Mapping the online customer journey for travel organisations
In this blog we will examine the online customer journey within the travel industry – touching on key factors such as customer personas, the importance of mobile and how user feedback can enhance the journey.
Booking a vacation can be a fun and exciting experience. But it can also require a lot of research and planning on the traveler’s part. Who do I want to go with? Where am I going to go? When can I go? How can I get there? What are the best hotel accommodations in the area? It’s a lot to think about…
And what we’re seeing is that these customers want to have more control over the booking and travel process, which has led them to doing so in an online environment using. We call these Do-It-Yourself (DIY) travelers. They are well-seasoned and digitally confident consumers who, unfortunately for travel marketers, make understanding the online customer journey that much more challenging.
In this blog, we will examine the online customer journey within the travel industry – touching on key factors such as customer personas, the importance of mobile and how user feedback can enhance the journey.
Consider customer personas
Ranging anywhere from business travelers and leisure travelers to families and special needs travelers – there are a wide range of ‘customer personas’ within the travel industry – all have different goals in mind as well as different touchpoints of interest. It is becoming increasingly more common for travel companies to use these personas as a way of targeting users for personalised offers and advertisements, and thus increase conversions. However, collecting these profiles can also help marketers understand how a particular profile experiences the online journey.
Booking through multiple devices and channels
So how are these personas booking their trips? Many travelers nowadays are doing their research via multiple devices and channels. The mobile phone, in particular, is on the rise in travel industry. According to Euromonitor, mobile bookings will account for almost 30% of all online travel bookings in 2017. This includes bookings via mobile (responsive and adaptive) websites and native apps. It is expected that this number will jump up to 46% by 2019. In other words, businesses in the travel industry, if they haven’t already, will need to develop their own mobile strategies if they want optimal mobile user experiences for this influx of mobile users.
94% of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip-Think with Google
So with the ultimate goal of a smooth customer experience, travel companies must first understand what the online journey of their customers looks like:
Steps of the online customer journey
1. Awareness (Dreaming)
This is essentially the stage in which your visitors are discovering their options. Their inspiration comes from things like social media, pictures, ads about the destination, etc. This is a key stage in that this is where companies must get the traveler’s attention.
2. Consideration (Researching)
In this stage, the customer starts looking into specific options. And how are they doing this? According to Deloitte UK’s Travel Consumer report, search engines are the most popular online planning resource. Starting here they are led to websites such as online travel agencies, airline sites/apps, travel review sites/apps and hotel sites/apps.
3. Intent (Planning)
By now the customer has determined, more or less, where they will be going. In this phase, the comparison process begins. Customers may visit a number of different websites to compare things like pricing and availability as well as the logistics of the trip, including restaurants, popular attractions and upcoming events in the area.
4. Decision (Booking)
The last stage is when the customer actually books the trip. Now that they’ve found the trip they’re looking for, it’s time to secure tickets and reservations.
Enhancing the customer journey through online feedback
Although this journey may seem very straightforward, it is almost inevitable that there will be some ‘hiccups’ along the way for some of your customers. And the most effective way of discovering those hiccups and correcting them is through user feedback. So where should digital marketers start?
The online journey for customers on travel websites and apps consists of several Moments of Truth (MoTs). These are moments in which the customer forms an impression about the company; moments such as searching for tickets, search result pages, the actual booking/purchase and after-sales service/changes to a booking. For a smooth on-site or in-app journey, these particular moments must be effortless for the customer. In other words, these are key moments to collect feedback from your visitors.
And keep in mind – customers are looking for real-time engagement with travel companies throughout the entire booking process, so meeting their needs in-the-moment is critical to your success as well as their continued loyalty to your brand.