The desire to travel is closely connected to the soul, the stuff of fantasy and spiritual magic. For the traveller it’s almost a shame when reality intervenes with practical needs to address before the fantasy can happen. That’s our domain: the 5 stages the traveller navigates on her buying journey. Let’s rule efficiently, mercifully, generously and wisely.
Understanding the traveller journey
There’s no reason the traveller shouldn’t enjoy every single part of this journey – it is the year of the experience after all and this includes the entire cycle of the travel buyer journey.
Yes, I said ‘cycle’. It used to be a linear process: the traveller would transition from research to transaction to experience, the end.
Her limited access to info came courtesy of traditional media, print and TV ads, brochures.
Her choices were restricted to and guided solely by the travel agent she’d visit or chat to on the phone.
It was a time-consuming affair. That’s the past.
The traveller in Dream Stage
It starts with the desire to travel, triggered perhaps by a lovingly compiled bucket list, a particular interest in a place, an activity, curiosity, or simply the impulse to move. What isn’t immediately clear is where to go and what to do. The traveller starts passively filtering through the noise of news and media clutter for any relevant information.
Where are you in this moment? You could be on Pinterest, plying potential clients with some ideas, not doing a hard sell of your wares.
Last year Pinterest revealed that there are 660 million pins posted to the travel category on their website.
Here’s where scores of travellers post their pictures. Infiltrate this highly influential community – it’s a great place to meet and engage travellers, research, and make suggestions to pique that undecided curiosity.
At this stage she starts exploring her options. For many travellers, the first point of reference is the family and friendship circle. Word-of-mouth is sacred and now extends onto Social Media (SM). That’s apart from looking at every single website available, collecting info, mulling over possibilities, testing the fantasy.
Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did.
They’re looking for inspiration. What they often find is a plethora of options, confusing their minds. They may encounter pricing differences among different websites, budget and schedule challenges, and sometimes conflict with their travel partners. It threatens to turn something fun into pure frustration. They need help untangling that mess. Where are you in this moment?
You should be digitally well-placed to plant ideas in travellers’ minds. If they visit around 20 websites searching for travel content; so optimise your website SEO and manage your online reputation.
Design your website usability with the traveller in mind, to help her reach her goal.
Be present online with relevant content and the right, up-to-date information.
Always elicit client feedback onto your site. Their testimonials equate invaluable brand evangelism. With travellers conducting online research throughout, the burning question is: whose influence is bigger now, the travel industry or other travellers? The cyclical nature of the buyer journey informs us that one traveller’s experience has the power to inspire another’s decision-making.
93% of global travellers say their booking decisions are impacted by online reviews.
Where are you in this moment? You should be monitoring the chatter.
Traveller feedback is pure brand validation. Connect with travellers on various SM platforms – it’s a way to optimise customer service, affirm trust in your brand, and help build brand loyalty.
SM becomes a forum for social advocacy among travellers.
Presentation is everything. Spark that interest with a digital onslaught on the senses. Tech empowers you to tell the story of whatever experience you’re selling with engaging content. The more interactive, the better.
Refer to Beauty-in-focus to remember why visual storytelling matters. Speaking of blogs, why not write your own? Showcase your experiences without making that obvious hard sell. Blog content doubles as an SEO tool to help drive your objectives and impress upon your audience that it’s about them, not your sales figures.
Travellers shop with their eyes; so do what you can to seduce them. Your content needs to be emotive, visually compelling, and mobile friendly. The stats don’t lie.
65% use video when thinking about taking a trip. 48% when thinking about the type of trip to take. 67% consult it when choosing a destination.
Dr Bernd Fauser
The traveller in Planning Stage
After collecting some info, she’s ready to make a decision. Moving from desire to expectation, she wants credible advice on how to make her travel dream a reality. She needs reassurance from a reliable, knowledgeable source within the travel trade (that’s you) and she’s looking for a good deal. She likely started researching on her smartphone and may end up doing her bookings on another device or offline.
According to a recent Google UK study, desktop computers currently dominate the booking stage. Speed matters and consumer sophistication necessitates a low friction online experience.
Research shows that a third of holidaymakers used 2 or more devices when researching their most recent holiday & only 17% of holidaymakers who carried out research on their smartphone also used the device to book.
Where are you in this moment? Invest in a mobile-optimised website for a smooth, seamless user-experience.
What loyalty schemes, rewards systems or ancillary purchases do you facilitate?
With consumers hopping between devices, accessing the same content, data becomes distorted and makes it hard for you to track consumer activity accurately.
Invest in a ‘sign up’ form for your website or mobile apps to glean that precious data. It also helps to develop those personalised extras that make clients feel as if you’re their personal digital assistant.
Keep them browsing your site rather than shopping elsewhere. This is how to address the modern consumer-centric travel model: differentiate yourself from the competition by providing personalisation. Heavy words, simple mind-shift.
The traveller in Preparing Stage
The hardest part done, the traveller can now enjoy the pleasure of anticipation. She’ll share her excitement on SM, even about the purchasing experience to date, and start getting organised. She’ll think about the finer details of her trip, sites to visit, restaurants to try, how to get around.. She’ll worry about practicalities like travel documentation, maps, foreign currency, visas, etc. She’ll want to pre-book wherever possible. Where are you in this moment?
Empower her with research tools to book those in-destination extras. At least provide all her travel info for easy consumption on her mobile device, both on- and offline.
81% of UK smartphone users have looked for local information while travelling. 86% share photos whilst on holiday.
The traveller in Travel Stage
Arrive, stay, depart: this is when the magic happens. Vacillating between stress and excitement, the traveller surrenders herself to your advice and expertise, and evaluates whether the actual experience reflect the planning that went into her trip. There may be problems – she might feel isolated and helpless. Or everything will go smoothly. Either way, she’ll take photos and videos, and post them online.
Where are you in this moment?
If all goes to plan and your planning was spot on, you’ll be present in every fun moment and memory created.
If anything goes wrong, make yourself available to assist.
Also crisis-manage on SM if she goes public with her gripe; she probably will.
That personal touch is now par for the course – if you don’t offer it, she’ll go to someone who will.
The traveller in Post-Travel Stage
Here’s when the traveller reports back on her travels. She may post an online review or mention her highlights (or lowlights) on social sharing sites. If things didn’t go well, she’ll be licking her wounds, thinking what to do differently next time. If she was impressed, she’s likely to follow and support your brand on SM. It’ll be bitter-sweet as she had a great time and she’ll be sorry it’s over. Where are you in this moment?
Invite her to share her experiences on your website or SM pages to give your brand credibility. People love talking about their travels, so show her your interest. Ask her for restaurant recommendations, advice on the stumbling blocks or conveniences of getting from point A to B, and use the info to adjust your offerings.
Acknowledging her further cements your reputation as a travel professional who cares about their clients, and keeps them coming back to you for future business.
We come full circle as her experience helps another potential traveller decide where to go, what to do on their next trip, even how to book it. Her enthusiasm becomes the spark that lights the fire of inspiration for someone else’s journey. Like most travellers, I’m blissfully helpless when the travel bug bites. Your role is just to help scratch that itch, so it never goes away. OP