Data is readily available about consumers’ travel habits by age group or geographic area. A simple Google search shows us the hottest destinations right now. But, what many of us want to better understand is: what compels someone to go from looking to booking?
McKinsey & Company’s consumer decision journey came about as an alternative to the traditional marketing funnel that leads a consumer from considering many brands to purchasing from one. They found the funnel “fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer.”
Their four phases of the circular journey are:
- Initial consideration
- Active evaluation
- Moment of purchase
- Post-purchase experience (if this phase encourages brand loyalty then the customer may skip the first two steps the next time)
Google’s micro-moments break down the digital customer decision-making process even further. The phases they’ve identified, which are consistent with McKinsey’s phases, are each made up of many “moments.” For the travel industry, they describe them as:
- I-want-to-get-away (dreaming moments)
- Time-to-make-a-plan (organizing moments)
- Let’s-book-it (booking moments)
- Can’t-wait-to-explore moments (experiencing moments)
Be There for All The Steps of the Journey
Like McKinsey’s, Google’s consumer decision-making journey isn’t necessarily linear. Consumers may research a destination and then consider new options depending on what they find the next time they get online.
A real-life example, based on research done by Google and Luth Research, summarizes “Amy’s” micro-moments over two months while planning a trip to Disney World. She had 419 digital moments that included 34 searches, 5 videos, and 380 web page visits. And, 87% of these moments took place on a mobile device.
In writing about micro-moments in travel, Google’s Lisa Gevelber and Oliver Heckmann, explain: Today’s travelers are turning to the web to be inspired and take action—and the brands that help them at those moments will win hearts, minds, and dollars.
Yes, some travelers will book a trip spontaneously, but most US travelers spend more time planning their leisure trips, which offers opportunities for those travel providers who get in front of consumers throughout the process.
Phocuswright finds that the average planning timeline is three months out to select the destination, flights are chosen a little over two months before their trip and the hotel just over a month before. The Phocuswright and Quantcast joint research finds that 27% of travelers spent a day or less and 26% spent two-six days researching the destination. Researching the travel portion of the trip was similar–27% and 29%, respectively.
Stand out from the crowd
“Travel professionals should not only provide prospective guests with information about their own establishments, but rather be a helpful source of the information that travellers need throughout their decision making and travel process.” That’s one of the points made in a January 2017 post on Guestrev.com offering travel providers recommendations to increase bookings.
A few proven ways to get noticed:
Social media strategy—Random posts do not a strategy make. Be thoughtful and consistent. A social media presence gets a brand’s name and information out there, but it also showcases its personality. Shared stories helps generate ideas for potential customers, and it doesn’t matter whether those bookings are done directly or via OTAs.
Reviews & recommendations—Trekksoft stresses the importance of reviews in their post about tours and activities booking trends for 2018. They found “9 out of 10 travellers think that reading online reviews is important” and “95% of travellers trust” reviews on third party sites.
McKinsey found nearly 70% of touch points are consumer driven activities such as checking out reviews and soliciting word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends.
A Think with Google July 2017 post, reports, “Mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown over 80% in the past 2 years.” In that same time period, mobile searches for “product reviews” have risen more than 35%, and videos with “review” in the title “had more than 50,000 years worth of watch time on mobile alone.”
Video—Skift.com describes video as “one of the most effective forms of storytelling across the digital marketing landscape, and in no other industry does this reign truer than in travel.” They explain, “Videos can influence the destination and activities a traveler ultimately pursues. This plays a valuable role in guiding the consumer through the entire journey – from destination consideration, research and selection, to booking.”
Deals & guarantees—A Phocuswright and Google survey found that when offered a deal 30% of respondents would take an unplanned trip, 25% would go to an unfamiliar destination, and 37% would book a hotel they were unaware of. They also note price guarantees and free cancellations are a draw since nearly 70% of leisure travelers worry they didn’t get the best deal or make the best decision about their trip.
The circular nature of the digital consumer decision-making journey can be good news for a brand not in a traveler’s initial group of brands being considered. Ongoing research and evaluation offers opportunities for other brands to be added to the list. Join your prospective customers at many points along their planning and decision-making journey, from start to finish, so they’ll choose you and become loyal repeat customers.