The future of online tourism is conversational

Over the years, the tourism industry has changed dramatically. There is now an infinite amount of information available online and we always expect more for less. We always want more online information without having to make great effort to find the right information.
As shoppers, we want more authentic experiences, more local knowledge to prepare our journeys, more insights into what we can do while we are traveling. Let’s find out how consumer behavior has changed in the tourism industry and how your business can be there to help and advise its prospects and customers at the right time and in the right place during their customer journey.

Read more: [White Paper] Customer experience and mobile commerce in online tourism

Consumer behavior and today’s online customer journey

Researchers have defined four main micro moments that are crucial in the mind of travelers when they are in the customer journey process. Keep in mind that consumers usually do not reach out to brands until the 3rd or 4th phase of this customer journey. By proactively engaging with prospects earlier, brands have an opportunity to impact this customer journey as its gets longer and more complicated, and are better able to gain customer loyalty in an industry with very limited amount of brand loyalty. Here are the four phases of the travel customer journey:

“I want to get away”: it’s when you explore options, websites, ideas. That’s when you are looking for some inspiration for your next trip, that’s when you are dreaming about your next adventure.
“Time to make a plan”: after choosing a destination, you are actually planning your trip. Therefore, you are looking for dates, flights and accommodation. You are concretely preparing for your next trip.
“Let’s book it”: you are now ready to book and look for extra activities to reserve. That’s your time to book the perfect vacation with the right dates, the right flights and the right accommodations and activities.
“Can’t wait to explore”: you are getting prepared to live the experience, live your dream come true. You can’t wait to start your trip and share with others.

55% of leisure travellers take just 1-2 vacations a year, and they put a lot of thought into planning these trips.
(Google/Phocuswright, 2016)

But as a market player in the travel industry, you should not only bear these micro-moments in mind when building your online strategy, you should also remember that consumer behavior has changed dramatically with the rise of the digital era. Consumers want to fulfill the different steps of their travel micro-moments without having to make great efforts. So your objectives, as a business, are crystal clear:

– You must show up during the critical micro-moments of the travel research process
– You must be there, you must be reachable whenever customers need your help
– You must be useful, engage them and provide them with relevant, useful and personalized offers
– You must be quick. If you do not convert your customers, your competitors will

Read more: Why chatbots and the travel industry go hand in hand

Problem is, you cannot engage all your visitors. It would require too much money, human resources and energy and, therefore, it would not be effective. You need to segment your most valuable customers and understand their typical customer journey to help them at best. According to an Amadeus Study, today, the average traveler:

– performs an average of 50 online searches
– visits 38 websites
– reads 12 reviews
– spends 15 weeks searching online

You need to know at what stage your visitors are in the customer journey, how mature they are to make their purchase, how loyal they are to your brand yet and what is preventing them from making a purchase. But how? By using predictive targeting criteria to target the most interesting contact opportunities for your business and engage them.

1 in 2 traveller journeys start on mobile
(Booking.com, 2016)

Read more: How’s your mobile strategy?

Conversational Marketing to find your most interesting contact opportunities

Conversational marketing puts conversations between brands and their customers at the heart of the online customer journey. Thus, conversational marketing platforms such as the iAdvize platform, help you track your audience, segment your visitors according to predictive behavioral criteria.

With this type of conversational platforms, you can find the right behavioral criteria, with dedicated teams, to segment the contact opportunities with high added value. How? You use targeting behavioral criteria such as a number of times visitors visited your website or an order value threshold in their basket to trigger messaging support to offer them help to finalize their purchase.

And the engagement part is essential! You can engage with your visitors proactively but you need to use their preferred method of communication (live chat solution, Call, video conference, third party messaging apps, social networks, etc.). And you can offer them an engagement with the best respondent thanks to routing engines such as we have on the iAdvize platform. Routing engines can connect visitors with the right interlocutor according to their specific skills.

9 out of 10 travellers think that reading online reviews is important, but 45% of tour takers don’t trust reviews on tour operators’ own sites. Most important are reviews by third parties: 95% of travellers trust tour & activity reviews on third party sites
(Stride Travel, 2016)

The rise of the DIY traveler and conversational marketing

Now, some travelers have become very savvy about cutting costs and are happy to spend time researching suppliers, visiting review sites, researching on social media, speaking to friends to help them get the best deals.

40% of respondents have purchased after seeing it used by an influencer on social media
(Twitter Study)

And your brand needs to take advantage of this new trend as the advice and best practices given by your customer service agents don’t have the same impact on visitors when it comes to pre-sales requests. Shoppers are more likely to trust the advice given by independent experts because it’s just like when they are talking to friends and family: they receive authentic experiences, local knowledge to prepare their journeys and insights into what they can do when they are traveling.

That’s what communities of independent experts such as the one offered by iAdvize are all about. Independent experts get paid to enhance customer experience, boost online sales and improve your brand image by bringing a high level of authenticity and trust directly to your brand. And what is the added value of independent experts? In addition to providing your customers and prospects with authentic tips and best practices, they are available in the evening or at weekends to offer peer to peer conversations. Whether they acquired their expertise from their job or other circumstances, independent experts are eager to share their own personal experience and they are all about professionalism and performance: 1 in 4 experts reads specialized magazines or benefits from a professional context and 68.8% of them constantly keep updated on product news.

Tour and activity websites are most commonly visited during the evening, with Monday and Sunday evenings having the most visits.
(TrekkSoft data, 2017)

Conversation is the new marketing. Interactions between your brand and your customers can happen anywhere, at any time.

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Ludivine Kasteleyn

French and Belgian born in France and interested in everything related to Marketing, Foreign Languages and the Web.

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