(This post was originally published by Bob Dufour on LinkedIn at: http://linkd.in/1LCCfou)

For travel companies, increasing average order value (AOV) and establishing repeat customers are top priorities. As consumers continue to make more purchases online and via mobile devices, there is an opportunity to optimize ancillary sales, from departure to destination, like never before. A strategic approach to ancillary sales can make the difference in AOV, customer experience and ultimately the bottom line.

It’s been widely acknowledged that personalization at the purchase point matters to airline customers. When a customer feels they’ve taken part in a unique and relevant experience, they are more likely to spend, leading to increased revenues and stronger brand relationships. Yet very few travel organizations have invested in the technology that creates unique buying experiences that presents the right offering to the right customer, at the right moment.

Fusion and Forrester Research partnered to assess existing adaption of experience optimization and ancillary sales strategies in 2014. Of the companies represented in the U.K./European and U.S. markets, only 12% have tapped into ancillary revenue opportunities by using real-time ranking and decision solutions on their ecommerce platforms. What’s worse is that the opportunities to impact AOV are being missed in transactions before, during and throughout the customer’s trip.

Technology has made it possible to customize the sales experience for each traveler, generating offers that are directly relevant to them. Today’s traveler expects more from their brand relationships. Whether the customer is a powerhouse CEO, a scrappy sales person or a group of adventure-seeking vacationers, the goal is to help them plan every aspect of their trip. Doing so creates more opportunities for interaction while building a sense of partnership that can be relied on, again and again.

To start, consider the travel customer needs that can be met within the booking process:

  • Before their departure, they’ll need to park their vehicles or arrange other ground transportation.
  • They may also need to buy flight insurance to protect their purchase, in case of an unforeseen event or emergency and so forth.
  • For both the family of six and the busy executive, navigating a foreign airport can be overwhelming; a secured baggage service may helpful.
  • On-site logistics can be difficult to coordinate. Unfortunately for the executive, his assistant can’t always join him; perhaps a stand-in is needed. Spontaneity upon arrival in a foreign country is not as romantic when there are little ones involved; the family will need to secure entertainment options in advance.

Can you afford not to offer these solutions?

Of the companies that participated in the Forrester study; 43% are currently offering airport parking, and 53% are offering ground transportation solutions. About 40% are including offers for travel insurance and 33% are offering baggage services. Only a mere 3% are providing the opportunity to secure personal assistant services.

If your business has the opportunity to identify these “pain points” for customers, wouldn’t you want to address them in advance?

The “flight plan” for travel companies, who want to remain competitive, increase AOV and build repeat customer relationships, should include utilizing up-to-date sales optimization technology and maintaining a realistic view of their customers’ needs.

To engage your customer, walk in their shoes for every trip from outbound flights through on-site activities and the return. Personalize and test your offerings, measure and repeat.