Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Andy Gaylord, digital account manager at Bluetent,
Seventy percent of all reservations are driven by online channels, according to Phocuswright. Because of this, there’s no doubt that technology will play a major role in ever traveler’s journey this year. A large part of technology for travelers is in the form of a smartphone, which is changing customer service standards. Quality customer service is now created through technological touchpoints throughout the traveler's journey.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to use modern tools aimed at specific goals. Every page on your website, each property you list and every photo you post on Facebook is a chance to gain new guests and boost revenue for your business.
Dream and Discover
During the “dreaming” phase of the traveler’s journey, they are in a distinct mindset. They want an escape from the commute, the hustle, the cold. They’re excited and hopeful, so this is a great time to connect with them and set the tone for their entire experience.
- Channel distribution: Target the right market by being on the correct channels. Millennials tend to use Airbnb, while Baby Boomers are more likely to search on VRBO and your direct website.
- Social media: Encourage guests share their experiences and mention your brand on social media.
- Email marketing: Reach out with messaging that highlights attractions and events.
- SEO: Create content that shows off your destination.
Plan and Compare
Planning is when dreaming becomes reality. At this point, travelers are looking for information that will help with decision making.
Understand which channels are common in your area and where your competitors are appearing. Also, investigate channels that aren’t as common to identify, as you might be able to fill demand in an area that others have not used.
- Monitor reviews: Catch negative reviews, then acknowledge and use the information to improve.
- Be authentic: Be cohesive in your brand and messaging across marketing platforms and tools, such as your website, email marketing and social media.
- Email automation: Send emails at various points of the planning phase and use automation for a hands-off approach.
- Optimize with SEO: Be sure that guests can find you and easily navigate your website.
- Retarget users: Use online advertising to keep your brand present in the traveler’s mind.
While travelers are comparing, they are looking at pricing, location, amenities, services and more. Be transparent and clear.
- High-quality descriptions and images: Most guests are visiting for the first time, so set clear expectations.
- Interactive experience: Use Matterport to show guests an interactive floor plan.
- Price matters: Implement dynamic pricing or channel-specific pricing to show guests that they are getting the best deal.
- Mobile-friendly website: This is important not only for booking but also for experience, usability and trust.
Book and Plan
Booking is the most significant phase. Travelers expect superior technology and easy-to-use tools while searching for properties. Relevance and user experience goes a long way during the booking phase.
- Update website assets: Regularly check that everything is up to date and accurate.
- Use dynamic pricing: Enable real-time industry supply and demand to adjust your pricing.
- Channel-specific pricing: Rates are adjusted based on various factors and can help build traction in some situations. Note that some channels do not offer specific pricing structures.
- Incorporate book direct method: OTAs offer additional exposure, but ultimately, you want your guests to book directly on your website.
- Run value-driven specials: Encourage repeat guests and direct reservations with specials.
- Understand book direct website: Track your conversions and traffic to know what is and is not working with your e-commerce site.
After your guests have booked, they’re excited about their upcoming vacation. Connect them with actionable resources for the area’s top activities, attractions and events. Be inspirational and informative during the pre-arrival phase between booking and staying.
- Guest experience technology: Use interactive, digital tools to help your guests plan their vacation, share itineraries with fellow travelers and communicate with you directly.
- Create content: Encourage guests to begin planning their activities with relevant details and resources.
- Stay up to date: Be the local guide by highlighting new and exciting experiences in your area. Also be aware of closed businesses and past events.
- Build excitement: Send pre-arrival emails and create buzz about their upcoming vacation.
Stay and Play
After dreaming and planning, the moment has finally arrived. The vacation has begun.
- Connect guests with quality resources: Have a list of recommended restaurants, activities, events and things to do on your website.
- Make your vacations shareable: Set up fun photo opportunities at check-in to encourage guests to share social media posts about your brand.
Return and Share
Use the momentum and fresh memories of your guest’s vacation to capitalize on sharing their experience. Embrace this post-vacation phase to create lasting relationships.
- Follow up: Set up email automation to send immediately following the guest’s stay.
- Ask for feedback: If possible, connect with guests in-person before they leave to resolve any potential issues. When face-to-face isn’t an option, encourage guests to provide feedback and write reviews.
- Target upcoming offers: Use personal data — like the places they visited — to send targeted messaging.
- Send reminders: Create messaging based on anniversaries to remind them of their vacation.
- Encourage sharing: Build photo contests so guests will share their memories on social media.
Using technology to target specific goals and create a complete guest experience is paramount in today’s world, and it can also help increase your brand’s momentum and increase revenue.
From VRMA Arrival, Issue 2, March/April 2019