Where? What? How much? 3 Questions the traveller poses when embarking on the travel buyer journey.. yet not quite that simple with travellers confronted by a daunting array of choices. First consider trends, politics, the occasional viral outbreak or natural disaster, cost vs budget, satisfying everyone in the travel party – choosing can be exhausting work! A trusted companion on this journey takes a big burden off the shoulders.
The travel buyer journey in 5 stages
It’s our job to lessen that burden, replace the shimmer of glamour that’s sometimes lost during the hard work of selecting and booking travel. Studies on the subject suggest 5 stages at which travel suppliers must and can engage with clients. Your response to your client’s needs during these stages will depend on how well you understand what travellers experience in each stage and your willingness to engage.
All you’ve got to do is decide to go & the hardest part is over.
Technology is omnipresent. There’s no moving from point A to B or factoring in efficiency without tapping into tech. Fortunately, it’s the 21st century and tech is our friend, not the enemy. It empowers you through each step: to engage with the travelling public; to measure engagement with your brand; to present, market and distribute your products; to test your sales tools; and to manage your reputation.
The cold, hard truth is that your clients – existing and prospective – want you there, accessible, credible and reliable.
There’s probably more misinformation and bravado at work here 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 no specifics.
She’ll talk to other travellers or read their online posts, ploughing through the world wide web for clues. A bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.
That’s your cue.
3 in 4 consumers use search.
As they search online, beauty first draws them in and holds their attention. We’re an inquisitive, tactile species that loves clicking on links promising interesting digital experiences. The more visually engaging and interactive, the more fascinated we are. It takes the traveller on a little virtual journey. Paint a picture of what they may expect to experience if they choose your products – accommodation, activity, restaurant, spa, train trip, cruise, safari.. Fortunately, the possibilities are endless with the right technology, video, 360˚virtual tours, etc. in hand.
Expose all this content alongside some positive reviews from satisfied clients for extra credibility. People want to know from their peers that they’re getting value for money, and not taking a blind gamble. There’s nothing better for that than UGC, new travel marketing staple. Sorry to break it to you, but one traveller will believe another before she takes the word of an unknown brand.😕
Whether on or offline, people are looking for reassurance & validation of their choices.
So post your best content where travellers hang out on Social Media (SM). Pinterest is a good place to catch would-be travellers in the Dream Stage.
This boring and often off-putting stage is the traveller’s least favourite and most stressful part of the journey. Here’s where she makes a decision, parts with her hard-earned cash and hopes she’s made a good investment. She’ll feel vulnerable unless you’ve given her reason to trust your brand or offered her an unbeatable deal.
By now she’s researched this trip extensively to make the most informed decision. Are your specials visible and focused on special interests? How about incentive programmes or loyalty discounts? Travellers want those.
59% of holiday makers say they compare prices online.
Consider how you package your offering(s): does it make your brand more attractive than suppliers offering products similar to yours?
Deloitte research goes on to illustrate the significance of a great deal, as price dominates the reasons for choosing to book a particular product. No surprise there.
Next your website must be optimised for efficiency, mindful of the user-experience.
Knowing that consumers do research and planning in the digital space, do you complement your basic offering with any useful apps?
Why should anyone consider your product over another in the same area?
Maybe because you enable guests to locate and book excursions in-destination, or you recommend sites and restaurants to try, and other valuable content. Content is a huge selling point and a simple way to differentiate your brand.
Information is power; and so your content empowers travellers. Be that brand that helps them navigate an otherwise stressful stage as seamlessly as possible.
More than 148.3 million people use the Internet to make reservations for their accommodation, tours & activities, more than 57% of all travel reservations each year!
Excitement starts taking over from the stress of planning and wondering, ‘Have I chosen well?’. The client relies on your expertise for reassurance – provide this continuously through a digital concierge or assistant service and make her feel looked after.
It’s just a hint of the personalised detail modern travellers expect you to pay attention to.
Do this well and she’ll evangelise your brand within her social sharing communities.
Convenient access at any time to maps and travel vouchers makes travel easier for her.
All she should worry about is what shoes to pack. And anticipate the delectable prospect of travel.
Anything can happen as the traveller arrives, stays and departs. She could have the life-altering experience of her dreams (pat on the back for your part in this!) or there may be some issues along the way. No one can control everything, but mishaps sometimes turn into interesting memories.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
Good or bad, she’ll talk about her journey on SM, post selfies and comments that will either make you look good or bad. That’s where you must be to do damage control and address problems as they arise. Raw client feedback can be hugely valuable.
It enables you to adjust your offering to fulfill specific needs as value-adds or change how you sell your product.
How awesome for your client to know her feedback is that powerful! Sometimes we’re too convinced we know better than our clients what they should enjoy…
Once back home, she can get quite vocal, potentially ranting online about the terrible time she’s had. That calls for intervention into that space to manage your reputation and see what you can learn from the experience. It’s important to invite feedback because people love talking about their travels – another opportunity to add that personal touch and show your interest.
A good review is a marketing gold star for you – readers will lap it up. Your brand will become instantly more attractive to other travellers. 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.
This completes the journey with yourself present at each stage. Investing in the travel buyer journey becomes an investment in your clients, their expectations and desires, their practical concerns and the memories they hope to take from the experience. After all you’re more than a product supplier – you’re travel companion, trusted guide and magician.