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Why the Travel Industry Must Embrace New Habit Formation

With a longer path to purchase and evolving consumer needs to consider, the travel industry can benefit from building strategies around habits research.
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Why the Travel Industry Must Embrace New Habit Formation

At the height of the pandemic, consumers’ experiences with travel planning were pretty miserable. With stay-at-home orders grounding most flights, travelers scrambled to cancel or reschedule planned trips and often encountered long waits on help lines that ended with “credits” rather than the return of their much-needed cash.

While this may have led to a shift in loyalties, it didn’t turn consumers off of travel forever. When the Pfizer vaccine was announced, the travel site Kayak.com saw a 27% increase in flight search traffic that same day.

As American state and local governments got closer to a full re-opening, businesses braced for the next round of COVID-induced change. Understanding which aspects of life have become deeply ingrained in our routines — and which we discovered we could live without — presents an opportunity to reignite your base, bring in new consumers, and take your brand to the next level.

Build your customer experience around emerging needs

Consumers aren’t just picking up their travel plans where they left off. They’re looking to fulfill a suppressed need for exploration following more than a year of COVID-related challenges.

Of course, not all consumers will address this need in the same way. Some will want to travel without being encumbered by the restrictions they lived under in the wake of 2020. Others who are still nervous about COVID variants will want to see assurances that their needs for safety and security will be met.

Travel planning sites can use these shifts in attitudes to capture new users by providing the resources travelers need to plan trips in this new reality. Offering flexibility and transparency in policies and pricing is a simple but effective way to accommodate different types of travelers.

With these changes, consumers who want to be spontaneous again can make decisions quickly while those who continue to be more cautious can feel comfortable planning without being locked into dates as public health and safety needs continue to evolve.

Brands must understand which features are dealmakers (and deal-breakers) for consumers, and how attitudes will continue to transform as consumers engage with their category.

Take advantage of a longer path to purchase

In many categories, consumers are planning their purchases more carefully. Whether they’re doing this for emotional reasons tied to health and safety or for more deliberate financial concerns, this can lead to a longer path to purchase — and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If approached with the right strategy, having a longer path to purchase can offer brands more opportunities to connect meaningfully with their consumers.

Brands should communicate that they understand the complexity of consumers’ feelings and needs and can provide convenience and clarity each step of the way. Travel planning sites can acknowledge, for instance, that they understand the rental car shortage that’s currently impacting US travelers and can suggest workarounds or alternatives in such instances.

As people stick closer to home and away from crowds, travelers’ preferred destinations continue to shift as regulations change. To address these changes, Google is helping consumers with new features to plan road trips in Maps and set alerts when preferred travel destinations lift restrictions.

Be ready to adapt to more changes in consumer behavior

The “new normal” isn’t just the old normal with a mask on. It’s an attempt to return to a version of our previous routines with the attitudes and beliefs we adopted during the pandemic.

Whether it’s searching for restaurants that have outdoor seating or for immune-boosting supplements to support your fitness regimen, the motivations behind consumer decisions have evolved. The brands that best anticipate those needs will win repeat business and help build strong post-pandemic habits.

About the author

Lauren Murphy
Lauren develops creative approaches to help understand consumer behavior and why people sometimes say one thing but do another. As Research Scientist Director of Material's Pagrmatic Brain Science Insititute, she draws on her expertise in emotion processing, decision making, and behavior to produce meaningful insights and novel research approaches. Lauren joined Material in February 2018 and received a B.S. in Anthropology from Florida State University and a PhD in Psychology from Emory University.

Read more by Lauren Murphy
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