Words by Paul Stephen, CEO Sagittarius Marketing.
Creating a great user experience for consumers is an essential element of any travel brand’s website and is a fundamental feature of the overall customer journey. This experience is made up of three key areas: pre-travel, during-travel and post-travel. All of which will drive brand engagement and traffic to your website.
This is a huge area to cover but we believe pre-travel should be broken down into two distinct stages: before purchase (also known as the researching stage) and post-booking but pre-departure. The researching stage is the most critical element of the customer’s journey; this is where they are still deciding on where they want to go which involves lots of shopping around and review reading etc..
For brands this is where you need to be found through good use of SEO and targeted campaigns. Not to forget when the user lands on your site they need to see beautiful, inspiring content that provides them with a seamless experience from start to finish. Sometimes this means changing the user's experience depending on which device they’re using.
For example we did his with Skiweekends, where we removed elements of the buyer's journey for users who were booking through a mobile device to de-complicate the experience, ensure the users view was uncluttered and saved them time - but essentially converted the booking.
During the second half of the pre-travel stage is the opportunity for brands to reach out to their now-customers with upgrade deals, add ons and recommendations of places they can visit as well as a holiday countdown; which is what we do with a number of the brands we work with. All of this adds to the experience fuelling their excitement and enticing them to share their impending holiday across their social media channels. This is where the brand has the opportunity to add value and justify their existence in the transaction.
Often overlooked, the during-travel stage is where brands can make the biggest impression on their customers. Simply ‘being available’ is a huge comfort for travellers that makes them feel safe and well-informed on their holiday. One would consider this part of ‘the basics’ but is all too often poorly addressed. Brands can do this quite easily by sending customers a welcome text or email with contact information and maybe useful local forecasted weather predictions before they depart or when they arrive at their holiday or travel destination.
If customers have a problem whilst they’re away it’s reassuring for them and the brand that they are only a ‘click’ away. This also gives brands the opportunity to resolve any problems swiftly and potentially turn around the holiday experience -making the customer feel valued and hopefully avoid that dreaded negative TripAdvisor review.
Brands should also take advantage of their ‘on holiday’ euphoria and encourage sharing on social media by the use of brand specific hashtags. Equally brands should make use of this valuable user generated content with things like social walls where customers can share their photos and the brand can then interact with through likes and shares.
Post-travel invites a whole new wave of opportunities for brands with holiday makers looking back at their holiday and sharing ‘throw back’ and ‘holiday blues’ photos of their travels for months following their trip. They also use this time to tell everyone how amazing their break was and leave reviews for the places they visited.
This is the perfect time for a brand to follow up customers with an email about their experience asking them to leave feedback or complete a short survey about their stay. This helps brands to improve their services where necessary but also to respond to any negative feedback as well.
With brands having travellers details from previous bookings they can also use this information to retarget them in the future with stay again offers, upcoming events and other targeted offers to entice them to make a return booking.
As you can see from the content of this blog, a great travel user experience is not just one part of the process, but a seamless experience for the traveller pre, during and post travel.