Mike Austin, chief executive and co-founder of Fresh Relevance, explores how travel marketers can drive sales all year round
The end of summer can bring a lapse in sales for travel companies – however it can also be an opportunity for marketers to look at how they are going to continue success in the months ahead. When researching and purchasing a holiday, consumers have never had so much choice. So providing relevant offers and trust-building signals is essential to securing repeat bookings.
Slashing prices and upping reward programmes are just two examples of how travel companies are trying to retain customers in this competitive market. In recent months, we’ve seen the likes of Marriott, Virgin America, United Airlines and Hard Rock announcing upgrades to their reward programmes in a bid to keep their customers returning.
Yet, there are other powerful marketing tactics to turn one-time customers into returning bookers that don’t come with the negative impact on profits that excessive discounting and incentivising can have. Effective cross-channel tactics include geotargeting, a joined up booking abandonment strategy and social proof. As such, we’ve put together suggestions on how to keep holidaymakers coming back.
Convert more customers with geotargeting
Considering the booker’s location is a vital factor for making marketing more relevant. Typically, a holidaymaker will prefer offers from the airport or train station that is close to their home and easy to reach. Using geotargeting, travel brands can easily leverage the geolocation of the website visitor or newsletter subscriber and feature travel recommendations for relevant origins.
Similarly, dynamic and geotargeted marketing content, such as website or email banners, can be geared towards the current weather or the weather forecast at the promoted destination. Marketers also can reference the weather at the customer’s current location to provide them with some inspiration for their next holiday. For example, if it’s raining outside, travel companies can share deals of locations that are sunny and trending right now. Not only does this help in converting browsers into bookers, it also taps into their fear of missing out.
Build trust with social proof across channels
People like to feel part of a tribe and social proof tactics harness this psychological phenomenon where people reference the behaviour of others to guide their own actions. Whether it’s the opinion of fellow travellers or snapshots of the holiday in question, it’s an established tactic for travel brands to drive conversions online.
Yet, it is still surprisingly under-utilised in email marketing. User-generated content, such as rating stars, reviews and customer photos, can be pulled into messages in real-time. This adds authenticity to destinations and helps customers decide whether a location is suited to them. For example, reviews from other parents on a resort labelled as ‘family friendly’ can help bookers decide if the hotel is likely able to live up to their expectations. Even if a visitor isn’t ready to make a purchase just yet, this could generate a micro conversion by inspiring them to follow a brand’s social media channels.
What’s more, social proof is an effective way in building trust with the customer. Research found that nearly two thirds (61%) of UK consumers base their purchase considerations on detailed reviews from other customers and 56% on product star ratings.
Make it easy for shoppers to pick up where they left off
During the decision process, holidaymakers will switch between different travel companies, review platforms, channels and devices, researching and comparing different offers. The more guidance marketers can offer shoppers to continue their booking journey where they left off, the higher the stakes to secure the sale.
Page and form abandonment doesn’t have to give marketers a headache but should be seen as an opportunity to be helpful in their marketing. An exit intent pop-up that is triggered when a shopper is about to leave the website, offering to send an email summary of the viewed deals, is a great service offering and opens marketers an additional channel to re-engage the customer. By sending browse and form abandonment emails, they can bring shoppers back to the booking process and inspire them with other deals they might like.
For a truly one-to-one customer experience, travel companies should personalise the homepage with offers based on viewed and previously booked holiday destinations, types of holidays and deals and recommend holidays that similar shoppers have booked. And for a seamlessly joined up experience, why not display a pop-up with the last viewed property when the shopper returns to the website to make it easy for them to continue their path to purchase.
Booking a holiday can be an expensive and time-consuming task, so making the booking experience as convenient and seamless as possible is essential in converting those one-time bookers into loyal customers. By offering a tailored experience, enhanced with a pinch of social proof, travel brands can help nudge customers towards their next booking.