When luxury travel bloggers Dave and Deb post an update, they are pretty certain to capture a good percentage of their 223,000 Instagram followers. Their blog, Planet D, has been named top luxury travel influencer by both AdWeek and Forbes. They’ve traveled to more than 100 countries and turned their little hobby into a glamorous career.
Australian blogger Tara Milk Tea, on the other hand, has 1.1 million Instagram followers who can check out which luxurious hotel she is posting from as she partners up with luxury brands such as Chloe.
Peter Matthews is founder and CEO of Nucleus, an independent London-based brand, digital and IP consultancy.
Traditionally, luxury hotels have been more synonymous with partnering with celebrities, exemplified by Mandarin Oriental’s “she’s a fan” campaigns, but luxury influencers are rapidly taking over this role as they digitally engage the millennial luxury explorer.
And it’s not necessarily the influencer with the biggest following that has the most impact with millennial luxury explorers, it’s often the mid-size influencer with impeccable taste, like LuxeTiffany, that cuts through, especially for smaller hotel groups or individual properties.
According to a study by Axon, up to 82% of travelers follow travel blogs or travel and lifestyle influencers on social media. Tapping into the largest crowdsourcing of human opinion in history is becoming a fine art, particularly for luxury travel brands who want to maintain a strong sense of exclusivity and uniqueness.
Linking up with the right influencer may be a positive strategic move, however, luxury brands themselves need to also re-shape their offering to accommodate wealthy millennials.
Historically, a “white glove” service has been the key to success, but luxury travel brands need to take this further. Authentic and experiential travel has become a significant trend for millennial travelers. The closer they can get to the “real” thing, the happier they are. Unlike their baby boomer parents, they don’t want to view life from a distance, they want to be part of it — hence the trend toward living like the locals. Connecting with people around them is key.
This offers luxury travel brands an unprecedented opportunity to anticipate what their millennial guest will want next. Just because they are keen to swap their daily routines for something more exotic does not mean they want to work at crafting the experience. Seamlessly slipping into new adventures is key. And, of course, tailoring this kind of experience will require using customer data to discreetly personalize service in real time, something that needs to be done in a non-invasive manner.
Hyper-personalization is expected and millennial globe trotters are generally more relaxed about sharing their data if they know they will receive a tailored, one-off experience designed just for them.
As new tech emerges almost daily, brands certainly have the tools to gather the data to satisfy the millennial’s every whim, and the fact that our digital footprint pervades every area of our lives is not something that overly concerns the average millennial traveler. As permanently connected citizens of the world, these digital nomads would feel lost if they weren’t connected.
So how exactly is millennials’ appetite for personalized, unique travel experiences transforming the luxury segment of travel?
Spending data: Targeting “spendability” is no doubt going to become a new focus for travel marketers, because this data will categorize what individuals spend on different lifestyle choices from eating out, flights and hotels to car rental and travel insurance. For travel marketers this means that those customers spending most on travel will be easier to get to know, so expect lots of action in this area. Open Banking, launching in the U.K. in September, will provide this kind of data, and we see travel brands partnering with financial service partners, like the new challenger banks, to target high travel spenders. We also see cries of concern from those who value privacy.
Luxury of privacy: As millennial spending power overtakes the previous generation, and apps and websites get ever more effective at targeting customer preferences, travel brands need to decide where they stand on using personal data and privacy. And if privacy is a new, valued dimension of luxury, what does that mean for existing luxury travel brands’ approach to digital marketing?
Travel and hotel brands will need to figure out how they will gain consent to use customer data to enhance the customer brand experience, or, alternatively, use privacy as a competitive differentiator. Whichever approach is taken, it will need to meet the needs of the demanding millennials who are less brand loyal than their parents and much more likely to switch travel brands in the blink of an eye.
The soul of luxury: For the millennial, luxury has to have soul — after all, they hanker after authenticity and unique experiences above all else. This may mean that they will shy away from big hotel brands and search for boutique hotels or one-off private apartments that offer local culture and a feel “at home” away from home. It’s this trend that has been behind the success of new hotel groups such as The Pig in the U.K. and luxury travel adventure brands like &Beyond.
At any rate, re-framing luxury travel for this new generation has to take into account the numerous ways in which brands can now engage with them — from influencers like Tara Milk Tea to personal targeting via facial recognition tools that link individuals to locations, or Foursquare’s trials with target ads based on mobile phone location.
Technology is creating a data-driven world, which means luxury hotels need to stay tapped in to their younger customers’ mindsets if they are going to keep up with rapidly changing expectations and demands.