The rise of the smartphone has revolutionised the way consumers research, book and manage their holidays and wider leisure time, not to mention its ability to enhance the actual tourism experience. Businesses therefore need to understand how different groups of consumers are accessing information and ensure their digital marketing is geared to engage with these multiple personas based on their mobile usage.
An important differentiator is clearly age – younger, digital native consumers have had the advantage of growing up in an environment where technology has developed around them. This demographic group use the internet for everything from basic services to socialising and playing games. Older consumers are more likely to focus on the internet’s more practical benefits like online banking or, crucially, booking travel.
The way consumers use and access the internet is set change even more drastically over the next decade – with ‘Mobile First’ becoming a dominant trend. The number of people regularly researching their leisure and tourism activities – and therefore viewing brands’ websites – will continue to shift towards mobile devices (whether this is on a smartphone or tablet) as opposed to PCs and laptops, so it is essential that sites are fully optimised for this type of access.
These devices are being adopted for other aspects of tourism – including the booking process and for use while actually on holiday. Consumers appetite for connectivity is also dominating the leisure and tourism experience - a fundamental requirement of accommodation packages is the access to wireless internet.Consumers are comforted by having this level of connectivity - a trend that can be used to great effect by marketers.
Leisure time is social time
Is this driven by a desire to share create social kudos? Facebook reports the second most shared activity as being a ’travelled to’ event – twice that of the next category. Social marketing and consumer engagement is at the unprecedented levels. This has provided consumers with platforms that give them a voice online – sharing their experiences (both good and bad) but crucially engaging and sharing your brand while on the move.
Social media is driving the rapid spread of information among friends and peers, which represent both a huge opportunity and a potent threat for tourism businesses. On the one hand, a small business can see its audience increase organically through the spread of positive information and reviews. On the other hand, a negative experience has the platform to be amplified. Another impact is one of disintermediation - cutting out the middle man - consumers are able to interact directly with businesses and brands – and vice versa.
Consumers will expect responsive and personalised information on demand, however, gaining bookings and customer data directly, rather than losing out to intermediaries, is a powerful benefit for brands, especially when it comes to owning the customer experience and creating long term customer relationships.
Moving into 2016 this will fundamentally change not only the method by which people plan and book leisure time but the overall process of doing so. This will have further implications for both buyer behaviours and the buying cycle of consumers in the leisure and tourism sectors.
Location, location, location
Location-based data is greatly affecting buyer behaviour - accessible information about the weather (allowing people to make a last minute decision based on a reliable, locally accurate weather forecasts or traffic reports) and an increasing desire for spontaneous short breaks (which generally take a lot less planning). The desirability of ‘Last Minute’ booking is a particularly impactful trend for leisure tourism, as it reduces the certainty with which businesses – particularly accommodation – can plan ahead.
Challenges do exist for many in the sector, with the declining influence of traditional sources of information, rising customer expectations and the sheer pace of change – all genuine obstacles for hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses to overcome.
The last 12 months has demonstrated the growing importance of mobile search and this trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. For leisure tourism businesses to stay competitive in the search space, it is key not only to optimise websites for mobile but to also look to optimise mobile apps for search. Further developments, such as the enhancements to ‘Google Now on Tap’ and the increasing adoption of virtual assistant tools like Siri, will continue to drive the importance of mobile search strategy.
The sheer pace of development to technology and how consumers are using it makes it incredibly difficult to predict exactly what this landscape will look like beyond the medium term, but already there are signs of what technologies are developing and how consumers might use them on leisure trips.
To boldly go...
There will be an increasing demand for tourist information about what brands and different destinations have to offer – particularly visual mediums like video, perhaps leading to a preference towards immersive tours of accommodation or maps of activities in the local area. Video provides firms with the ability to break content down into its most component forms which can be repurposed and shared. Businesses will need to ensure they are creating videos which suit the audiences’ appetite, with engaging, digestible content that’s tailor-made for the platform they are being viewed on.
Businesses are also beginning to understand that social media isn’t just a numbers game. More followers, fans and likes does not necessarily equal more sales. It is the relationship and experiences that are created with those followers which will produce an ROI. Social media is a great way to fill your sales funnel, not necessarily the best place to directly sell your products and services.
Beyond the next decade, the desire for ‘digital downtime’ will fade as more consumers integrate mobile technology further into their social lives and leisure time. People will not want a holiday to ‘log out’ of their devices, but will use this technology to compliment and add value to their trip. Leisure and tourism will be increasingly affected more and more by consumers’ use of technology, recognising the value add to their leisure time.
For many consumers, the use of mobile devices will become an integral and immersive part of every aspect of their trip. Don’t be left standing - keep things mobile.
Phil McEwan is head of marketing at Crafted. You can see their whitepaper on leisure and tourism here.