With people spending more time at home — perusing social media on their mobile devices while dreaming about their next trip — travel brands have an opportunity to get customers booking again by creating compelling discovery and trip-planning experiences.
Covid-19 recovery has been uneven across the globe, with some regions slowly returning to normal and others in the midst of peak cases. But for the most part, people are still spending more time at home than they have in the past.
As they do so, mobile and social media usage has seen an uptick over the last few months. According to eMarketer’s April 2020 forecast for time spent with media in the U.S., adult social network users will log an average of 1 hour, 22 minutes per day in 2020, up nearly 7 minutes over 2019. At the same time, the average U.S. adult will spend 23 additional minutes per day on their smartphones in 2020 compared with 2019.
While people are spending more time at home than in pre-pandemic times, many have ventured out to take short, regional trips for leisure. With shorter windows to book regional trips, people are going from discovery to booking in less time. As people increase their time spent with screens, mobile and social media are playing a big part in these early-planning stages. This means it’s more important than ever that travel brands tell the right stories on the right channels, with the understanding that facilitating discovery leads to trip planning, which drives bookings.
People are also beginning to think about what their next “big” trip might look like. Even if they’re not ready to plan a trip for tomorrow, they are longing to travel again, and those early moments of discovery can lead to longer-term bookings.
Social platforms in particular play a major role here. A 2019 report from GlobalWebIndex on brand discovery found that one in four consumers said they typically find out about new brands, products, or services through recommendations or comments on social media, while about one in five said they do so through updates on brands’ social media pages. When asked about specific social media platforms, consumers were even more likely to say they find out about new brands, products, or services through recommendations and comments and brand updates on Instagram and Facebook.
There are a few ways that travel brands can help inspire customers in the discovery and planning phases, reinforce their brand value proposition, and warm them back up to the idea of traveling when the time is right. Here, we look at five methods travel brands can take to re-engage audiences.
Use authentic, reassuring messaging
Putting out positive, uplifting content that tells a story — whether through a brand post with captivating images, text, or video, a virtual event, a chat app, or an influencer partnership — can help remind people that while, at the moment, travel may not be what it once was, hotels, airlines, and destinations will be there for them when they are ready to travel again. Right now, messaging focusing on safety and hygiene is one way travel providers can help reassure customers that they’re paying attention to what audiences are thinking about at the moment. With so many people’s lives affected by the pandemic, conveying messages around social responsibility and crisis relief can also have a profound long-lasting impact on a brand’s image and loyalty.
Leverage creators and influencers
Influencers have had to shift the way they talk about travel and the trips they typically take due to the pandemic. But — if done the right way and expressed in the right tone — partnering with content creators and influencers that align with a brand’s values can still be effective in creating the authentic messaging described above, due to the high level of trust their audiences put in them. For example, since the majority of travel that is currently taking place is close to home and regional, working with individuals who can serve as local ambassadors can help inspire travelers. Trusted content creators and influencers can also play a role in showcasing the hygiene and safety practices of a brand and how new Covid-19-friendly processes might work.
Think about local, regional, and global strategies
Covid-19 case statistics and travel spending and booking data each show that different areas throughout the world are facing their own individual challenges around reopenings and lockdowns. Travel brands need to be sensitive to the distinct situations of audiences in different areas and should strategize their messaging and marketing plans accordingly. It could come off as insensitive — or even worse, dangerous — to put out a message promoting travel to audiences residing in an area currently being faced with rising infection rates. On the other hand, it may be possible to promote a tourism activity that could be accessed in a safe, socially distanced way — that coincides with local policies — to audiences in a region that has seen the virus subside.
Curate through automation and machine learning
When striving to ensure the right messages are reaching the right people, marketing against demographics and locales has its limitations. Instead, integrating machine learning technologies can help relevant audiences discover the brand at the right time, and at the best price. Using serial algorithms and predictive analytics, machine learning analyzes countless data points to predict which people are most likely to respond to an ad, then passes that information to automated systems to place the ads. By leaving the heavy lifting to technology, marketing teams can focus on fine-tuning their messaging and creative to be more responsive — and more human — as they navigate the road to recovery.
Create customer delight with a seamless and frictionless purchasing experience
With discovery and booking more intertwined than ever, travel brands need to invest in crafting seamless, cross-channel user experiences if they want to build and sustain loyalty and generate repeat bookings. Sweating the details and finding new ways to spark delight within the customer journey can turn e-commerce into a serendipitous experience. Ultimately, booking a trip should be as joyful—and as satisfying—as the initial moment of discovery.
Many consumers are slowly dipping their toes into traveling again with shorter, regional trips. At the same time, they haven’t stopped dreaming about their next big trip. While it may have made sense for travel and hospitality brands to limit advertising and marketing as the pandemic emerged, now, brands should refocus their messaging to align with how customers are thinking about travel today to re-engage them. This means telling captivating stories, reinforcing the brand’s values, and serving as inspiration to help warm the consumer back up to the idea of traveling and eventually begin booking when the timing is right.
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