By Alf Saggese, managing director, EMEA, Moxie
It’s a busy time of year for the UK travel industry, with many consumers still fighting off the gloom of the early months to book trips and get that summer sun – whether that’s in the UK or further afield.
This means travel agencies need to be ship shape if they’re to secure customers within this £127 billion a year industry. This is especially the case with their online presence, given 32% of all Britons booked their foreign holidays using an online travel agent in 2015.
But in a fiercely competitive market, travel agents need to showcase the variety and quality of services they offer, in the most engaging manner. One of the best ways to do this is through growing an online presence. Below are just some of the online activities travel agents can consider implementing in order to bring in the business:
Embrace your customers’ digital research
Traditionally, the booking of a holiday in the UK market involved going into the travel agent with an idea of a destination and taking advice from the agent. While that does still happen, consumers are much more savvy and will likely research their holidays in depth before making a purchase.
This includes social media, particularly when consumers see where their friends and family are, according to UK travel company Leger Holidays 17% are guided by this.
As a result, travel agencies need to think about their digital presence, both through profile creation, organic marketing and paid-for advertising that will drive potential customers to their site.
According to a global report by eConsultancy, this is a growing trend, with many agents around the world making significant investment in digital platforms in addition to their websites. But what happens when the customer gets to your site?
Bring holidays to life
Arguably, one of the best ways for any company to sell its products both off and online is through customer endorsement, because it’s real and likely to be unbiased.
It’s particularly the case in the travel industry as customers want to have a realistic idea of what their experience will be like. It can be very useful to include recommendations or build in automated functionality within your site that incorporates feedback from dedicated sites, such as TripAdvisor.
In addition, providing videos wherever possible adds a new dimension. This engaging and compelling content can proactively provide guidance to showcase the best of a holiday, or even help users through more complex matters, like applying for a visa, for example.
As smartphone and tablet use increases rapidly alongside greater access to content, consumers are to their mobile devices more and more to consume this content medium, so make sure the mobile experience is as good as the desktop.
Be relevant to your audience
You can create an interesting and compelling site, but if it doesn’t contain information relevant to your customers and their individual journey how useful is it?
In the way that advertising is becoming more relevant and personalised to individual users, websites have the opportunity to do so too. Becoming contextually relevant can start with a simple step, knowing your customer journeys and making best use of user data on your site.
Customer profiling can be analysed to serve optimal engagement to each customer based on their user defined criteria; information snippets including that all-important video or offers to chat at the appropriate moment in a journey can personalise the experience at critical make-or-break moments.
Offer the best of the in-store experience, online
Showing relevant product may not be enough to complete a transaction. In-store agents play a real part on the high street where they help people to make that significant financial and emotional investment and ultimately to book. Digital agencies can take steps to be just as engaging.
A highly engaging method is to deploy an online ‘concierge’-type service, where customers can easily ask staff more information about a holiday as and when they need.
Ideally, this should be on hand throughout the site – effectively bringing a bricks and mortar shop feel of human and direct engagement to the digital universe. By doing so, visitors are much more likely to turn into customers, because they are getting a personal and timely service that actively engages with them, rather than simply treating them as another generic visitor.
Holiday booking is an emotionally-driven experience. This means it is crucial that the agencies offer customers engaging and personalised experiences that encourage the customers to make that investment, rather than with a competitor.
By creating services online that mirror the ‘high street’ experience, travel agents can effectively personalise themselves to individual customers and secure those sales during the booking season.