How to make dreams come true for travel customers in 2019

As many of you know, we are fast approaching the peak period for the travel industry. A huge 78% of people who travel abroad book their holiday in January (Google) and on average we are going on holiday 3.5 times a year. So how can you persuade a customer to consider you? First you must understand the 3 key stages of the customer journey.

3 stages to a travel customer’s journey

Although the customer journey has become more fragmented over the past few years, there are still 3 clear stages of the customer journey. We’re going to take you through each of these stages and explain how to reach your audience at each point, beginning this week with the ‘dream’ stage.

There are 3 key stages to the customer journey which are:

  • Dream – Search results have revealed this particular stage peaks pre-Christmas. Consumers are spending time online to get inspiration and explore their options to take their next holiday, sharing and comparing locations, logistics and prices, to then finally make a decision
  • Plan – Between Christmas and New Year, consumers are researching their travel details: flights, accommodation and also planning any activities to book on their trip
  • Book – From January onwards, the booking stage partakes in the most intent driven purchasing decisions, where consumers are looking to book each element of their holiday

Each customer has multiple touch points throughout their journey, upwards of 1,000 different interactions over a 3-4 month duration. These touch points can range from hundreds of searches on Google, images, maps, social media location and hashtags, to name only a few. It’s therefore essential to understand the significance of each of these touch points and how digital marketing plays an important role in accessing customers at each stage.

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams

So how can you make those dreams a reality for your customers?…

What exactly is the ‘dream’ stage?

This stage takes place pre Christmas and is already taking place for many as consumers are planning their next trip way in advance these days, so the earlier you try to capture this audience the better. On average in the UK it can take 3.7 months to pick a destination, 2.7 months to book flights and 2 months to book a hotel. – (Google)

Over 90% of consumers know what type of holiday they want, but what they’re unsure about is where that destination is exactly. Experience, not price, drives early travel plans. Brands can help consumers by serving relevant content to help narrow down their choices. Dreamers really value this: 80% of travellers said that such informative content from travel brands can influence their decision.

So how can you reach that audience who are looking for inspiration to travel?

YouTube

Travel content consumption is growing. Over +116% YOY (Google) of users are consuming travel-related content on YouTube

With over one billion users, equivalent to almost one-third of the internet, YouTube content dominates the dream stage, inspiring users as they search for video that focuses on destinations, points of interest and providing general travel ideas – at least 77% of searches are performed looking for this type of material, with at least 2 out of 3 users viewing online video when they’re thinking about a trip. (Google)

Bearing all of this mind, allocating your marketing budget to YouTube ads is a no-brainer, but targeting the right audience is essential! Here’s a handful of key targeting options to ensure you’re reaching your audience:

  • Keywords – use contextual targeting to accurately reach those searching for travel content
  • Topics – connect with engaged travel lovers defined by their online behaviours
  • Affinity – reach potential customers by targeting travel lovers based on their online behaviours
  • In-market – access those who are looking to travel
  • Customer match – use your CRM data to target existing customers and create similar audience lists

Then, not to forget, your ad creative is critical to the success of your campaign. Ensure you have high quality, engaging video content to capture the attention of your audience. Video has the potential to showcase a destination and activities to its full potential, giving the viewer a real taste of what they can expect, heavily influencing their decision.

Social media

It’s fair to say that social platforms, particularly Instagram, play a huge role in inspiring people in travel destinations. Whether it’s accounts users follow, hashtags, places they search and explore, or the stories they watch, it certainly all plays a key role as part of their destination decision making. Many believe Millennials pick their destination based on how ‘insta-friendly’ it looks. See what our CEO, Oli has to say about this insight.

Although social media plays such an important role, it can often be overlooked by many companies, because it aids the dream stage of the customer journey rather than equating to direct conversions in that precise moment.

Social platforms provide companies with a great opportunity to build a following, inspire and capture the early dreamers. It’s important that the correct hashtags and check-ins are used, so when a customer is in the research phase their images will appear and customers can get an insight into other travellers’ experience with you. As a result, customers trust the imagery shared by your paying customers, increasing the perception of your brand as a desired travel outlet. By capturing the audience at the dream stage and providing them with the information and imagery at this stage, it may result in the customer booking with the agent at a later date.

ABTA shared a 2018 outlook which states that British holidaymakers are keen to experience new things, 27% are planning to visit a country that they have never been to and a third want to visit a new city or resort.

Instagram is the perfect platform to influence this as imagery and destination check in on the platform allows the user to gain a ‘real life’ insight into what travel and accommodation opportunities there are.

Following on from this it’s important that the images used are real and really showcase the travel experience and the sensory experiences you gain from visiting visit. It’s not just about the hotel and pool, it’s also about the culture, food, what to do, nature – all of these areas tell a story of authenticity rather than just sharing an image of the hotel grounds.

Content marketing

Consumers are now more savvy in the ways they search, therefore by producing the right content which serves their search intent is key. Some example of search within the dream stage include:

  • Time-specific inspiration – here consumers are looking for ideas and recommendations by the length of holiday they want eg, ‘2 week travelling ideas’ or ‘1 week holiday ideas’.
  • Time of the year specific inspiration – people are searching based on the month they want to travel or the season. ‘Best holidays in October’ is currently seeing a search volume of 2,400
  • Inspiration for specific people – this is where people are searching based on the party they will be travelling with, an example of key terms here are ‘best holiday destinations for families’ or ‘solo travelling ideas’

If you can produce relevant content that answers the user’s search query, you play a key role in their decision-making process, building up trust with your brand as you help address their pain points with relevant and insightful content. As a result, this could lead to the user coming back to your website to book.

Our client, Sykes Cottages, recently identified the opportunity to reach a prospective audience segment who are still deciding on their holiday destination. This opportunity gave us at Clicky a chance to create ‘inspire me’ content on their website. The content acts as a useful reference point for the audience, offering advice and detail around the type of holiday experience they’re interested in, by supplying useful guides on where to stay, what to do, where to eat and drink, events and travel information. This also helps to support Syke’s SEO efforts through keyword diversifications, aiding them to attract a new, wider audience to their website. Find out more about the project here.

A recent article on Econsultancy also explores how tourism boards are using personalised content to help deliver unique online experiences. An example being Visit California, where they’ve delved into Google query data to find out exactly what people are searching for and therefore revamped its content to be more relevant to users as they search.

Display ads and remarketing

Display ads can be a really effective way of capturing the dreamers, but only if your creative is inspiring. You only have a matter of seconds to capture the interest of your audience, so your ads must stand out and resonate with your audience. As with all campaigns, before running a display campaign, it’s important to understand who exactly is your target audience. Define what you’re trying to achieve and identify how to best engage with them.

Also by targeting these dreamers early you’ll also likely to get cheaper cost per clicks and lower auction pressure but with still a high demand.

Remarketing is a great way to reconnect with existing clients or attract those who have recently been on your site back. It is designed to keep your company at the forefront of your customers’ minds and is highly effective. Again, using really engaging creative and messaging can help capture your audience back to your website.

We hope this blog has provided you with some useful tips on how to catch dreamers and just how important it is to capture this audience at an early stage of their journey. The average travellers browse around 38 websites before making a purchase, so make sure you stand out from the crowd right from the get go!

Stay tuned for our next instalment where we will be discussing the planning stage of the customer journey.

Take advantage of our wealth of digital experience in the travel industry

Contact our team today to find out how Clicky can help you catch the dreamers

Get in touch

Written by Natalie Williams

Agency Sales & Marketing Executive

Follow Natalie on Twitter