The ‘typical’ customer journey no longer exists. As the digital world continues to grow, consumer touchpoints across all industries are ever-changing, and the travel sector is certainly no exception. This industry has seen a digital transformation in the last few decades, with fewer consumers going in-branch to book their trips, instead choosing to browse, select and book online.
According to a recent ABTA report, 83% of holiday-goers are booking online, which means that travel companies need to be up to speed with digital to secure sales from new customers, as well as retain their existing base of loyal bookers.
As a travel brand, how can you ensure that you are offering an all-round great digital experience, persuading customers to book with you?
An optimised mobile site is key for solid performance across all sectors, but it is particularly important within the hyper-competitive travel industry, where consumers are always looking for an efficient and easy booking process.
The latest Ofcom survey results reveal that we are spending a total of 24 hours per week using our smartphones or mobile devices; travel brands need to tap into this and ensure their mobile site or app is highly user-friendly and could allow someone to book a trip on their commute to work or lunch break.
There are always going to be challenges preventing the perfect mobile experience on travel sites, due to the complexity of the type and range of products on offer, but certain aspects can always be improved to make for a better customer journey. For example, mobile sites should be adapted to a smaller screen; travel sites often have a lot of creative images and videos taking up vital screen space, which could be off-putting if not correctly formatted for mobile.
Brands also need to prevent the need for excess scrolling and place important site features, such as search functionality and promotional details, at the top of the mobile screen. Additionally, reducing page load time is essential to prevent customers dropping off and looking elsewhere. This can be done by minimising use of imagery and excess information, and focusing on overall functionality.
For more information on optimising for mobile, checking out our recent blog post on Mobile and the Customer Journey.
Social media presence
Coupled with the importance of mobile, social media is now one of the main influencing mediums for travel and has replaced the traditional guidebook and brochure. Holiday montage videos on Facebook, striking destination photos on Instagram, and inspiring travel-themed Pinterest boards; these are all examples of travel-related content that catch our eye on a daily basis when browsing social media.
As noted in a recent Pinterest case study, 62% of Pinterest users plan future travel plans on the platform. Statistics such as this prove that travel brands need to utilise social media channels as much as possible to promote themselves and entice new consumer traffic to convert.
For instance, travel companies could ask existing customers to share holiday photos alongside a branded hashtag, and add an incentive of a monthly prize for the best photo. This encourages people to share photos of their trip on social media whilst also advertising the brand behind their holiday. As a result, customer engagement will peak as people come to recognise the hashtag and visit the brand site. Using social media to share positive customer experiences is a powerful digital method; new customers will trust the brand and will be more likely to book if they can see authentic experiences online.
In addition to using social media as a marketing partnership tool, travel brands can also collaborate with other companies and use their digital channels to attract new customers.
Consumers searching for a holiday will likely be tempted by a discount, and using other sites to promote offers is a vital marketing strategy. This is the basic premise of affiliate marketing, whereby you then pay a percentage of sales to the partners. Forming non-traditional partnerships with other brands, however, is also a solid tactic that can be implemented to help drive new customer sales.
For example, a travel brand can use their digital marketing agency to connect with other clients under the agency’s management; in-turn, they could pass on a family and friends discount code for the other brands to distribute throughout their employee base.
Travel brands can also take advantage of the consumer need for holiday clothing and partner up with a retail merchant. A clothing discount available once a holiday is purchased could be the deciding factor for purchasing with one brand over another, especially if the incentive is widely promoted within both brands’ digital marketing strategies.
Overall, travel brands need to ensure that they are visible and effective on all key digital channels, meaning they are engaging with new customers at every possible touchpoint within the user journey, and, most importantly, luring them in to purchase.
For more information on the travel sector, see our blog post on the latest travel industry news.