Andy Mallinson, EMEA managing director and chief marketing officer at the social content aggregation, curation and publishing platform Stackla here looks at how travel brands can harness the authenticity of travellers’ social content from across the social channels to bring a brand’s story to life and in turn, increase conversions and return on investment.
Inspired by the days getting longer and skies getting bluer, people across the UK are starting to research and book up their long-overdue summer holidays.
For those who work in the travel sector, it’s a critical time of year.
Travel brands know they have a captive and receptive audience, and it’s important they are able to capitalise.
No doubt there will be a great deal of work invested by travel marketers to ensure the right promotions and competitive price points are on offer.
Optimising web and search strategies, ensuring the right affiliates and partners are on board, and sharing beautiful imagery to showcase the wonderful holiday experience are all part of the groundwork process.
Alongside these marketing initiatives, the power of peer recommendation has also long been known by travel brands.
A series of great endorsements on third party sites can significantly boost customer conversion rates.
But recently an increasing number of travel brands, led by the likes of Contiki and P&O, are harnessing the power of user-generated social content to encourage people through the travel purchasing funnel from their initial ‘dreaming’ state through to a booking.
Traditionally travel brochures and promotional imagery have provided the inspiration for customers, and whilst these look attractive, they lack the authenticity and immediacy of real traveller photos and recommendations.
It’s the latter which are considered more trustworthy by other travellers, and are therefore far more powerful when it comes to influencing customers to click the ‘book’ button.
For the travel brands, it all starts in the ‘dreaming’ state.
Nothing encourages someone to get up out of their sofa and think about their next trip more than seeing an Instagram or Facebook photo of friends watching the sun set behind Machu Picchu.
Brands need to encourage the sharing of images and social reviews to whet the appetite of future visitors.
Once would-be holidaymakers have been convinced to do something about that inspiration, the learning and evaluating phase is about researching the options.
Hopefully your offline, online and social advertising has done its job and the customer is now on your site.
As they are looking into that trip of a lifetime to New Zealand, they could be served up a live visual storyboard of travellers canoeing on Milford Sound.
And here is the really clever bit.
The next day when they are browsing through their favourite news site, users could be served up dynamic socially-powered ads from the same travel brand, featuring more user imagery from New Zealand.
Nearing the end of the process, the customer has clicked back to the website and is ready to make a booking.
Targeted and contextual user generated content at the point of sale can drive up web conversion rates (and even bricks and mortar rates too) - just like they do for eCommerce.
It’s the final “social validation” that this is right for them.
Everyone has the opportunity to make use of user generated content marketing, but few brands and businesses do it exceptionally well.
The travel sector in particular is an area that has a significant amount of potential.
Holidays are about an experience, and visual images and excited posts shared by holiday makers over social platforms are particularly effective at conveying a good time to others – who may need the extra nudge to make a booking.
Brochures still have a role of course, but branded content creation is expensive and needs to be supplemented with more genuine content created by your very own customers.
With social content delivering return on investment at every step in the purchase process, surely it’s user generated content’s time for a spot in the sun.