By Damon Mangos, executive creative director of Delete
A holiday is often the single biggest financial outlay a family or a couple will make in a year, beyond the exceptions of a house or car – so it’s important that they get it right.
When people are making this purchase they are looking to buy more than just a ‘holiday,’ they are looking to buy the ‘perfect’ holiday.
While travel industry advances in digital technology have insurmountably improved the way we buy these holidays, it has also stripped away some of the reasons we travel in the first place – the curiosity, the anticipation, the excitement. The experience.
From a digital agency perspective, what are the opportunities for travel companies in a fast moving digital media market, today and beyond?
Essentially, all travel brands sell very similar things – flights, hotels and holiday packages, plus all the extras.
There is not a lot to distinguish them other than their brand and customer service. But to the customer a holiday is always more that the sum of these parts. It’s an experience – a personal experience.
This is the key opportunity for distinction. It’s building on this emotional and aspirational state of the audience in their moments of consideration, by delivering richer travel focused experiences throughout the digital customer lifecycle steps when booking a holiday – both in media (campaigns) and onsite (throughout the booking process).
So how do companies create digital experiences that celebrate travel and build brand value with customers? Add a much-needed brand personality and inspiration led content layer to what is currently a more functional process.
This layer is not just more brand advertising or offers – it’s about adding real value around the buying process, through content, relationship and functionality that supports and celebrates the high value the audience place on getting this important step right.
It all starts with ‘where to go?’ For many holiday makers it’s a return trip to a familiar place, others are seeking new experiences in new places.
Travel agents of old would be a ‘fountain of knowledge’ and inspiration, helping to make informed decisions and giving the confidence to book somewhere new and more exotic.
How does a more digital travel industry inspire? Reading endless customer reviews creates comfort and dread in equal measure. So how do we create this sense of exploration again?
The ‘Through a Different Lens’ city guide campaign we created for Expedia last year, was a piece of inspiration led content marketing – seeking to throw new light and angles on some of the world’s best city destinations and move Expedia from a booking partner into an inspiration partner.
Each guide had high content creation demands but they celebrated travel and shared insider views of each destination, accompanied by some beautiful photography and interactivity. Expedia were able to show themselves as a brand committed to the idea of travel experience as a collaborator, rather than just a fulfilment partner.
After inspiration comes the actual process we all go through when booking a holiday online – the long and often stressful road to actually clicking the ‘buy’ button.
Although it’s improving, a lot of existing travel providers still have a very ‘IT infrastructure’ led approach to selling travel online. It’s presented as a mechanical and bland process with boxes to check, drop downs… – to cut it short – it’s often one of the most frustrating parts of the holiday (just behind queuing at passport control with two small kids after a long flight).
Crafting this buying process has moved on immeasurably and is now a rich area for valued added brand experience, functionality and content around destination and decision playback.
In this modern digital age everything is accessible – location image feeds, social content, weather data, maps plotted with detailed views of hotels and villas to validate claims of proximity to beaches and restaurants etc.
Also there is added organic search value, generated through a richer content approach. Social media now plays a big part in our travel lives – both during and post holiday – allowing us to share our travel experiences with our digital community.
This represents a value exchange for the audience. Customers’ time can be rewarded with personalised output – whether it’s an insider city itinerary or a unique data view of their travel lives.
The big opportunity in digital for travel companies, is to invest in crafting more of a experience layer throughout all their customer touch points around the brand’s vision of travel.
Something that will standout from their competitors as someone who cares as much about the process of booking a holiday as the customer feels about taking it.