Summer 2019 provided the timeshare industry with its first glimpses of a shifting consumer landscape. For the first time since the economic downturn, timeshare companies have struggled to meet summer marketing and sales goals. This shift sees all industry players reexamining product offerings, marketing, and sales processes as traditional consumers begin to wane and the next generation of buyers comes into view. While overall projections for the industry are still promising, this change is an alarm bell for hospitality and timeshare brands developing data and acquisition strategies for the next decade.
Historically, the timeshare industry has enjoyed a healthy growth curve that stretched into double-digit growth in 2018. New leads came easily, and an aggressive customer identification and acquisition process wasn’t always necessary. Brands were able to target hotel guests, resort partners, or travelers who enjoyed certain types of destinations or entertainment. They didn’t need to use data-backed prospecting because casting a wide net was good enough, and marketing costs were reasonable. Today, however, things are rapidly changing, largely due to younger generations’ expectations around product, customer experience, and relationship management.
The traditional timeshare market is aging, and younger consumers expect a personalized experience from all travel and leisure brands. This is no longer a bonus for consumers—it’s table stakes. Millennials are showing interest in the timeshare model, but they have a low tolerance for the perceived faults of vacation ownership and the buying process compared to previous generations. Brands need to collect, analyze, and leverage data on these potential new owners in order to create a successful go-forward strategy and marketing plan, which is something North Highland has done for two of the industry’s leading players.
Relying on the old models won’t work, and brands can’t afford to miss opportunities with the younger generation. The timeshare industry needs to reconsider its value proposition, customer relationship management (CRM) infrastructure, and data strategy to inform a better acquisition process.
- Customer experience is priority number one. Millennials are interested in timeshares, but their expectations for personalization and experience take precedence over location, cost, and sometimes even amenities. Ensuring that organizations have an exceptional personal guest/owner experience and can make needed changes will be key before focusing on a more sophisticated data strategy.
- Next, the traditional data and technology infrastructure needs replacing. It’s common to have multiple CRM platforms and tools that gather marketing data and KPIs, but they often don’t integrate or produce unified reporting and analytics. Eliminating technology debt, retiring old systems, and creating a single source of truth optimizes existing tools and lays the foundation for new intelligent strategy, analytics, and better-informed decision-making.
- With solid infrastructure in place, it’s time to develop a data strategy road map. Choosing what to prioritize, what tools to use, and what data is collected and analyzed are the first steps to designing a compelling personalized guest/owner experience. Many organizations begin technology work before this strategy is completed, which leads to higher costs, financial waste, and missed implementation dates. Part of this process is optimizing IT operations for efficient data delivery. It also includes educating teams and potentially restructuring roles.
- Analyzing and acting on customer insights is often the piece of the process that resonates most with executives in the C-suite. Marketing and sales goals will be measured and reported against this data. Collecting insights is a complex process and relating the findings to a strong business strategy is key to securing buy-in from executives. More importantly, getting these insights to marketing and sales on the front lines ensures ROI and success.
- Once the guest experience is fine-tuned, infrastructure is strengthened, and data is intelligently collected and analyzed, the brand will be ready to boost customer acquisition. Leveraging the findings to target and market to previously untapped customer bases will launch a strategy that converts new brand loyalists.
Change is always hard and implementing it takes time; however, given the future of the vacation ownership industry, it’s absolutely critical to evolve now to ensure long-term success. While a large portion of this process involves technical components and strategy, bringing teams on board with new ways of working is vital. As we already know, prioritizing people interaction and connections alongside technology and strategy results in stronger teams and better ROI. Now is the time to leverage that approach and get more guests excited to take the leap into vacation ownership.