April 24, 2018, by Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Utrip
A recent article in Tnooz discussed a very important idea that travel marketers must focus on: engaging the traveler early. Most travel companies have operated under the status quo that marketing does not really begin until the customer comes to them...unfortunately, this strategy no longer holds true.
Trends in digital travel have meant that customers have heaps of information available to them, and the only way to really retain customers is to engage them early.
According to the article, TripAdvisor data found that "73% of all first searches are generic, demonstrating the potential for brands to find clever ways to engage and influence consumers in these early stages."
What this really means is that these travel companies must begin to really hone in on finding travelers early in the planning stage and begin engaging with them right from the start. Instead of waiting for them to go further into the process, be the one to guide them through the process. Here are just a few more reasons why you must engage with travelers early in order to keep them coming back:
1) The destination and the journey matter
Most marketers are so focused on the destinations to which their clients are going, that they forget to really focus on the buyer journey as a whole. The TripAdvisor data previously mentioned demonstrates that travelers are open to influence very early in the travel lifecycle. For travel companies to capitalize on this, they need to try to engage travelers early.
With that in mind, future direction of marketing strategy needs to be revisited and there needs to be a greater focus on understanding and identifying what the earliest point of engagement should be, as well as how to capture that engagement thoughtfully that provides customers with value throughout the travel lifecycle.
2) Builds an unforgettable experience - right from that start
People travel for all sorts of reasons, but the quality of travel is incredibly dependent on the overall experience. Are they returning home satisfied with their trips, their recommendations and really feeling like they had an authentic experience? If not, you have lost your customer in the long run. However, engaging with travelers early in the lifecycle means that you have more time to understand their preferences and tailor their trip with those in mind.
For example, if you are an airline, this means helping passengers make destination decisions before they need to book a flight. Similarly, for hotel brands, this means highlighting and personalizing your properties so that potential guests can make the best decisions for their unique desires. And for cruise lines, this means narrowing your expansive inventory of cruises and on-shore experiences in a personalized manner such that travelers feel a real affinity for your offerings.
3) Drives loyalty and long-term customer retention
Point one and two inevitably draw to the most important part of why travelers should be engaged with early on: loyalty. As a business, your goal is to strive to provide excellent services and have long-term customer retention. But in an increasingly competitive digital landscape - how do you stand out? The simple answer is, by getting in with a customer first.
Focusing early on in the travel lifecycle on the experiences that matter to your customers (and not on the transactions themselves) will drive loyalty. If you provide personal, authentic recommendations right from the start, you have already set yourself apart from the competition, because travelers discern that you know them.
You are not conflating them with other customers, and you are focused on their unique needs. That is the key differentiator. And engaging with them early on helps you sift through preferences, needs and other key points to design a plan that is exactly what they want and proves to them why they made the right decision in choosing you.
Utrip is a data-driven personalization platform and A.I. recommendation engine built specifically for the travel industry. To learn more about how we help travel companies better engage customers to build loyalty, please contact us today.