The Millennial generation is often
described as fickle, work-shy, narcissistic and driven by a raging sense of
But our design research tells us that their
basic, human, emotional needs are pretty similar to any other generation who
aspire to have strong, lasting friendships, find fulfilling careers, live in
safe and secure homes, find a life-partner and stay healthy in body and mind.
Millennials are no different in this regard.
But the Millennial generation is more
mobile, better travelled and has more opportunity to explore the world than any
other generation. And they are a tough bunch to please, expecting a lot from
travel brands when it comes to seeking inspiration, booking a holiday and
meeting their needs while travelling.
For Millennials, the experience and the
product are one in the same and the lines between the digital and physical
experience are less defined, if at all. This presents challenges to travel
operators, but also opens up opportunities to engage with this generation in
new and interesting ways, and to create personalized travel experiences that
feed their desire for authenticity and cultural immersion.
Brands need to sit up and take note; by
2019 there will be 17 million Millennials in the UK, accounting for a quarter
of the population. To resonate with the Millennial mind-set brands need to
learn how to design product and service experiences for this group of
Here are five guiding principles for travel
brands designing for the Millennial traveller.
1. Design frictionless experiences
Millennials have finely tuned expectations
of what a good user experience should be and won’t tolerate poor service or a
substandard experience. In their eyes, a brand that has invested in designing a
beautifully simple, intuitive, user experience has demonstrated a commitment to
its customers that goes beyond simply the interface.
Airbnb and Uber for example owe their
successes to the effortless, and largely mobile, experience they offer as much
as the disruption they brought to their industries. CityMapper also recognized
its user interface had to be more intuitive at helping people navigate cities
quicker than Google or Apple.
The message is clear for brands. Make
experience design the foundation on which you build differentiation and competitive
advantage. Identify and ruthlessly eliminate the pain-points customers have
through every touch point in the organization, digital and non-digital. Seek
out the best designers you can possibly find to create beautifully elegant,
frictionless customer experiences.
2. Be authentic
Millennials are naturally cynical about
advertising and intolerant of inflated promises and false claims. They favor
word of mouth and advice from friends or family over information received
through advertising. They can sense the difference between those companies that
demonstrate their commitment to customers rather than those that just claim it.
According to Inkling, millennials are
influenced by family and friends (72%), search engines and reviews (50%),
social networks (21.4%) and bloggers/experts (20.2%). Our research shows that
independent review sites such as TripAdvisor are often a more trusted source of
reviews than a hotel’s own website. Travellers will cross-reference reviews on
a hotel website with TripAdvisor before booking direct.
Websites such as Like a Local and
Showaround use local knowledge such as where to eat and what to see, which very
much fits with the Millennial’s preference for authentic, local experiences.
Travel brands also have a wealth of good photography and video at their
fingertips from real travellers. VisitTheUSA uses real video journals to
showcase popular US destinations, while G Adventures encourages travellers to
submit photos to be featured on their Instagram feed.
Brands should build engagement with this
generation through smart use of social media and the development of advocates
and brand ambassadors. Two thirds of 16-24 year olds said they are more likely
to become a loyal customer if a brand engages with them on social.
New technologies such as Augmented Reality
and Virtual Reality also present an exciting opportunity for travel brands
looking to create content in this space.
But don’t make claims, let real customers
tell others what it’s like to be a customer of your brand. The product or
service needs to deliver since these channels can turn equally viral if a
service turns out to be poor.
3. Make products and services personal
If a Millennial will trust a dating site to
find their ideal life partner, then simpler decisions such as choosing a
holiday will happily be delegated to a computer algorithm without a second
This generation has grown up surrounded by
data, but using it confidently to make the right decision has got harder and
more stressful. As millennials move through the various life stages, their
willingness to embrace algorithms in the relevant areas of their lives will
VisitTheUSA for example has a nice slider
to tune a trip based on categories such as Lively vs Quiet, Beach vs Mountain,
Swimsuit vs Parka. Round the World Experts recognizes that travellers no longer
shop in one place for their travel needs but source inspiration and make
bookings through multiple providers. Its ‘Trip List’ gives travellers the
ability to collect items that interest them, such as experiences and
accommodation, from across the internet for reference later.
The real opportunity for brands looking to
attract Millennials however lies in designing products and services that can
learn our behaviors, the patterns of our consumption, our personality traits
and preferences. Artificial Intelligence is one such technology with the
potential to offer this functionality. Millennials will look for brands and
technology that help guide them in making confident and correct decisions. (Or
increasingly, make them for us and lets us know what they were.)
4. Reward loyalty in unique ways
This generation is very aware of its power
as consumers. They know that their custom is valuable to brands and want to be
rewarded for it. This doesn’t have to be financially. It can be in terms of how
they are made to feel, or what privileges they get for being a customer.
Millennials want to be made to feel
important as an individual, and that they are being listened to. They know
companies have data on their habits, their previous purchases, and their value
as customers, and they want to see this used intelligently and sensitively to
have some of that loyalty repaid.
Lodgeo and Hotel Tonight run a referral
scheme where if you recommend the app and someone books, you receive hotel
credit. Tourradar runs regular social media competitions where you can increase
your chances of winning by liking, sharing and tagging.
But brands need to go beyond standard
points-based loyalty schemes and think of the things that would really make a
difference to a customer’s experience with their brands such as exclusive
access, tailored offers and personalized experiences.
5. Facilitate decision-making on the move
Millennials are the first major generation
to have almost always had the internet at their disposal and therefore have
confidence in technology to help them make snap travel decisions.
They also value experiences over
possessions and, unlike all those that came before them, won’t own many of the
big ticket items that previous generations slaved to buy. This is partly driven
by spiraling costs of such items but also by the fear of missing out. According
to Inkling, 73% of this audience agreed that the fear of missing out is their
primary motivator in seeking out new experiences and activities.
Unlike their parents Millennials don’t feel
the same need to plan ahead, they’ve grown up with being able to access the
internet at any time they like. Why plan ahead when all you need is to hand via
a mobile phone? No need to buy a map; just use Google Maps or CityMapper. No
need to reserve tickets for travel or hotels ahead; just use HotelTonight and
Flight Centre. No need to book a cab; use Uber.
But the implication of this user behavior
is that these solutions need to work well on the move, and not require a lot of
user thought. Successful brands will be those with beautifully designed
context-driven user experiences and intuitive interfaces.