At 4Ps Marketing we try to visit as many industry events as possible to ensure that we are aware of all the latest industry developments and are therefore offering our clients the best expert advice on offer.

I recently visited the Travolution Summit and spent a fascinating day hearing about all of the latest news and technological advances in the travel industry.  There were so many interesting speakers that I left with reams of notes – so to save you the bother of wading through them I have condensed some of the key points that I thought were the most interesting to pass on for marketers in the travel industry when considering their digital marketing strategy for 2014.

According to Paul Mason, Culture & Digital Editor at Channel 4 News, we are now in the age of ‘New People’ – that is those who live their lives online, as well as off.  The ‘global city is their mind space’ and they have multiple versions of themselves manifesting in various digital forms, as well as the physical.  People are taking to the internet in increasing numbers to spend their money across a range of products and industries, with travel being no exception.

Paul noted that our grandfathers used to go off and ‘see the world’ whereas now all people have to do to find something out is ‘Google it’.  However, only by going and taking a picture of yourself and posting it online can you actually add to your experience and share this experience with your social media contacts.  We all feel pressure to be a part of the digital world and ‘travel is the shop window of the self’, whereby we share our experiences and who we are with other people.  In order to keep up with the world around us and justify our position in it we must constantly advertise ourselves as living digitally, and those who can’t adapt will certainly struggle and fall behind.

The topic of discussion moved on to how to build customer loyalty.  TravelSupermarket has 55 million unique visitors a year and their challenge is to recognise returning users and understand their behaviour.  They can then be served relevant content – however having the capability to do this takes considerable investment.  40% of people who land on the website do not know where they would like to go, but they would like to know where their peers are going and they want to know they aren’t getting ripped off.  To ensure companies are serving personalised content, they need to make it easy for people to give their data.  The best way to do this is to provide a password for them to log in to their own personal account and store all of their preferences there.  Alternatively, they could log in via their social media accounts.

Landing on a travel website should be inspirational.  Filters on the site should allow people to start on a wide search and narrow it down according to their preferences.  If they can log in and save their data and preferences, they will grow to trust the company if this information is used appropriately and this will play a major role in ensuring customers return.

One of the major points that came out of the day was that it isn’t enough to just have one responsive website – companies should have cross-platform strategies as mobile and tablet audiences grow and do not behave in the same way as those using desktop. TravelSupermarket said that 52% of their visitors access their site from home, and 30% of those are on their mobiles.

According to an IAB report this year, 48% of the top 50 travel companies have a mobile optimised site, and only 6 are enabled for location-based search. But with TravelSupermarket calculating that by June 2014 their mobile traffic will outstrip their desktop traffic, mobile is clearly of growing importance to the travel industry.

Testing of websites was also an important point to emerge from the day – A/B split testing helped Attraction Tickets achieve a major uplift in conversions. They also found that customers who saw their About Us page were 14% more likely to book. Instilling a sense of urgency by using a time sensitive in-page layer saw a 27% uplift in conversions. Personalisation does not always need to be complicated – Attraction Tickets found that simply adding a Shamrock to their Irish page was enough to increase conversions. Easyjet use the urgency method to good effect by adding things like ’94 people are looking at this route’ so that people feel they need to book immediately and not miss out. The future of websites should be built around intelligent user journeys with real time website changes according to the history and search of the customer.

In summary, travel companies need to consider several crucial points when planning their digital marketing strategy for 2014. Do you have a comprehensive plan in place for mobile marketing? Are you using personalisation in your marketing channels? Is your content inspirational?

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