Guide to Customer Journeys for Travel Brands
Booking two weeks in the sun takes more effort than you might think. The typical traveller visits up to 38 websites and searches for 30 hours. And they take their time, spreading this research over five weeks before finally booking their holiday, according to Expedia.
But although there are lots of searches involved, the travel customer journey is far from erratic. In fact, according to Google, a traveller’s online behaviour follows a distinct pattern. By following this pattern, your brand can be present every step of the way—from when your customer is dreaming about a break, to their airport check-in.
In this blog post, we explore how you can use the latest research in online behaviour to improve your travel customer journey.
Seizing the moment
Instead of flicking through brochures and visiting agents we’re now browsing and booking our holidays on smartphones. In fact 60% of holiday searches now start on mobile, according to Google Think.
But mobiles don’t just provide another way to book. They’ve radically changed our holiday choices and behaviours.
Google describes the modern-day customer journey in travel as being made up of ‘micro-moments’. These are the little snippets of time we turn to our mobiles to casually browse. Each search on mobile subtly influences our behaviour and the brands we go on to choose.
Researchers have now been able to identify four specific points that make up these micro-moments. Put your brand in front of the traveller at just the right time and you’ll be in the running.
1) ‘I-want-to-get-away’ moments (dreaming moments)
We’ve all spent time dreaming about white sandy beaches on a rainy day. But this can be more than just daydreaming. It’s often the first step towards booking a holiday.
Google has termed the point where consumers are inspired to take a break as the ‘I-want-to-get-away’ moment.
Here’s a practical example: I’ve spent the weekend dreaming about a city break so I tap ‘top city breaks’ into my phone. Google serves me up the results. I click on the links and start browsing.
It’s at this point I narrow down my choices based on the suggestions. It’s also at this point where dreaming becomes more of a reality.
If your brand’s one of the links I click on, you can influence me. I’ve seen you, you’re useful and relevant to my search. And I’m already easier to influence than you might think.
Travellers are so open-minded at this stage that many haven’t even decided on a definite destination, according to Google Think. You can inspire me, encourage me, and move me from dreaming to actually planning.
Most of your readers are viewing your content on-the-go, so create content that’s easy to read and digest. Bite-size articles like top travel tips and destination shortlists go down a treat!
We love this example by Lastminute.com which currently ranks highly on Google for top city breaks. It inspires the traveller’s first step in their customer journey with content that indulges their ‘I-want-to-get-away moment’.
2) Time-to-make-a-plan moments (planning moments)
Back to our example: once I’ve sussed out my options, I start to make a plan. I’ve narrowed down my choices and decided on a destination. Now I need to fill in the details.
In this example I’ve decided on New York for my city break (hey, we said dreaming, didn’t we?).
I want somewhere near Central Park with a gym to work off those extra calories. So, my next move is searching ‘Hotels near Central Park with gym’. It’s not hard to follow the thinking, but your brand has still got to come up when I hit search.
Once I click through and land on your site it needs to be easy to find what I’m looking for. I want to see relevant information instantly. Make sure you give your customer accurate information with real-time updates on the latest prices, offers, and availability.
When I’m feeling excited by what you’re offering, I’ll need to pass it by my other half to get the green light. To get this moment right, make it easy for visitors to share the information with others.
And don’t forget they’ll be swapping between mobiles, tablets, and desktop—so create a seamless customer experience across the lot.
If they take a break from looking or swap devices don’t ask them to start all over again! It’s easy to send an automated email featuring a round-up of their search so they can pick up where they left off.
It’s these little things that will push their planning along towards the crucial booking phase.
We really love how Mark Warner helps customers with their ‘time-to-make-a-plan moments’ with this useful, automated round-up of onsite searches.
3) Lets-book-it moments (booking moments)
So, this is it: the crunch moment. The moment we’ve all been waiting for, when all that planning becomes a reality and they bite the bullet and press confirm.
It’s surprising how many brands drop the ball at this late stage simply by annoying their customers.
The first lesson when it comes to booking moments is instantly providing people with what they want. At this stage they want deals, up-to-date availability, and pricing.
In my fantasy city break scenario I’ve moved on to looking for ‘deals on hotels in New York’. It’s clear that I’m now intent on booking and will be looking for specific and accurate information.
Once I click through on a link I want a super-slick onsite experience. We’re talking:
- fast bookings with minimum fuss
- real-time availability
- clear pricing
- mobile optimised websites
- fast payments options
This doesn’t mean asking the traveller to enter information multiple times or wait for a callback. And there’s no excuse for leaving your customers watching the ‘spinning wheel of death’ as your backend processes play catch-up. Because they’ll go somewhere else.
Travellers may be slow to plan their break, but once they’ve decided then they want it now.
And even though they might have been planning for a while, their actions may still be last minute. According to Google Think, a staggering 85% of non-branded hotel searches are for a stay on the same or next day so make sure your calls-to-action provide instant gratification.
And don’t frustrate visitors by hiding your contact details. They might have a quick question they can’t find an answer to or simply need to speak to a real person for reassurance. Make it easy to talk to someone quickly so you can secure the booking as fast as possible.
Booking.com does a stellar job of giving the traveller everything they need to book their break immediately!
4) ‘Can’t-wait-to-explore’ moments (experiencing moments)
Just because they’ve booked, doesn’t mean your job’s done. Research by Google Think suggests 85% of leisure travellers only choose activities once they’ve arrived at their destination.
You’re in a position now to guide, inform and upsell. And they expect it: nine out of ten travellers rely on the travel provider to give them relevant information about their trip.
The holiday maker is spontaneous. You need to be on-hand to suggest experiences that will make their trip one to remember.
The traveller is likely to be in unfamiliar surroundings and their behaviour will reflect this. When I’m travelling to New York I’ll want to know where my nearest subway station is. I want to find out where the best restaurant is and which block the mini-mart is on.
They might have booked their holiday but these things will make sure it’s a great experience.
Airbnb successfully meets travellers in their can’t-wait-to-explore moments by playing tour guide.
So, there you are: the moments that have reshaped the travel customer journey. Now you know them, you no longer need to just hope they just stumble across on your brand.
And remember, great travel brands put themselves in the shoes of the customer. They think like a traveller to stay one step ahead.
To do this you need the right software. You need insight into your customers’ behaviours and the tools to reach out to the right moment. That’s where our eCommerce solution comes in.
Our technology provides insight and ability to serve relevant, timely, personalised content on emails and websites, instantly. It allows you to build better travel customer journeys that make every moment an opportunity to increase revenue. Learn how our technology helps travel brands increase online revenue.