How flexible packaging and modern retailing help cruise lines personalize and differentiate their offers
One of the biggest advantages of cruise travel is the inherent value it offers. The combination of accommodation, sightseeing, opulent dining options, and endless entertainment offer great value for money compared to other alternatives. Yet, as the travel industry shifts from a product-centric to a guest-centric model, new complexities and opportunities arise. But cruise lines have a tremendous advantage.
The first element travelers book for a cruise vacation is the cruise itself. This gives cruise lines first insights into a guest's plans, well ahead of other potential service providers. Converting these insights into opportunities is a competitive advantage for cruise line retailing and a convenience for guests. Recommendation services offering personalized suggestions based on previous shopping history, whether at an individual or segment level, enable new retailing opportunities.
Providing a "door to door" vacation experience
The shift to modern retailing starts with a change in mindset towards becoming a "total vacation provider." Cruise lines are famous for pampering their guests on board, but there´s an immense opportunity to start doing so before - and even after - the voyage. Private transfers from home to the airport through to the cruise gateway, for example, extend the cruise line´s brand experience further downstream. Offering pre- and post-cruise vacation add-ons are also increasingly attractive bundling opportunities. After all, who wouldn´t want to potentially enjoy a few extra days in Barcelona at the front or back end of a Mediterranean cruise having flown all the way from the USA?
Cruise lines can integrate extended content across the travel journey from varied sources in real-time or through pre-contracted inventory and rates. In addition to providing a single service provisioning window for the guest, broadening the offer opens additional revenue opportunities and drives greater customer stickiness.
Offering personalized experiences
Disruptive travel companies around the world are creating customizable experiences. While the cruise industry is becoming more guest-centric, the need to offer bespoke products and services is becoming increasingly critical to stay competitive and to secure loyal customers. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) predicts that "multi-gen" cruising, where grandparents, parents, and grandchildren holiday together, will increase. Catering to the interests of different age groups without building a reputation for a single generation specialist becomes paramount. To do so, cruise lines will need to have the ability to design experiences that different generations can enjoy together and individually, considering varying needs, interests, and abilities, including energy levels, sleep schedules, and even vacation duration. It´s quite possible, for example, that the grandparents who have more time at their disposal are cruising for longer than other members of the family.
Facilitating maximum flexibility
Guests are willing to pay more for increased flexibility. At a time when cruising has bottomed out due to the pandemic and booking travel is fraught with anxiety, the role of flexibility in stimulating demand can´t be stressed enough. Flexible booking policies, the ability to cancel close to sail date, refundable deposits, and travel credits to compensate for suspensions are not only highly valued by customers, they are expected.
Introducing collaborative vacation planning
Collaborative vacation planning is a trend that´s on the increase where different group members can customize parts of the package, whether for the entire group or specific individuals. This tends to enlarge the shopping basket, increasing cruise line revenues while enabling personalized experiences for guests. Fractioned payments need to be considered here so members of the group can pay for the services they specifically sign-up for. Collaborative journey planning and co-browsing capabilities are emerging as key differentiators within a cruise line's retailing arsenal.
Enabling guest-centric retailing
Keeping up with evolving consumer expectations and market trends involves rethinking how we´ve historically done things. Redesigning business models and processes to enable total travel retailing and personalized experiences requires flexible, open, and data-driven technology. As new partners get onboarded to address a broader spectrum of traveler needs, a configurable platform accelerates partner integration and experimentation. By deploying guest-centric retailing techniques, cruise lines will generate new revenue streams, open new partnership models, and command a greater share of guest wallets.
As Product Director for the cruise portfolio at IBS Software, Archana Chacko is responsible for shaping the product strategy and roadmap of the iTravel Suite. In her 20 years of experience, she has worked with a diverse set of players in the travel and cruise industry including MSC Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, and others. Born and raised in Trivandrum, she has a graduate degree in Engineering. Her latest hobbies include learning new languages and long nature walks. She lives in Frankfurt, Germany.