By Andy Mallinson, EMEA Managing Director and chief marketing officer at Stackla
It only takes a few rays of sunshine in the UK to spur us into thinking about our own next holiday. This means it’s a critical time for travel brands; they need to engage with customers in increasingly effective and creative ways, and prove that their holiday offering is the most tantalising.
The majority of travel brands will continue to target their audience via traditional marketing campaigns, be it online and print advertorials, glistening holiday brochures, or via travel agents.
But given customers are becoming increasingly adept at tuning out irrelevant marketing material, travel brands have to think a little more carefully about how to effectively inspire them.
Over the last few years, user-generated content (content developed by real customers themselves) has proved itself to be a powerful and influential medium within the travel industry.
Travellers are themselves one of the most powerful selling tools out there; after all, we place significantly more trust in the authentic insights and experiences of our peers than we do in direct marketing from brands.
Nothing encourages us to get up off our sofa and begin researching our own trip more than seeing Facebook or Instagram photos of friends enjoying a sensational sunset behind Machu Pichu, or a platter of fruits de mer by azure seas.
According to a report at the end of 2014, Travel Supermarket revealed the sharp incline of holidaymakers who now look to sites like Twitter for recommendations on destinations and resorts to visit.
The research found that not only were two holiday spots in Morocco the most popular destinations for UK travellers, they were also the favourite trending “holiday” words on Twitter. The modern traveller clearly seeks out peer recommendation on social platforms, and in high enough numbers to influence booking figures.
Contiki – a youth tour operator – is one travel company that has paid attention to this trend. Understanding the value of user-generated content, the brand has built up multiple digital campaigns solely around it.
Using Stackla, Contiki first aggregated visually appealing digital content which its travellers had shared on social platforms. This content ranged from real-time tweets, images, to video, all taken by real and recent Contiki customers.
All proved powerful collateral when it came to engaging other potential.
But this strategy isn’t purely an online one. Contiki has merged its digital content with the physical world, by firstly developing customers’ travel selfies and displaying them on branded coaches, as well as showcasing customer feedback from social media within the brand’s hard-copy brochures.
This dual approach has allowed Contiki to organically tell its brand story through the experiences of its own customers and influencers, which in turn has increased its authenticity as brand.
P&O is another brand that has taken inspiration from its ever-increasing community of social media followers. The cruise operator recently developed a ‘Cruise Wall’ online, as part of its ATL campaign to engage with a new generation of potential cruisers.
The Cruise Wall showcases snaps from younger P&O travellers, offering a transparent visualisation of the fun, varied and youth-friendly activities which cruise holidays offer.
Traditionally, the cruise sector has been dominated by the over- 60s market, but by harnessing the power of social, P&O has allowed younger travellers to be engaged by their own peers, and research potential cruise holiday for themselves.
It’s clear from these examples that travel companies have an enormous amount of potential in 2015, particularly when combining their physical and digital strategies to appeal to the widest possible market.
And now, with image led social media sites such as Instagram enabling consumers to purchase at the click of an image, the number of conversions that come directly through social media is only going to increase.