Frozen fingertips, scraping car windscreens, and winter coats lead many of us to daydream about warmer climates. So it comes as no surprise that the majority of consumers start booking and planning their holidays in the first part of the year.
However, in recent years, marketing in the travel industry has exploded with consumers engaging, researching, and booking their breaks in new and diverse ways—including social media, mobile apps, and comparison sites. This has led the already complex path to purchase to grow even more complicated to track, as it now spans many channels and devices.
So what can travel marketers do to ensure they’re reaching these consumers with the right content at the right time in order to clinch those bookings?
Here are seven data-driven tips to help travel marketers reach their target audience.
1. Get Big on Travel Review Sites
In a recent travel report by Mediahawk, travel review sites came out on top as the number one source for vacation inspiration.
Forty-eight-percent of those surveyed said they used sites like TripAdvisor to research their trips, suggesting that consumers value unbiased recommendations from their peers. TripAdvisor is by far the largest of the travel review sites, so if brands want to be seen by these people they must optimize this channel.
To get started on TripAdvisor, you need to claim your business listing. Write a detailed description of your business or offering, but don’t be over-the-top “salesy”; just highlight the features, nearby attractions, and popular amenities. Upload professional-quality photos and ensure you update them if you have had any recent renovations or additions. Photos speak volumes about your premises and business so ensure they capture every selling point.
Most importantly, encourage your customers to leave reviews. If you want to ensure you get feedback on your hotel, airline, or resort, encourage your customers to leave reviews on your TripAdvisor page. Reach out to them via email to remind them to write a review. You could even offer a discount on their next trip if they leave a review of your business. Reviews are important because the quantity, content, and dates of TripAdvisor reviews helps your business rank higher in your location. Furthermore, TripAdvisor enables you to link back to your own website, offering a vital opportunity to drive traffic back to your brand collateral and to log and track their behavior.
2. Offer Telephone Support and Bookings
In the same survey mentioned above, almost half of the respondents said they would call a company if they had a question before booking. This highlights how having telephone customer support can mean the difference between gaining or losing nearly 50% of bookings.
The most obvious places to offer telephone support are on your website and throughout the booking process. Place a telephone number in a prominent place on your website, on your paid search ads, on your TripAdvisor and third party listings, and on social media, as well as on your printed media (such as brochures and magazine adverts).
Having telephone support is an incredibly powerful interaction, as it provides your business with a direct line of communication to sell to the consumer. A human voice explaining the benefits and key features of a holiday can sway a booking decision.
3. Track the User Journey – A Must to Retarget and Re-engage
The travel path to purchase is a long and complex route. A consumer might at first interact with you on TripAdvisor, head to your website, engage with a display ad and finally book over the phone. That’s about four different interactions. How on earth can you track this journey, especially from online to offline?
The only way to trace the consumer path is with website and call tracking. Call tracking works by displaying a unique telephone number to each website visitor or within an ad allowing marketers to attribute each interaction and enquiry back to a specific consumer. This way, you’ll be able to make a judgement on how each channel is performing.
Furthermore, as we know how lengthy and complex the user journey can be, adding the details of people who didn’t quite go through to booking, to a retargeting campaign on the display network can help to bring back consumers to your site, re-engage them with a resort or vacation they were previously interested in, and help to finally get a booking from them.
4. Don’t Forget Offline
Over the years brochures and printed advertising have been phased out in favor of digital advertising because it’s trackable and deemed more cost-effective. However, some generations—those that have been shown to spend more on vacations—are still booking through brochures.
In fact, according to Mediahawk’s holiday planning and booking survey, up to 52% of the 55+ age group, that spend over £1000, booked their break via an offline medium*.
But instead of printing thousands of brochures, you can segment your brochure distribution list based upon those who opt to receive one. The best way to do this is to add them to your mailing list and get them to check a box for brochure subscription. This way you’ll be able to monitor whether they do book via a brochure and how much revenue you are generating from brochure bookings. Again, use a tracked telephone number in your brochures and offline media to add a revenue figure to these channels.
5. Be Available for Last Minute Bookings
Over recent years, last minute bookings have sky-rocketed.
Millennials are the group that have been shown to be the most likely to book their trips at the last minute, with 47% of 18-24 year olds saying they research their holiday from a week to four weeks before they are due to depart.
In order to target this age group, ensure that you offer last minute deals and communicate these to your audience through a mobile app, email marketing, and on your social media channels. Social media is especially important for this age group, as they have been shown to use this medium more when researching their travels.
6. Be Compatible With Smartphones
Mobile has enabled consumers to be constantly connected to the web and has given rise to more mobile commerce and bookings year on year. And the trend to research and book holidays on a mobile device is rising.
According to research more than a 33% of 16 to 24 year olds booked their holiday on a mobile device in 2014.
So firstly, if your site is not mobile-friendly, you’ll put off these consumers as well as hurt your rankings— Google has stated that mobile-friendliness is now a key part of their ranking algorithm.
Secondly, it’s not just your website that needs to be mobile ready; your messages and content also need to cater for a mobile audience. Emails need to be mobile friendly; you might consider an app as well as communicating your content on social media sites specific to mobile (ie. Instagram and video apps). In fact, more travel operators are embracing Instagram than ever before.
7. Get Active on Social Media
We know that peer recommendations from sites like TripAdvisor are the number one go-to source for holiday inspiration. But social media comes in at a close second for more holiday inspiration.
Thanks to “selfies”, check-ins, and status updates, social media has provided a more genuine portrayal of travel experiences.
This medium provides brands with the ability to connect people with places on a global level. Brands can communicate deals for locations through more interactive mediums; often this limits the need for expensive advertising!
Instagram is a perfect visual medium to get across the tone and feeling of these destinations. Not only for the brand, but for social media users, too. In fact, according to a recent survey, 97% of millennials are now using social networks while traveling, whilst 84% of Facebook users admitted in a PRSA Travel and Tourism poll that viewing their friends’ post actually influenced their own future travel plans.
Travel marketers must embrace new channels and streamline existing tracking and re-targeting operations. All marketers know how important it is to track the user journey but, for travel brands and agencies, it’s how you drill through the data and take action on your findings that will help you boost bookings.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!