Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation by 2017, and are the fastest growing age segment in travel. Between vacations and business trips, they’re already dreaming of and planning their next voyage. Travel brands will capture these dreamers – and win their bookings and loyalty – via mobile.

Mobile booking wins the Zero Moment of Truth, from anywhere

Millennials are never without their smartphones, meaning the Zero Moment of Truth – the first moment a traveler decides to book – can happen anywhere. In the US, 16 million people will book travel on a mobile device this year, and that number will more than double to 36.7 million people by 2016.

“It’s not clear yet on when mobile will overtake desktop for booking activity, but when it comes to ‘looking activity,’ we’re already headed there,” says Frederic Deschamps, Vice-President for Revenue Generation at Carlson Hotels. “We believe mobile distribution will continue to grow steeply for ‘looking’ and also but at a slower pace for booking.” Carl Sparks, CEO of Travelocity, made a bolder prediction at AMA Austin this year: that 30-40% of travel business will be conducted via mobile within five years.

Globally, mobile travel will become especially important for Millennials in developing countries, as smartphones provide on-the-go internet with cheaper hardware than a PC. According to Stu Lloyd, senior director for marketing and membership services, Pacific Asia Travel Association, mobile bookings “are rising fast especially as some countries like Indonesia and the Philippines leapfrog the use of landlines altogether.”

Mobile turns travel brands into travel agents

Millennials are wary of blanket advertising that plays to the least common denominator. They’re proud of their individuality, and expect brands to deliver experiences specifically relevant to them. Meanwhile, they’re wary of brand-created ads that play to the least common denominator. Instead, they trust opinions from other travelers – 39% won’t rent a hotel room and 32% won’t book travel accommodations without first reading others’ opinions.

When Millennials visit a travel brand’s app on a smartphone, the app knows who they are, where they’ve booked in the past, their past feedback, etc. – all tied to their phone. Brands can use this social data to target the traveler based on their personal preferences.

Using the interest graph and past feedback like reviews, travel brands can discover what matters to the individual Millennial traveler. Are they more concerned with in-room amenities, or public areas like the hotel pool? Are they style conscious, or simply looking for the best deal? Travel brands should dynamically pre-sort listed destinations and opinions from other travelers in their mobile app to display the most relevant information first.

For example, if a Millennial visitor’s interest graph shows they enjoy gourmet dining, and their past feedback shows frequent mentions of restaurants in their hotel reviews, the brand can pre-sort destination descriptions and consumer-written feedback in the mobile app to show those that mention keywords like “restaurants” and “fine dining” first. Brands should make it easy for visitors to search for their own keywords, and use their search data to deliver more relevant content visit after visit – bringing Millennials back to the brand that knows their needs best.

Millennials are quicker to adopt mobile and social technologies than other generations, but expect older travelers to begin demanding the same brand experiences Millennials already crave. By acting to serve Millennials now, travel brands will win their bookings and loyalty – and serve other travelers’ needs, before they realize they have them.

Our new paper, Destination Millennials: How travel brands win their loyalty, explores Millennials’ travel preferences in depth, with tips for travel brands to capture their loyalty for life. Get free report below.

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