Forecasts of a downturn in the travel market following the referendum vote to leave the EU in June 2016 have largely been defied.
In 2017, UK residents took 72.8 million trips abroad, up three percent from 2016. The number of UK consumers travelling long-haul has similarly increased by 50 percent. Recent research in the travel market, Starting the Journey: How optimised comms can benefit the travel industry, unveiled an industry that has remained robust despite economic uncertainty.
While demand for travel is increasing, consumer trust is dwindling. With 80 percent of consumers surveyed saying their holiday was nothing like it was advertised, the travel sector needs to address the issue of trust and reassess messaging at large. Focusing on the consumer to better understand their needs and meet their expectations is pivotal.
However, travel brands have greater challenges to tackle: creating a frictionless experience throughout the customer journey, both pre and post-travel; making greater use of the innovative technological tools at their disposal; and balancing tactical and brand communications. These must be at the top of their agenda if they’re to weather the storm.
Optimise comms to meet consumer expectations
Insights from our research show that people are generally happy with travel comms. We surveyed consumers across different life stages: students, home movers, first-time parents, empty nesters, and retirees. The results unveiled inconsistencies in how travel brands communicate with different consumer groups. But with people across all five life stages saying that keeping to their budget is a priority, brands need to ensure cost is not their main differentiator. Offers, discounts, and any comms focusing on financial incentives need to be balanced with brand comms to ensure consumers build an affinity with the brand and ultimately develop an emotional connection to it.
A balance between tactical and brand comms can ensure travel brands can avoid becoming diluted and devolved to relentless price slashing.
As audiences are bound to comprise a range of different groups, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. The more insight you have, the better you can tailor messaging. Our own research unveiled inconsistencies in how brands communicate with different age groups.
For example, 67.2 percent of students surveyed feel unhappy with comms they receive, despite being the most targeted group. Home movers, on the other hand, feel the sector meets their needs, but want travel comes to be entertaining. New parents highlight the need for travel brands to use consumer insights to target their comms more effectively to their audience, while retirees said the holidays they were interested in were not on offer at all.
Tap into tech
Thankfully there are plenty of tools, as well as an abundance of data, available that enable brands to analyse consumer behaviours and identify common motivations and preferences, all of which can help create personas. Personas offer great insight and can assist in creating comms based on the audiences’ varied needs, behaviours and expectations.
Tools such as social listening offer great insights into brand awareness and how consumers feel about your brand, as well as the overall booking experience. Internal CRM systems, meanwhile, provide information on the typical booking cycle and past booking habits. Data from these sources can help brands become savvier in how they target consumers, ensuring the right message reaches them at the right time, something all age groups said they want.
Emphasise CX both pre and post-sale
It isn’t just about timing; the channel through which the message is delivered is just as important. Reaching consumers via a full channel mix is important, but brands need to have a clear idea of every channel’s purpose. In other words, every channel needs to play a part in the overall customer journey. From digital and social media ads, to TV and email advertising, brands need to reassess the entire customer journey, and as consumers now make use of desktops, phones, and tablets on their journey, comms need to be adapted for a multi-screen variant.
Audience splits, thanks to personas, allow for very targeted messaging. Personalisation further allows for hyper-relevant messaging to be deployed. In this vein, comms should be easy to share, to capitalise on consumers’ excitement of posting about researching, planning, and ultimately experiencing their holiday. Everything from video to gif content can serve further boost brand awareness.
As trust is an issue for the sector, each touchpoint across the journey needs to be dealt with transparency, with content personalised for multiple personas to ensure a much more sharable experience. Travel brands ultimately need to increase their understanding of customers’ needs. Reassessing the customer journey end-to-end to provide a frictionless experience should be a priority. Not only will this allow for a more streamlined offering across all channels, it will ensure easier routes to purchase and impact repeat business.