Differentiation Through Disruption.



It’s been 20 years since lastminute.com burst on to the scene and started to shift the travel industry landscape – and frankly it hasn’t stopped moving since.

Comparison style sites drive the price war in travel, but how can brands enhance and optimise their experience with newer tech to fight back and cut through the noise? What trends should we be paying attention to?

As a sector it’s perhaps one of the most user-dependent out there. A highly emotive and significant purchase that’s time dependent, extremely personal and has to have quality assurance baked-in.

It’s no surprise then that we demand such a smooth experience when booking travel. There is a lot that can go wrong in the customer’s eyes so trust is the biggest factor. Among the technological advances that crop up along the researching and purchasing journey, it’s the ones that feed that trust that will win the day. As customers want greater control over their travel experiences they’ll increasingly cut out the middlemen, want more granular organisation of activity during the trip and expect greater choice in accommodation.

The aggregators won’t go away. Although there is huge competition between the likes of Airbnb and Expedia, the market is so big that it’s still considered to be largely untapped. This fertile ground is pushing innovation through the roof and the experience economy is a key driver.

Despite ongoing innovation, customers are still keen to cut out the middlemen. This is where the ‘gatekeepers’ step in and leverage a channel they already know the user is dedicated to and familiar with. If a particular platform like Facebook can integrate services and become your tool for recommendations and related content, then it’s not long before you can rely on bot-powered messenger conversations that offer brand experience, customer service and payment interactions.

The analysis of your sentiment within social posts could be enough to steer you toward the correct support service. This connection with the big social players is likely one of the biggest factors in the predictions that 70% of travel will be booked via mobile by 2020.

Another disruption is happening within the concierge space, with sector maturity that will include a high-quality conversational interface via voice. You can already use voice to book travel through a handful of outlets connected to ‘gatekeepers’ like Amazon, but the choice is limited. The tipping point will come once the market opens up and the breadth of response and variety of offers for such an important purchase decision is abundant. Once the quality, relevance and speed is there then people will love that AI is effectively bringing back the traditional travel agent role but powered by big data and pre-qualified personalisation.

The true AI concierge takes the complexity and hassle out of travel. By monitoring other interaction points it will constantly learn what recommendations are most attractive and relevant and calculate how to match those to offers and inventory in real-time via seamless voice response.

The innovations and trends themselves don’t guarantee success if pushed forward in isolation. The total experience must flow and feel consistent in its style and stay true to the brand’s personality. There are lots of areas to play in but it will be how they are layered and connect that will separate the winner from the losers.

Take interesting developments in the content space as an example. Mixed reality (MR) that blends VR and AR is taking the layered experience to new levels. It’s relatively easy to integrate the ability to make me feel like I’m on the beach in St Kitts and that may well be all the push I need to buy that luxury break.

It’s when this approach sets the standard that more traditional businesses get disrupted. Very soon not being able to virtually stroll around my Airbnb holiday let of choice will become a deal-breaker. We should expect highly targeted programmatic advertising to stretch that brand experience out toward us to begin the first stage of refinement. If the accessible data is rich enough to know you regularly choose the same destination, have a dog or always book the in-flight vegetarian meal option then that should hugely influence the earliest interactions.

But here lies the rub. Customers’ expectations are high. We now embrace the idea of useful technology before brands can bring it to market. Everything from check-in and passporting processes to complex itinerary building have been revolutionised over the last decade and we want more of the good stuff. I’ve personally been to a UK holiday village nearly 20 times and no part of the customer experience acknowledges my repeat custom and the depth of data they have on me. They are happy to follow me with adverts that aren’t relevant and satisfied treating me like a stranger on their website. They give me wearable tech to unlock my cabin and changing room locker but fail to connect that to activity and health data while inside the resort. They make no attempt to improve my stay, discount my activities or up-sell me into bigger accommodation.

If you’re a travel brand then fix this stuff first.

Travel brands need to get the basics right as a foundation and build upon that with laser focused customer-centricity. This is the ultimate trust-builder and is the best chance of disruption proofing while harnessing data and adopting appropriate new technology – only where it enriches the experience.

Speak to one of our consultants today and find out how we can support your travel brand's journey to success, call us on 01233 467800 or email us via hello@sagittarius.agency

This blog was originally featured via The Drum on 24th October 2018.

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?

Thumbnail Ian MacArthur
Ian MacArthur
Chief Experience Officer
Ian is a highly experienced and award-winning creative strategist specialising in bringing brands closer to their audiences through digital marketing transformation and optimisation. With over 26 years’ experience and well over 10,000 projects under his belt, Ian is proud to have worked with some of the world’s most impressive brands, helping them solve business problems and approach challenges differently.

Ian heads up the experience optimisation (XO) division at Sagittarius, working with all teams and clients across the business and globe.
Thumbnail Ian MacArthur

Ian MacArthur

05 Nov 2018 - 7 minute read
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