The Millennial Traveler’s Purchase Journey

The dig­i­tal era has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the con­sumer pur­chase jour­ney. The 2009 McK­in­sey mod­el demon­strat­ed that the old “fun­nel” con­cept has been over­come by the advent of the dig­i­tal empow­ered con­sumer. Since 2009 things have evolved fur­ther...

Valbona Gjini By Valbona Gjini from Rocket Fuel Inc.. Join the discussion » 0 comments

The dig­i­tal era has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the con­sumer pur­chase jour­ney. The 2009 McK­in­sey mod­el demon­strat­ed that the old “fun­nel” con­cept has been over­come by the advent of the dig­i­tal empow­ered con­sumer.

Since 2009 things have evolved fur­ther, espe­cial­ly for the new gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers, mil­len­ni­als. Most of the pur­chase stages, from con­sid­er­a­tion to feed­back – and some­times all of them – hap­pen online.

Who are mil­len­ni­als and what makes them dif­fer­ent from the past gen­er­a­tions?

There’s not a stan­dard def­i­n­i­tion for mil­len­ni­als (yet) but there are some char­ac­ter­is­tics that are unique to this gen­er­a­tion.

Born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, mil­len­ni­als are the largest gen­er­a­tion in the U.S.

Mil­len­ni­als are more con­nect­ed to tech­nol­o­gy than any oth­er pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. They tend to be con­nect­ed vir­tu­al­ly via social net­works and they val­ue the role that they play in their com­mu­ni­ties.

They pre­fer to buy from brands that add val­ue to their lives, from those brands that sell by pro­vid­ing rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion or that sup­port good caus­es.

Mil­len­ni­als have high­er lev­els of edu­ca­tion in com­par­i­son to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, and they tend to be more tol­er­ant and open to cul­tur­al diver­si­ty and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. They also val­ue unique­ness more.

Their pur­chase jour­neys are dif­fer­ent because, unlike the old­er gen­er­a­tions, they are famil­iar with tech­nol­o­gy and they see it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Unlike old­er gen­er­a­tions, they appre­ci­ate the impact it has in their lives . Many of their pur­chase jour­neys begin and fin­ish online.

This arti­cle will ana­lyze the mil­len­ni­al pur­chase jour­ney in a spe­cif­ic indus­try: trav­el.

The trav­el indus­try has been heav­i­ly dis­rupt­ed by dig­i­tal­iza­tion and we have rea­sons to believe it’s not yet ready to ful­fill the needs of the new dig­i­tal con­sumer. The lack of inspir­ing con­tent is prob­a­bly one of the biggest issues.

Let’s fol­low the online pur­chase jour­ney of a typ­i­cal mil­len­ni­al con­sumer from the moment when she starts think­ing about trav­el­ing to the final feed­back stage to under­stand how the trav­el indus­try has changed and what is still miss­ing.

Meet Julia, The Typical Millennial Traveller

Julia is a woman in her late 20s who lives in Lon­don. She’s a dig­i­tal account man­ag­er for an inte­grat­ed cre­ative agency, where she helps brands be more vis­i­ble and engag­ing online.

Julia grew up in the tech­nol­o­gy era. As a con­se­quence, she’s com­put­er savvy and she can’t imag­ine life with­out the Inter­net, and, as is the case with many of her peers, she feels lost with­out her mobile phone. She relies on the web for almost every­thing: research­ing infor­ma­tion, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with fam­i­ly and friends, and mak­ing the most of her pur­chas­es and book­ings.

She is active on social media and loves to share her thoughts and the things she likes with her friends/followers.

Julia loves to trav­el but doesn’t like to buy all-inclu­sive hol­i­days or to stay in resorts. She wants a cus­tomized and authen­tic expe­ri­ence and she wants to be in con­trol. That’s why she research­es all the infor­ma­tion and makes all the book­ings on her own, online.

Accord­ing to a Google’s research from 2012, the Trav­el Pur­chase Jour­ney is made up of five steps:


We believe there’s one more step between Book­ing and Expe­ri­enc­ing: research­ing. And we also believe that Expe­ri­enc­ing and Shar­ing are not two sep­a­rate steps any­more for mil­len­ni­als: they take place at the same time.

The Millennial Stages Of Travel



It’s a spring morn­ing and Julia is on a train. As every morn­ing, she is read­ing the news on her tablet when she finds an arti­cle “Hot Sum­mer Des­ti­na­tions 2015” and she real­izes that it’s time to start think­ing about her sum­mer hol­i­day. She wants to book in advance because she knows she’ll find cheap­er flights and more accom­mo­da­tions avail­able.

Julia starts think­ing about the kind of vaca­tion she wants to expe­ri­ence. She wants to relax on a nat­ur­al unspoiled beach and to dis­cov­er local cul­ture and land­scapes. She’s on bud­get so she decides to stay in Europe and starts con­sid­er­ing three coun­tries since that meet her require­ments: France, Greece, and Italy.

She starts her research on Google and she begins read­ing arti­cles about those coun­tries. After read­ing sev­er­al arti­cles she makes her mind and decides to go to the south of Italy, to Salen­to more exact­ly, the “heel” of Italy.

Les­son For Brands

Be a source of inspi­ra­tion for your cus­tomers. Cre­ate con­tent that’s as good as that pro­duced by trav­el mag­a­zines.

Dur­ing the dream­ing step, your cus­tomers will be active­ly look­ing for arti­cles or videos that inspire them. Some smart brands are already doing it. Amer­i­can Air­lines, Mar­riott, and BA have cre­at­ed their pub­lish­er web­sites where cus­tomer or poten­tial cus­tomers can find inter­est­ing arti­cles and stun­ning visu­als – the best tools to inspire read­ers.


Now that Julia has cho­sen her des­ti­na­tion, she needs to decide when to go, how to get there, and where to stay.

First, she looks for a cheap flight. She already knows where to find the best deals. She opens the Sky­Scan­ner app and she looks for flights depart­ing from any Lon­don air­ports to Brin­disi, Salento’s air­port, in July. Check­ing the month­ly view gives her an under­stand­ing of the best time when to fly.

She has decid­ed on the dates so she now starts eval­u­at­ing the accom­mo­da­tions. She’s think­ing about which is the best option for her: hotel or apart­ment?

She decides to stay in an apart­ment because she thinks that spend­ing time in a house, maybe in the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter of a nice town, will make her feel like a local. A more authen­tic expe­ri­ence. So, while head­ing home from the office, she opens her Airbnb app and she starts look­ing for a nice apart­ment.

After spend­ing some time check­ing the hous­es and the reviews she finds a nice apart­ment in the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter of Lec­ce. The house looks love­ly and the owner’s hos­pi­tal­i­ty gath­ered great reviews.

Les­son For Brands

Smart mar­keters are already aware of impor­tance of mobile search: 80 per­cent of Inter­net users use smart­phones to search the Web. A study con­duct­ed by Yahoo shows that 74 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als research trav­el plans on a mobile device. A mobile-friend­ly site is a must, but hav­ing a well-designed and usable brand­ed app can still make the dif­fer­ence, mak­ing you stand out from your com­peti­tors.

Accord­ing to mobile ana­lyt­ics firm Flur­ry, the over­all app usage has grown by 76 per­cent in 2014. Devel­op­ing an app that is easy to use and that pro­vides val­ue to the users, with­out annoy­ing them with unwant­ed noti­fi­ca­tion, allows brands to increase the cus­tomer engage­ment and enhances the brand sen­ti­ment.


Now that Julia has done her research and found the best oppor­tu­ni­ties for her require­ments she is ready to book. She books her flights, her hol­i­day apart­ment, and after quick­ly check­ing the prices online she also rents a car.

Of course, she does every­thing online with her lap­top, instant­ly. She doesn’t need to phone any of the com­pa­nies and she’s con­fi­dent about her choic­es because she has read many online reviews about those brands. She wouldn’t feel com­fort­able buy­ing from a com­pa­ny that doesn’t have any online reviews.

Les­son For Brands 

Online reviews are more impor­tant than ever. They’re a must to attract mil­len­ni­al con­sumers. At the begin­ning of the year, Hub­Spot pub­lished an info­graph­ic, which shows that 93 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als usu­al­ly read reviews pri­or to mak­ing a pur­chase. If you want to attract mil­len­ni­al con­sumers, mak­ing your hotel, apart­ment, or restau­rant the best kept secret in town wouldn’t be a smart move.

Encour­age your cus­tomers to leave reviews but don’t expect them to be always pos­i­tive. Make sure you reply polite­ly to the neg­a­tive ones and pro­pose to the unsat­is­fied cus­tomers to give you anoth­er chance to make things right, when pos­si­ble. Neg­a­tive reviews give you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to improve your prod­uct or ser­vice and reply­ing to them demon­strates to your cus­tomers, or pos­si­ble future cus­tomers, that you val­ue their opin­ions and that you want to pro­vide great cus­tomer ser­vice.

Researching – The Missing Step

After choos­ing the loca­tion and book­ing, Julia wants to know every­thing about the place she is vis­it­ing. She starts search­ing for arti­cles about Salen­to, hol­i­day reviews and guides about the towns and vil­lages she wants to vis­it.

She reads about the local cui­sine and about the fes­ti­vals and cel­e­bra­tions tak­ing place dur­ing her stay. She wants to learn as much as pos­si­ble about the des­ti­na­tion.

Les­son For Brands

Brands aren’t tap­ping into that oppor­tu­ni­ty. After book­ing flights and accom­mo­da­tions con­sumers don’t receive emails from their “providers” that con­tain inter­est­ing con­tent about the loca­tion they are going to vis­it. They have to research every­thing on their own.

Com­pa­nies are always try­ing to under­stand what con­tent would engage more with their cus­tomers. There’s no need to rack your brains to find the solu­tion: it’s obvi­ous that, after a book­ing a hol­i­day, the con­sumer wants to read des­ti­na­tion relat­ed con­tent.

It’s impor­tant to cre­ate con­tent for your web­site that address­es user/searcher needs. Opti­mize it and also pro­mote it social­ly for max­i­mum impact. Once cus­tomers have made a book­ing, why don’t you send them emails with loca­tion relat­ed con­tent? If you don’t have the resources to pro­duce your own con­tent, the inter­net is your resource. The web is full of qual­i­ty trav­el arti­cles from trust­ed pub­lish­ers. You can research and curate the best ones and send your cus­tomers emails link­ing to them.

Experiencing & Sharing, Combined

As with many of her peers, Julia loves to share her expe­ri­ences instant­ly. That hap­pens on hol­i­day as well. A hol­i­day used to be con­sid­ered the right time to switch off, to be dis­con­nect­ed from the world, but things have changed for the new gen­er­a­tions. Mil­len­ni­als want to be con­nect­ed, always.

Dur­ing her stay, Julia takes pic­tures of the places she sees, and the foods she eats. She needs to be con­nect­ed to research the restau­rants for her din­ners, she needs to check Google Maps to find reach the places she wants to vis­it, and she wants to be able to share her pic­tures with her friends and fam­i­ly right after tak­ing them.

Les­son For Brands

Mil­len­ni­al con­sumers want to stay con­nect­ed on hol­i­day and they active­ly look for inspi­ra­tion on where to go, what to see, and where to eat. Fur­ther­more, they want to share those moments while they’re expe­ri­enc­ing them. Be there for them.

Be their source of inspi­ra­tion. Email them about the best restau­rants in the area or links to arti­cle about the most beau­ti­ful loca­tion they need to vis­it. Encour­age them to share those moments on social media. Try pro­vid­ing them with a hash­tag so you can actu­al­ly see what they share and engage with them.

Valbona Gjini

Written by Valbona Gjini

EMEA Marketing Manager, Rocket Fuel Inc.

Valbona was formerly Digital Communications Manager at Linkdex, and now works for Rocket Fuel. She grew up in a beautiful but very rainy region in the north of Italy, so the London weather makes her feel right at home.

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