the year may be for a family event, such as a wedding. The priorities for such an event, such as closeness to the venue, proximity to other family members, with a correspondingly low priority for places to get food; are very different from a family holiday during a school break.

A great travel recommender needs to give relevant results. These results are heavily influenced by the current search behavior and intent. For example, one family seeking a beach holiday quickly demonstrates they don’t wish for a location far from the beach and shows a priority for family-friendly activities over price point. Another family searching for a beach holiday may prioritize price point over everything else, including proximity to the beach.

Both families are seeking the same type of holiday and may be grouped as the same “buyer persona.” This is really a mistake. A great recommender personalises and changes recommendations with a strong emphasis on the current context of the individual.

#2 Diverse

Another key to a great travel recommender is it must be diverse. It can’t only offer a small subset of the travel market. If someone wants to holiday in a warm place during winter, Spain shouldn’t be the only option. If the price point, timing, activities, etc. work well; recommenders might also show results for the Caribbean, Central America, North Africa or Australia.

Diversity extends beyond location. A person wanting a warm location for holiday in winter doesn’t necessarily want a beach holiday. They may be looking for hiking, biking, historical tours or food and wine tours. To provide the best experience, a recommender must have a wide variety of options to choose and show.

Each response a user gives in reaction to a diverse recommendation improves the next set of recommendations the user sees. As they spend more time on the site, their experience becomes more and more personalised.

#3 Serendipitous

When travellers ask friends and family for recommendations, they’re doing so for a reason. They want to try something new, and they’re also interested in experiences they may not have thought of. A person looking for a hiking trail might be interested in trying mountain biking on their next trip. They may not think to look for trails that can be used as both. When presented with the opportunity, though, a similar experience to the one they seek may be of interest.

A great recommender needs to provide options the searcher may not be actively seeking. Many travel seekers like to discover what they think is a new idea for their next trip.

A recommender needs to function like a tourist office in that way. If you walk into a well-managed tourist office they have fine selections of ideas about the area.  If a traveller walks in looking for a hiking trail, they’ll go to that section of the office. They might be searching for a trail within 10km of their location. If they see a brochure for a great looking trail that’s 25km from their location, they might consider checking it out. The traveller wasn’t searching for a trail that far away, but when presented with the idea they consider it.

#4 Prioritised

The average human has an attention span of 8 seconds. We’re all a little overwhelmed with choices. If the results we get from a recommender don’t have some type of priority associated with them, we’ll freeze. If we have too many choices, we won’t make a decision. Instead, we’ll walk away.

If you’ve ever been in a chocolate truffle store in Belgium, you know there are hundreds or thousands of options. Few people know which one to try first! That’s why the mix packs are available. You can take home their best recommendations, and for a cheaper price!

The same is true in travel. A great recommender will take all of the information it’s gathered about the user – price, activity interest, destination, style of holiday, etc. – and compile a list of potential holidays that meet (almost) all of these criteria. But, not in a list of 100. The traveller will never go through all of those! Instead, a list of ten or so may be generated, with a top recommended for you on the first three.

When you use a recommender that has all of these built-in, you provide a highly personalised and positive experience for users on your website.

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