A new digital customer journey: the future of travel marketing

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Is your brand equipped for the traveller of tomorrow?

How can travel brands stand out and scale content in the experience economy, while also keeping budgets and resources intact?

The digital journey of booking a personal trip, from first thought to final purchase, can be long and complex. Today’s consumer is more bullish on jet setting than any prior generation and is willing to devote considerable effort to investigating price and quality before making a purchase. Between booking sites, review sites, menu sites and Pinterest boards, the mind of the modern traveller wanders a long way before even starting the journey.

The numbers bear that out: modern customers have a wealth of online tools at their disposal – and they’re using them. In today’s experience economy, the average traveller will spend time browsing on average 38 websites before making a purchase, according to Expedia Media Solutions.

Because consumer behaviour is complex and can be overwhelming to track and predict, marketing to this audience is no easy feat. The most pertinent challenge for marketers in the travel industry is how to reach such an ubiquitous audience in a meaningful and compelling way.

And this is why marketers are always on the lookout for dynamic tech solutions to help lure travellers to the table. Brands are constantly looking to deliver a great digital experience to customers – across all digital platforms. After all, in the age of omnichannel marketing, smart content usage will separate the front runners from those lagging behind in the race to engage potential consumers.

Customers loyal only to great digital experiences

The race is on. Right now, in such an overcrowded market, brands that fully embrace digital marketing are ahead of the game, mainly because they cater directly to customer behaviours and respond directly to customer needs. The importance of that cannot be understated, as the majority of travellers have very little brand loyalty and will switch to something else if their digital experience lags behind. According to a 2016 Google Insights report, 88% of travellers with smartphones would switch to another site or app if another doesn’t satisfy their needs.

If a travel brand wishes to reach customers in 2017, it must do so with digital content. That’s why a content portal is a brand’s lifeblood, and the proper usage and distribution of that content is the foundational step in creating a stand-out digital experience. Here are three principles in which smart content usage fuels a better digital experience for travel brands.

Content use and reuse

Marketers distribute content across a bevy of channels, each of which require images, videos and other media in different formats. Marketing operations tools can ensure effective collaboration between global teams and ensure that quality content can be used and modified to suit different types of campaigns. For example, an airline with 45 destination cities does not need 45 times the work if content creation and management are done efficiently with the use of a few well-designed templates.

Brand consistency

When a traveller researches or purchases a trip online, chances are he or she isn’t doing so on a corporate website. It’s probably on a booking site, partner site or review site, and the challenge for marketers is making sure their brand is present on each of those in a strong way. The only way to do that at scale is with a single source of all digital assets that also provides clear guidelines and how brand identity elements should be used. Otherwise, an airline could have the wrong logo or description on a profitable partner site, sending the wrong message and providing an inconsistent experience compared to its corporate site.

Innovation over administration

With so many tools to manage and processes to abide by, marketers can sometimes feel like system administrators. The key is to automate as much as possible across the content lifecycle, not just at publishing and reporting, but also at the creative project management and collaboration stage. That enables marketers to offload administrative duties and get back to what they love: engaging audiences in innovative ways across all digital touchpoints.

Travel brands are always finding new ways connect with travellers, but that can’t happen without some bandwidth to make great ideas a reality.

Opportunity or challenge?

Whether a travel brand sees the present moment as an incredible opportunity or a terrifying challenge depends largely on how mature the digital strategy is, and how equipped that brand is to take on any new channel, format or technology that the traveller of tomorrow decides to adopt.

Brian Kavanaugh is a marketing strategist at Bynder US - a digital asset management vendor.

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