This is the first post in a 3 part series on defining your customer journey and which marketing channels to use at each stage. Read more in Part II: Choosing Channels, and Part III: Tools and Tactics for Each Stage of the Customer Journey.
With a multitude of social networks and travel apps, it’s hard to know where to concentrate your efforts. Does your travel brand need to participate on every single social network? Maybe not.
The first step is getting to know your potential customers. Who are they? Where do they spend time (online and in the real world)? What are they talking about and to whom?
The answers to these questions will be the basis for how you can use social media and content marketing to move potential customers from discovering your brand all the way through booking and beyond.
Imagine your customer’s journey beginning from the moment they decide to go on a trip. They debate destinations, investigate options and narrow their consideration set based on logistics, budgets and reviews all before pulling the trigger.
And the journey doesn’t end there. The booking process, time period between booking and departing on their trip, and after trip follow up are all great opportunities to build a relationship with your customers.
Let’s breakdown the journey into 4 stages:
Discovery & Inspiration
Perhaps your potential customer has some vacation time coming up and they’d like to plan a trip. They might begin by searching for “best all inclusive vacations” or visiting a social site like Pinterest to get inspired. They could be looking at a friend’s Facebook album or Instagram feed from a recent trip, or reading an article from a travel magazine.
At this stage, your potential customer is collecting ideas for places they want to go, resorts, activities and more.
Next, they will investigate a subset of the options more thoroughly. At this stage, some ideas from the discovery phase will be dropped based on logistics like flight time, cost, ease of travel and other reasons.
More research is required to vet the remaining options and ultimately make a decision. Customers are using review sites like Tripadvisor, asking friends and family for recommendations, reading content sites like Conde Naste Traveler, and using tools like Jauntaroo, and booking aggregators (think Expedia and Kayak) to collect and compare information. Information gathered in this stage should really give them a feel for their potential travel experience.
The purchase stage is quite short comparatively and happens once the customer has made a decision on exactly what to buy or where to book. Customers may do some price comparisons to determine the best place to purchase their ultimate choice. The experience should be relatively seamless if you are providing online or phone booking for your product or service.
This stage of the process can happen directly with your brand, or through a third party. Along the way, purchasers may reach out to the company via Facebook, Twitter and other social channels for help.
Post Purchase Engagement
Post purchase engagement is different for travel related services. Unlike a retail purchase where a consumer usually receives the product immediately or shortly after making the purchase, travel is frequently booked well in advance.
This creates an opportunity for your brand to start a dialogue with your customers both pre and post travel experience. At this stage, you likely have the contact information for your customer, which opens up additional marketing channels such as e-mail. You can continue to provide value for and impress your customer before their trip or stay.
During and after their experience, you can engage them via all sorts of conversations on social media, generating reviews, and referring friends and family. All of these activities creating more content to be discovered by other potential customers.
Marketing activities should be planned and prioritized to help transition potential customers from discovery all the way through post purchase engagement. Different tactics, channels and messaging will be used based on where your customer is in their journey.