Authentic engagement and the modern traveller

In the age of smartphones and search engines, the modern traveller has become increasingly difficult to engage. Add to this the price-comparison culture brought on by vast amounts of choice and it becomes increasingly difficult to garner true loyalty from today’s commitment-phobic consumers.

How can you cut through the noise to reach the ready-to-buy travel consumer and how do you keep the conversation going post-booking?

SEO techniques, big data availability, and remarketing practices have provided many opportunities to target and re-target the customers we want, but they are merely tools and provide no guarantees. In order to achieve that long-lasting relationship with the traveller we have to incite what many industry professionals and speakers are now referring to as authentic engagement.

One way to forge a genuine connection with the millennial consumer in particular is to source and inspire User Generated Content (UGC), which can cover anything from reviews and testimonials, to video and media submissions.

The highest spenders of today’s consumer population have arguably become desensitized to carefully-crafted glossy ads, having grown up in the digital age, and are increasingly more trusting of peer reviews and recommendations. Not only this, it also builds a sense of community and genuine connection around your brand while, dare we say it, catering to the ego of the social-media obsessed millennial.

Add to this the fact that it is incredibly cost-effective and we’re sure you’re wondering what the snag is!

Well, unless you already have a strong base of loyal customers you will need to get creative to get people contributing their own content – all marketing successes are based on strong core ideas. Make it interesting for your specific audience and/or provide a prize as an incentive to get them submitting. Ensure it is as easy as possible for them to participate, for example sharing their funniest holiday photos on social media under a specific (branded) hashtag, and when they do submit, share their posts and respond.

If done right UGC is a sure-fire way to keep your brand in the consumers mind for when they decide to book.

Only one thing beats a new customer and that is when said new customer becomes a returning customer. There are many data-reliant tools to help you bag that second date, but a lot of the time to seal the deal it’s the old-fashioned technique you need – Customer Service.

Communicating with customers is easier than ever with no shortage of platforms, but in our haste to be more efficient and cover all the bases we can sometimes forget to go the extra mile. Instances of extraordinary or memorable service go a long way to creating a loyal customer, make sure you are on-hand to help should the customer have any specific requests for their booking or difficulties regarding your online tools.

Websites and online booking engines reduce stress for both the customer and the travel agent, but nothing beats a unique and personalised service.

So you’ve managed to woo the traveller and they’ve booked their trip through your website, job done right? Wrong! They may have chosen you this one time, but once they’ve received that confirmation email all bets are off.

Investing in a Mobile Tech strategy is a great way of stopping the relationship from fizzling out post-booking, allowing the traveller to literally take your brand with them!

Perhaps a travel itinerary app that helps them to prepare for their trip with real-time updates, or a peer-to-peer network that connects them with other travellers or valuable services, even something as simple as a countdown to their departure date.

Wearable tech* is also expected to make waves in the travel industry, with some airlines and hotels already developing apps to streamline the check-in process and travel experience in general.

Overall, at the heart of authentic engagement is one thing – Personalisation.

Whether it is giving customers a space to share their personal stories, meeting their needs and special requests at a service level, or uploading their personal trip details to a mobile app, it is the delivery of a unique and enhanced experience that will win over the modern consumer for the long-term.

Furthermore, with the advancement of data and conversion tracking tools, allowing content to be tailored based on previous searches and events leading up to the traveller’s booking, it looks like personalisation is here to stay!

To conclude, in order to really engage today’s online travel consumer you must provide a personalised experience that is relevant to the point they are at in their journey – pre-booking, during booking, and post-booking.

The tools are already available, but it’s what you do with them that counts!