NB: This is a guest article by Maria Wasing, vice president of marketing in Europe at EPiServer.
Lots of talk recently around how consumers are ploughing through various stages of the search, shopping and experiencing of travel products.
But how does this play out for online travel brands seeking to position themselves in as many of those touchpoints as possible?
Unfortunately travel is one of the most competitive industries in the online space, so a good understanding of the travel booking experience is vital for improving the user journey on a site in order to capture interests, serve better content and increase sales.
A good starting point is to look at the key areas of the travel journey so you can break down your online strategy.
In the planning stage, you need to drive customers to your site and engage them. Site structure and content should be optimised to improve traffic from organic search but, before investing heavily, consider whether more traffic is really what you need.
Transactional travel sites should ideally convert at least two to five percent of web traffic. If youâ€™re not achieving this you may be wasting money on paid media (search and display) and should instead think about optimising site content and user experience.
Travel organisations should also tap into the power of social media. Online reviews, ratings and recommendations play an increasingly important role in the decision-making process and can help build trust.
The boundaries between social media and your own digital assets are gradually dissolving, which means that you need to provide the user with a seamless experience if they are channel-hopping.
Customers now expect you to engage with them on their terms so, rather than social-spamming fans when running a Facebook promotion campaign, make use of available customer information from their social profiles to personalise offers and improve the experience
In fact, personalisation can have a major impact on conversions throughout the user journey. Collating user information is a priceless tool for marketers, as this information can then be used to increase sales through personalised targeting.
Implicit data such as user location can be used to tailor suggested departure airport, whilst explicit personalisation, based on past purchases and searches for example, can be employed once youâ€™ve been able to capture who they are.
A personalised customer experience, where the site adapts to the visitor, – can give them confidence that you can deliver what they are looking for.
Once youâ€™ve succeeded in converting visitors, what’s next? Today’s customers are presented with an almost bewildering range of possibilities for their travel bookings (for example flight-only, packaged, or all inclusive options).
With every choice or click, customers can either move closer to purchase or further away so itâ€™s vital to stay in regular touch with the customer whether they’ve purchased or not, in a way that feels relevant and personal.
Once theyâ€™ve purchased a holiday or booked a hotel, you can use what you know about them to up-sell and cross-sell products and services (think flight upgrade, travel insurance, hotel transfer, car hire, spa visit and excursion) that you know will be relevant to them.
Not only will this increase your revenue, but it will also help to enhance the travel experience and build customer loyalty over time.
Departure and trip
The opportunities donâ€™t end at departure. According to a TripAdvisor report, nearly half of British travellers have used their mobile devices to plan and research their trip once they’ve arrived at their destination.
The most common reasons were to look for local restaurants and attractions and to check flight status.
Mobile apps or mobile sites should be optimised and context/location driven, able to provide useful information such as flight status, gate number, local map and attractions, and currency exchange rates.
Customers look for information that will add value while they are travelling, so make sure you have a good understanding of their needs before embarking on a mobile project.
Return and next trip
Companies are missing a trick if they donâ€™t follow up with post-trip customer engagement. Instead of constantly chasing new customers, get existing customers into the loyalty loop by understanding their needs.
Ask for feedback on how their trip went; this gives you the chance to resolve any issues before they post a bad review and provides information you can use to help build a travel profile for individual customers and tailor offerings for the next trip based on their preference and interests.
Regardless of whether your customers interact with you on your main site, the mobile version, a campaign microsite or on social media, they should instantly and unambiguously recognise that it’s you and each channel should add value to their overall travel experience.
NB:Â This is a guest article by Maria Wasing, vice president of marketing in Europe atÂ EPiServer.