Research shows that customers who interact more frequently with a company, via multiple channels and products, have higher levels of engagement.
This of course is the holy grail for all businesses. The big question, however, is how can brands encourage these interactions and know which sort of value-added products will be most effective at engaging customers?
It is important to know from the outset that the emphasis is not on offering more products that generate this sort of engagement and emotional connection, but on having the right types of products available.
This presents businesses with the challenge of building the perfect mix of products and channels, and finance directors have a crucial role to play in this process.
One of the key findings of the connected customer research project, is that customers are more engaged when they take up products and services that tangibly improve their daily lives.
The best way for a company to obtain engagement is to integrate their products and services into the lives of customers and add touchpoints where they matter most.
Businesses have to tailor their offerings to a vast array of customers, and therefore need to find products that appeal to a broad audience, which is why travel is increasingly becoming a focal point.
The British love affair with travel
According to Visit Orlando, the average British family begins planning their holiday more than six months in advance, so that they have something to look forward to. Holidays tend to generate positive emotions and are often eagerly anticipated. This is evidenced by the fact that last year, UK residents spent £44.8 billion on visits abroad.
It therefore makes total sense for companies to offer travel benefits and services as a way of adding value, driving engagement and emotional connection.
Organising a big summer holiday or travel itinerary can be hugely stressful and time consuming, so if a bank or insurance company can offer a way to simplify the process, they could be rewarded with loyalty and advocacy.
The connected customer research also found that products which provide customers with peace of mind or offer them assistance and protection, are particularly well received and increase emotional connection.
This again shows the potency of offering customers a value-added service where the finer details are taken care of, and where a specialist at the other end of a phone can answer any questions or offer support when issues arise.
Many organisations are already using travel in this way to connect with customers, especially in the financial services sector. For example, the HSBC Premier credit card offers free Wi-Fi access worldwide through Boingo, airport lounge access and £20 of Uber vouchers when flights worth more than £500 are booked.
Similarly, challenger bank Revolut launched its Metal Card in the summer with a number of benefits aimed at the business travelling millennial, such as a dedicated concierge service and overseas travel insurance.
It also offers cashback on transactions made outside of Europe – one per cent in either normal or cryptocurrency – as well as unlimited foreign exchanges and free international money transfers.
The Brexit effect?
With Brexit just months away, many are wondering how it will impact overseas holiday bookings. Some experts are fearful that Brexit could drastically affect consumer confidence and the number of outbound holidays booked over the next three years, whilst others wonder if travellers will simply delay making a decision about holidays until the middle of next year.
What we know so far is that one in ten adults have already booked their getaway for Summer 2019, which suggests that while Brexit is creating huge uncertainty, there will always be a significant number of people for whom the annual summer holiday is non-negotiable.
One potential outcome could be that travellers focus on quality rather than quantity. If this is the case then there will be even greater pressure on individuals to choose the perfect destination and accommodation. Any company that is able to support a customer at this critical time and provide insightful travel services could therefore be richly rewarded.
Personal approach to holidays
Partnering with travel companies to offer extra services can help organisations build this pivotal relationship with their customers.
Established travel companies understand exactly what a customer is looking for and usually focus on quality and service, rather than a budget, one-size-fits-all approach.
They have a large database of suppliers and a commitment to delivering superior service, which they can leverage for the benefit of their partners’ customers.
Regardless of what 2019 has in store for businesses politically and economically, the desire to drive customer engagement and strengthen brand loyalty is never going to go away.
As a result, using travel to establish a brand at the heart of a customer’s life could be a key avenue to explore. Holidays and travel resonate deeply with consumers of all ages and backgrounds, and the positive association and consumer loyalty that comes from linking an organisation’s core offerings with a quality travel service is undeniable.