In 2001, my family took a trip to North America. This trip was dreamt of through TV ads, planned through pamphlets and documented through rolls of film.
After returning home, we had to drop our camera film off to be developed and wait before any of our memories could be shared. Our brand experience from Disney only occurred onsite and in person at the resort - that was it. As consumers, we didn’t have the capacity to instantly share our experiences with those around us beyond a few anecdotes.
Fast forward to 2018 and the travel booking process is much more complex. Rather than a clear and successive path to purchase, travellers now spread their research across devices, screens and touchpoints, leaving behind a fractured trail of bits and bytes for travel brands to pick up on. With smartphones at the ready, customers can research any time, any place and compare offers. The process is much more immediate and much more unpredictable.
To address this shift in consumer behaviour, I recently spoke at ABTOT’s travel seminar on ‘how to effectively market to today’s travel consumer’. During my presentation, I covered three key issues that I believe have the biggest impact on modern travel marketing:
To begin, it’s imperative to recognise that today’s consumer journey is digitally-disrupted.
Of course, it would be great if it was as simple as a consumer seeing your newspaper ad, calling immediately and converting on the spot. Unfortunately, this simply does not happen.
Digital as a channel has shifted the balance of power and put us, the consumers, in control. We are now much more comfortable saying ‘no’ if we don’t feel the package proposed is of good value, because it is so easy to pick up our smartphones and find a multitude of alternatives in a matter of minutes. In fact, as illustrated by Think With Google, one person can have hundreds of interactions with brands whilst in the researching stage. In one case, a woman named Amy did 34 searches, watched 5 videos, and visited 380 web pages when planning a single trip to Disney World.
The newly evolved customer journey also places much more importance on the ‘advocacy’ stage. As I pointed out earlier, gone are the days when we used to develop photos and display them in hardback albums; thanks to the proliferation of social media, we are now able to upload holiday snaps at the touch of a button. Expedia recently found that 40% of travellers post on social media following a return from holiday, demonstrating the importance modern travel consumers place on sharing.
Interestingly, this surge in social exchange also offers marketers a wealth of opportunity in the dreaming stage of the purchase journey. Using carefully placed native advertising, travel brands can inspire potential customers to consider their destination or getaway deal without overtly selling.
Another Think With Google study revealed that over 40% of travellers bounce back and forth between dreaming about and planning their next trip, zooming in on the details for one destination and then zooming out to reconsider all other options.
This taps into what they refer to as ‘micro-moments’, with four key mindsets relating specifically to the travel industry. These micro-moments are critical touchpoints within today’s consumer journey and, when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey begins and ends - dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing.
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, recently said, “short-termism is the biggest threat to marketers” - but what exactly is short-termism?
Whilst the rise of digital media has put consumers in power, it has also created an ‘addiction’ to immediate results amongst marketers. The knock-on effect of this is a shift in marketing spend towards channels that provide instant gratification. As a result, most marketers tend to invest more heavily in short, sharp bursts of sales-focused activity that allows them to hit short-term targets at the expense of long-term brand-building campaigns. This is short-termism in action.
There is nothing wrong with short-term sales activation - in fact, it is very efficient in driving sales. However, tactics like this should not wholly replace vital brand-building activity. To facilitate business growth, the perfect middle ground is to find a 60:40 balance between long-term brand building and short-term sales campaigns.
Ultimately, as marketers, changing consumer behaviour must bring about a change in our approach. Looking ahead, travel organisations must ensure that they are incorporating different variations of the purchase journey into media planning, tapping into travellers’ micro-moments using the correct channels. By pairing selective planning with a combination of long and short-term marketing strategies, brands will be in the perfect position to inspire, captivate and – most importantly - convert.
Written by Accord Planning Director, Jasman Ahmad.
Accord is an award-winning integrated marketing agency with almost 30 years’ experience in the travel sector. Our campaign teams provide an integrated approach to planning, buying, tracking, analysis and optimisation - using cutting-edge tools - which enable them to explore, identify and propose the most appropriate advertising platforms, tailored to any budget. To learn more, contact us today.