Where? What? How much? 3 Simple questions the traveller needs to have answered when embarking on the travel buyer journey. The reality is not quite as simple though, as your traveller is confronted by a far more daunting variety of choices than you can shake a magic carpet at. Want to take a ride? First you need to consider trends, politics and the occasional viral outbreak or natural disaster, cost vs budget, satisfying everyone in the travel party – it can be exhausting just making a choice!
All you’ve got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over.
Studies conducted on the subject of the Travel Buyer Journey suggest 5 stages at which we, as travel suppliers, should and can engage with our clients. We want to lessen the burden, replace that shimmer of glamour that is sometimes lost during the hard work of selecting and booking travel. How well you respond to your client’s needs during these stages will depend on how well you understand what the traveller experiences in each stage, and how willing you are to engage. Do you know a better way to determine how your travel products are perceived and received by the travelling public?
Dream Stage ~ Planning Stage ~ Preparing Stage ~ Travel Stage ~ Post-Travel Stage
Technology is omnipresent. Surprised? You can’t move from point A to B or even plan how to move most efficiently without tapping into tech. Remember, it’s the 21st century and technology is our friend, not the enemy. At each step of the way it empowers you: to engage with the travelling public; to measure traveller engagement with your brand; to present your travel products, market and distribute them; to test your sales tools; and to manage your reputation.
And the cold, hard, pretty truth is that your clients – existing and prospective – want you there, accessible, credible and reliable.
Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.
The truth about the Dream Stage is there’s probably more misinformation and bravado at work as the traveller only knows she wants to go somewhere fabulous, do something new and exciting, and she’s game for an adventure. She may have an idea of the type of holiday she fancies, but not the specifics. So she’ll talk to other travellers or read what they post online, or she’ll start ploughing through the world wide web. A bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. That’s where you come in.
3 in 4 consumers use search.
And when they’re searching online, it’s beauty that draws them in and holds their attention. We’re inquisitive, tactile creatures who love clicking on links that promise interesting digital experiences – the more visually engaging and interactive, the more fascinated we are. It takes the traveller on a little virtual journey in itself. We need to give our travelling public the colours of imagination to paint that picture of what they may expect to experience if they choose our travel products – our accommodation, activity, day tour, restaurant, spa, train trip, cruise, safari.. Fortunately, there’s no limit to what you can do in terms of video, 360˚virtual tours, etc. with the right technology in hand.
Travel is like a giant blank canvas, and the painting on the canvas is only limited by one’s imagination.
Of course all of this needs to be out there, with a positive review or 5 from satisfied clients alongside it to lend that extra credibility.
People want to know from other travellers that they won’t be taking a blind gamble, that they’d get value for their money.
There’s nothing better than User Generated Content, the latest travel marketing staple. Sorry to break it to you, but one traveller will believe another before she takes your word for it. 🙁
Whether on or offline, people are looking for reassurance and validation of their choices.
So post your best content where travellers hang out, which is in the Social Media space. Pinterest is a good place to catch would-be travellers during their Dream Stage; everywhere else that social sharing occurs is valuable to maintain brand presence.
Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.
The truth about the Planning Stage is it’s the boring and often off-putting part of the journey, your traveller’s least favourite and most stressful stage. Here is where she makes a decision, parts with her precious hard-earned cash and hopes to the heavens she’s made a good investment. She’ll feel somewhat vulnerable unless you’ve given her good reason to trust your brand or you’ve offered her an unbeatable deal. And she would’ve researched this extensively across multiple websites in order to make the most informed decision. Are your specials out there? Are they focused on special interests? How about incentive programmes or loyalty discounts? It’s what the traveller wants.
59% of holiday makers say they compare prices online.
The onus is clearly on you to look at how you’re packaging your offering(s) to make your brand more attractive than the supplier that offers something similar to you. Deloitte research goes on to illustrate that the desire to find the best deal is key, as price dominates the reason for choosing to book with a particular company. Nothing surprising there.
The digital revolution and subsequent changes in consumer behaviour have transformed travel from a seller’s to a buyer’s market.
Do you have your website and mobile apps operating with optimal efficiency (with the user in mind), as extensions of the travel dream?
For that matter, have you implemented any travel apps at all to complement your basic offering?
You already know consumers occupy the digital space, you know they plan and want to do some of their research and planning in it as they go.
Why should anyone choose your product over another in the same area?
Because you offer an application that enables your guest to, let’s say, locate and book excursions nearby or that recommends sites to visit, restaurants to try or some other valuable content. That’s a huge motivation and one way to differentiate your brand from others.
More than 148.3 million people use the Internet to make reservations for their accommodation, tours and activities. That’s more than 57% of all travel reservations each year!
Information is power; so the content you offer travellers also empowers them. If you don’t offer it, someone else definitely will. You want to be the brand that helps travellers navigate this otherwise stressful stage as seamlessly as possible.
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
The truth about the Preparing Stage is that excitement starts to take over from the stress of planning and wondering, ‘Have I chosen well?’
The traveller relies on your expertise for reassurance. You can provide this continuously by offering a digital concierge or assistant service – a nice touch that makes your client feel looked after.
It’s just a hint of the personalised attention that the modern traveller expects to have. Do this well and she’ll do your best marketing for you within her social sharing communities.
Make her life easier by providing her with maps and travel vouchers in digital format, so that she can access them conveniently at any time, anywhere she goes. All she needs to do at this stage is worry about what shoes to pack. And anticipate that delectable prospect of travel.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
The truth about the Travel Stage is that absolutely anything can happen as the traveller arrives, stays and departs. She could have the life-altering experience she’d hoped for (and you can pat yourself on the back for your part in this) or there may be some issues along the way that you deal with to her satisfaction. In my experience, those mishaps sometimes have a way of turning into interesting memories. No one can control everything, which is a good thing because spontaneity does add spice to an experience. Good or bad, she’ll be talking about her journey on social media, both as consumer and traveller, she’ll post selfies and inadvertently make you look good or bad.
That’s precisely where you need to be to do some damage control and address problems as they arise.
This kind of raw client feedback is hugely valuable as it enables you to adjust your offering to fulfill specific needs as value-adds or change how you sell your product.
How wonderful for your traveller knowing she can impact upon tourism with her feedback! Sometimes we are too convinced we know better than our clients what they should enjoy…
Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.
The final truth about the Post-Travel Stage is how vocal the traveller is once she gets home. She may rant and rave about the terrible time she’s had in online reviews. Then you’ll have to go into that same space to manage your reputation and see what you can learn from the experience. It remains important that you invite those reviews because people love talking about their travels. Another opportunity for you to give that personal touch and show your interest.
And if the review is good! Well, that’s a marketing gold star for you – readers will lap it up and your brand becomes instantly more attractive to other travellers. The cycle is complete and you’ve been present in every stage throughout.
Time will pass and the travel stories will be re-told repeatedly. Consumer loyalty is all about repeat business and in travel, we’re no different. A happy traveller will return to the scene of the adventure and bring their friends.
Invest yourself in this travel buyer journey, invest in the traveller, their expectations and desires, their practical concerns and the memories they hope to take from the experience. You’re far more than just the supplier of a travel product – you are companion, trusted guide and magician.