How to use data to entice Chinese travellers

At the iClick x Marketing event – “Digital meets travel retail: Unbox the potential of data capturing Chinese outbound travellers” – Yan Lee, chief product officer of iClick Interactive, opened the conference with an overview of Chinese outbound travellers.

iClick Interactive provides a single unified platform to manage online marketing, particularly in China, but the country is not an easy place to conquer.

“Chinese travellers are expected to grow to about 250 million in the next three years,” he said. “Ease of visa regulations on the Chinese and the increased air routes in and out of China have spurred the  booming affluent and middle class Chinese to travel globally.”

The soaring number of Chinese travellers, coupled with strong spending power, are signals marketers will welcome.

Because of its proximity, Hong Kong was the Chinese travellers’ favourite destination with the average spending per tourist standing at USD$895. Japan, Macau, South Korea and Thailand were the other top four destinations among Chinese travellers in 2017.

Price differentials, quality assurance and uniqueness are some of the reasons for Chinese people to shop overseas, according to Lee.

Traditional first-tier cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. However, the growth of outbound travellers from these cities was surpassed by 10 non first-tier cities such as Xi’an, Changsha, Wuxi and Taiyuan, to name a few.|

“People from these cities have started to enjoy the finer things in life. They prefer nearby destinations popular among other Chinese to avoid risk, and desire well-established and renowned brands and products,” Lee explained.

By 2025, Chinese consumers’ luxury spending is expected to account for 44% of the total global market.  Other than buying luxury items, the upper middle class in China also opts for luxury travel such as business class or first class, luxury hotels and destinations in Europe and the Middle East to go shopping.

The post-90s in China is another not-to-be-missed segment, according to Lee. “The smartphone is an inseparable organ to their body!” he said. “They are constantly learning things from the outside world through multiple online platforms, and are also eager to explore the world.”

He concluded his presentation by explaining marketers could leverage data to identify potential travellers before they finalise their travel and shopping plans.

Shi Ling Tan, media and digital marketing manager at Shiseido Travel Retail, continued to explain the digital transformation in travel retail.

“We asked ourselves the question of redesigning the travel experience,” Tan said.

“It’s an integrated ecosystem. AI, IoT, predictive analytics and 3D printing are some of the keywords. Shiseido, travel retailer, social media and airport are the key members of the digital community.”

She further explained that by 2020, the Shiseido group aims to become the most digitally exciting beauty company.

Terence Chow, head of Watson Customer Engagement at IBM Hong Kong, demonstrated how to perform better with big data. He explained Watson – a question-answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language – at the beginning of his presentation.

“Watson is at the core of our cognitive technology,” he said. “It augments our cognitive capabilities, understands, reasons, learns and interacts naturally with us. As an end-to-end platform for customer engagement, Watson offers personalised marketing, customer insights and digital experience on the marketing side.”

Mick Gordon, managing director of Ipsos Hong Kong, also talked about technology. In China, 78% of people said they constantly looked at screens and 79% of Chinese under 30 felt restless or uneasy if they did not look at their phone for an hour. Meanwhile, they preferred mobile websites, mobile
apps and desktop computers to book travel programmes.

He suggested several ways to better serve travellers such as scanning QR codes via WeChat, acceptance of mobile payments and booking methods. Also, mandarin-speaking shop assistants, acceptance of Chinese mobile wallets and signage in Mandarin were some of the key things that make Chinese travellers feel more welcome.

Cindy Dai, digital marketing manager at Ctrip, concluded the conference by unveiling figures and plans of Chinese travellers.

She said the predicted total number of Chinese outbound tourists in 2018 would stand at 144 million, an increase of about 11% compared with 2017. Meanwhile, 60% of them booked travel products separately to increase flexibility.

“Ctrip is capable of offering pre-travel, during-travel and after-travel promotions based on customers’ booking flow. We sell around two million flights to over 5000 cities, covering outbound tourists comprehensively,” she said.

The platform also offers user-generated content to further engage travellers as they prefer a first-hand experience.

“Among all bookings on our platform, 40% have joined the WeChat group of Ctrip, while the majority of them are first-time visitors to the destination,” she said.

Speaking of after-travel promotions, she concluded that native content placement into travel posts could increase brand influence among travellers via Ctrip’s official social network account.

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