Challenges Facing Travel Marketers Online in 2017.

challenges-travel

Recently, whilst at an awards ceremony for travel marketing, a client of ours told me that the travel industry is for “lazy marketers”. In other words, travel is a fun product that sells itself.

Sure, if you compare selling once-in-a-lifetime experiences to selling washing up liquid then yes, it’s probably a tad more exciting… depending on who you are.

But that’s not to say travel marketing doesn’t come with its own set of challenges. It’s a fast-evolving industry with increasing competition, fluctuating trends and a particular vulnerability for disruption in many shapes and sizes, from political instability to start-ups using brand new technologies. And that means there is plenty of room for growth and rewards for innovation.

Here’s three challenges we are currently encountering with our own travel clients.

Challenge 1: Tackling the Omni-Channel Experience

There is a slide we often use in presentations at Sagittarius that does a great job of summarising the somewhat disseminated path a consumer takes to purchase, passing through the various digital and offline touch points.

touchpoints

Google recently coined the term “micro-moments” to describe the various touch points and ways we consume content online. For any marketer, it is becoming an increasing effort to effectively handle the growing number of channels and ways that a consumer can interact with a brand. The rise of mobile devices has fractured the traditional consumer journey, leaving a somewhat disseminated path to purchase and an abundance of ways to get there. In order to be successful, we need to understand how to reach the consumer across the many touch points as they continue along their decision-making process.

For travel marketers, this omni-channel challenge is even more of a reality. Mobile adaptation in travel has been particularly high compared with other industries, with nearly a third of ecommerce transactions now on mobile. Adding to this, a wealth of new technologies has erupted, including automated bots, voice search and virtual reality. Despite the fact these technologies have the potential to help businesses remove pain points from travel, many brands have been slow in adoption.

Virtual reality is a big topic but relatively slow in adaptation despite its huge potentials. Our client Contiki is an exception, using three hour virtual trips to allow potential travellers to participate in five different experiences around the world. You can read about how travel companies have been using VR in their marketing campaigns in my previous blog and our Digital Exec Paul also explores the usage of VR in travel here.

So what’s the solution? Google’s advice is a good start: be there and be useful. Take account of all the “moments” most important to your consumer, understand their needs in that moment and use context to deliver the right experience.

Challenge 2: Personalisation

Personalisation is a big topic in travel right now, and in two ways. Firstly, there is a higher demand for personalised experiences; tailor-made travel is no longer exclusive to the luxury end of the market and has become a lot more accessible. Travellers want something exclusive that they can boast about at dinner parties with their friends, and the rapid growth of disruptors such as AirBNB offering authentic, personal experiences is forcing travel operators to look beyond their traditional offerings.

The second meaning is of course personalisation in marketing - particularly online, where consumers now expect a seamless booking experience based on their own individual needs. There’s still not a large amount of travel businesses doing personalisation well but those that do should see a significant uplift in conversion rate, as we’ve seen with our own clients.

Our advice is to start small, identify one or two audiences to personalise for and keep it simple. Watch Paul’s video on getting started.

Challenge 3: The rise of the OTAs

Lastly, it would be difficult to write about challenges in travel marketing and ignore the shift from the traditional bricks and mortar travel agencies to the online beasts like Booking.com, Expedia and Kayak. For travel brands, this may result in less investment in “on the ground” sales teams and more time spent ensuring product information is easily accessible via online feeds.

I’ve worked with many businesses who have found themselves considering the balance between working with the Online Travel Agents and encouraging more direct, commission-free bookings. The difficulty is that they don’t often have the OTAs’ big budgets to improve their website’s user experience, tackle conversion rate optimisation or create fancy mobile apps. And strict rate parity contracts prevent them from offering their products for cheaper on their own websites.

bookingdotcom

The majority of travel operators and accommodation businesses also cannot compete in search results against the likes of Priceline (one of Google’s biggest advertisers and owners of Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda) and Expedia. That’s not to mention Google itself, which is becoming increasingly like an OTA as time goes on.

auckland-hotels-google

Therefore, the best chance many businesses have to encourage direct bookings is to focus on repeat customers, use social channels and employ direct marketing techniques such as email. Clever remarketing campaigns are another good way to encourage users away from the OTAs and back onto a brand’s own website.

As a final thought, I’ve written about “challenges” in travel marketing but really the above should be considered as “opportunities”. The theory posed by my client, whether we are lazy marketers, comes down to ultimately how we grasp these opportunities. The travel industry is often regarded as one of the most innovative, and we see this every day working with our own clients.

So let’s not be lazy. After all, we have a reputation to maintain.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
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Sagittarius
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Sagittarius

05 May 2017 - 7 minute read
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