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5 Things Travel & Retail Must Do to Improve Partner Experiences (Part 2 of a Two-Part Series)


To build on the success of early digital partnerships, travel and retail companies need to apply the well-honed skills of collaborative crossover, revisit loyalty programs, arm digital teams with the latest and greatest tools, embrace human-centric design, and remain adaptive and flexible.

Customer experience improvements between both travel and retail industries are ripe for the picking. As detailed previously, early collaborations between the two have resulted in a 10% boost to ancillary revenue, thanks to dozens of working and promising partnerships. Based on our research and engagement experience, here are five lessons we believe retailers and travel providers can learn from one another to deliver delightful customer experiences down the road.

Figure 1

Collaborative crossover is critical.

From its acquisition of Whole Foods to its supply-chain investment in branded cargo aircraft and delivery cars, Amazon has elevated crossover to new levels. And while famed for its low profit margins, Amazon’s investments in new services and new industries have reaped shareholders rewards and rising revenues over the past decade.

How can retail and travel providers achieve a similar competitive advantage? While both industries need to share and collaborate more, we believe simplicity is the best starting point. For example, the family that just booked a luxury cruise will likely need tuxedos and high-end dresses before they sail out of port. Or travelers who’ve been away from home for two weeks will need a delivery of groceries.

To facilitate that type of cross-selling, retail and travel will need to extend their application program interfaces (APIs) and collaborative e-commerce capabilities. 

Revisit loyalty.

In today’s marketplace, no convention can be left unexamined, even the hospitality industry’s time-honored tradition of blackout dates. They produce balance-sheet headaches and garner plenty of bad press. And you can bet that somewhere a smart, disruptive business model is being developed that will render traditional travel loyalty programs obsolete.

To avoid obsolescence, providers must understand why their company rewards loyalty. What simple connections can your company make with retail or travel partners? How might your organization extend collaborative commerce to loyalty and achieve greater returns? Airlines have deployed branded credit cards, but have they really mined the data sets to continue to develop meaningful and timely offers? What will add the wow factor and true levels of appreciation to retain the wallet share of the regular spenders?

Don’t forget your digital staff.

With retailers and travel providers collectively plowing billions of dollars into CX, customers are often more digitally enabled than retail and travel staffs. At some brands, customers can connect and communicate better and faster than their own staff. In reality, lifetime customer value, purchasing patterns, and next-best or likely actions are still unavailable for many frontline staff in retail and travel.

Admittedly, undertaking the work ahead requires cross-functional alignment and collaboration. Thankfully, automation tools can play a big role in helping retailers and travel providers close the gap. Put simply, if your organization cannot align itself with digital change internally, it’s unlikely it can team with others externally to create differentiated customer value.

Focus on customer desires and apply design thinking. 

Retailers have become adept at addressing customer desires along the entire value chain, from production and merchandising to customer service and logistics. Travel typically emphasizes subsets of needs, with companies focusing on point-to-point travel or accommodation.

By applying design thinking to their respective broad strokes and finer details, retail and travel can partner on creating points of differentiation and customer value all along the travel experience.

The focus on consumer desires is a big shift for travel. Yet it’s a natural extension. Nearly all travelers have a retail component, from forgotten toothpaste to souvenir sweatshirts to services. Digital makes new partnerships possible along the airline and airport value chain. It fosters the integration needed for concierge-type services such as duty-free preordering and home delivery; door-to-door baggage delivery; and brands and packaging unique to the airport channel.

Be agile enough to pivot quickly.

Speed of response is vital in the travel market, where dramatic fluctuations can quickly change customer value. Terrorist attacks and political instability have damaged perceptions for destinations such as Egypt and Turkey. Last year’s hurricane season hit Caribbean tourism economies especially hard.

Can airlines, hotels and tour operators then spring into action to provide travel alternatives? Can they do so with established commitments such as flight routes and fixed investments? These are key elements for retailers seeking sustainable partnerships.

Being quick to change is the only solution. Listening to social networks can help travel companies monitor customer tastes and identify changes in travel trends and brand opinions so their CX stays current. Through social media analytics — which capture emotions as well as potential needs, wants, and desires — automated platforms can enable the design and implementation of up-to-the-minute travel promotions that let companies pivot quickly.

Either way, we believe collaborative commerce between travel and retail to be one of the strongest pairings of any two industries. How you choose to partner and consider the wealth of viable crossovers is up to you. 

To learn more, please read “Travel & Retail: Exploiting Synergies to Boost Performance,” visit our Travel & Hospitality Practice, Retail Practice, or contact us.

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