by Lisa Spira
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How Language Can Drive More Bookings and Growth in 2021 for Travel Companies

Travel firms that are best able to engage customers will have the advantage when people again feel ready to travel. Persado’s data-driven best practices on effective travel communication can drive improvements in customer experience — and likewise, help travel operators meet revenue goals in 2021.

Pre-COVID-19, the top-performing communications in the travel sector appealed to specific emotions such as a traveler’s Excitement about taking a trip or Fascination about exploring a new city. One airline operator increased revenue by an estimated $8 million as a result of using a Persado-generated message that leveraged Excitement-oriented language in a web campaign promoting seat upgrades.

That was before COVID-19, however.

Enter Assurance-oriented language

Campaigns that Persado worked on with travel brands in early 2021 showed promising results from messages that tap into the emotions of Safety, Gratification, and Fascination. Safety, and the larger concept of Reassurance, resonates in particular as travelers tentatively return to the skies, attracted by stronger health protocols and the early vaccine rollout.

Travel firms that are best able to engage customers will have the advantage when people again feel ready to travel.

A primer on Assurance language

Persado’s definition of Assurance, based on years of evolving research and data in behavioral psychology, is: To eliminate any worries or doubts and to make one feel secure. Long before COVID-19, language rooted in the emotion of Safety effectively engaged audiences: it finished 2019 as the #2 emotion across channels worldwide. 2020 saw more spikes and dips, with periods of high anxiety about COVID-19 driving higher performance for Safety-oriented language.

Example of Assurance language in an SMS hotel message

The language that evokes Assurance aims to make the audience feel protected, watched over, and taken care of. In some tests of travel messages, Assurance language motivated 95% of the customer’s actions, such as email opens. Explicit affirmations are the most powerful way to activate Assurance language. Yet it takes more than just saying “We’re here for you” to impact the bottom line.

Assurance language is a key tool in the return to growth

In their travel industry analysis Make it better, not just safer: The opportunity to reinvent travel, McKinsey & Company partner Melissa Dalrymple and colleagues noted the opportunity brought on by COVID-19 to personalize messages to drive more meaningful engagement. Travel companies, the authors note, will need new ways to connect. “Communication should be focused on what a company is doing for the traveler, rather than delivering superficial platitudes.”

Airlines, OTAs, hotels, and other travel industry players should leverage language to accelerate a return to growth in 2021.  Language learnings from 2020, specifically those around Assurance, can attract customers and convince them that expanding their horizons doesn’t require taking a risk.

How to leverage language to drive growth in travel 

  1. Lead with emotion and customer-centric language

Communications that leverage appropriate and relevant emotional language are a Persado best practice. That’s especially applicable when inviting customers to connect. Assurance-focused emotional language is contextually appropriate, given current events. It also places the customer at the center of the communication by using “you.” The second person address reinforces the idea that customers are the first priority. The message feels more friendly and trustworthy.

Examples include: 

  1. Use Assurance language in the context of the next normal

Assurance language needs to be integrated into the travel customer experience in 2021 and beyond. Effective Assurance language can communicate how a brand is protecting the well-being of its customers (and employees). As McKinsey partner Dalrymple and her colleagues noted, “be human and genuine and personalize the experience.”

Lean in to the specific types of Assurance language that work for your brand and customers. For one travel booking brand that works with Persado, this meant activating Trust, Pride, and Anticipation. Emotions like Encouragement and Achievement are taking a back seat.

Examples include:

  1. Experiment often using holistic analytics methods

The Persado 2021 State of AI and Creativity report finds that respondents in the travel and hospitality sector are more likely than retail or financial services to conduct basic A/B testing. There’s still room to grow, however: only 43% of travel respondents currently perform comprehensive A/B testing or more advanced multivariate testing.

Taking a data-driven approach to messaging and running language experiments are effective ways to deliver more personalized experiences. Travel companies can move the revenue needle, while revealing what words engage your audience.