Great quality content on travel websites speaks to people: it’s inspiring, it’s relevant and it’s bookable.
NB: This is an analysis by Eric Dumas, CEO at Vayant Travel Technologies.
For the first decade or so, online travel was all about "price, price and price". But in today’s intensely competitive online environment, people are looking for more. Buyers still want a good price, but they’re also looking for inspiration, community, engagement.
And travel sellers want not only better margins but also a deeper relationship with the customers.
Investing in quality content is essential for travel sellers to prosper. Quality means richer content - compelling copy, creative use of video and images, access to customer reviews - but it also refers to accuracy, ensuring any quoted fares are available to book.
To achieve a comprehensive improvement in the quality of content, travel sellers can focus on three decisive stages in the customer journey:
- discovery - how do you get noticed?
- catch and conversion - how do you entice the customer and turn looking into booking?
- relationships - how can you make sure the sale is the start of a beautiful relationship with the customer - and not just a one-off?
There are several ways for customers to find your travel site: they can come via a friend’s recommendation or they may be attracted by advertising or direct marketing. But chances are they arrive via web search.
Web sites have always been able to improve their ranking on search engines through SEO.
However, as Google adapts its algorithms, the quality of content is a factor in the results' pecking order: Google’s latest version of its Panda algorithm explicitly seeks to weed out poor content.
This is great news for sites that keep their content fresh with regular updates, good writing and with social media integration.
So as well as providing buttons for customers to link content with popular social forums such as Facebook or Instagram, it’s useful to encourage customers to engage with less obvious sites such as Google+ and Yelp.
But it’s not such great news for static, unconnected, poorly written sites which focus on sales only.
Catch and conversion
Whatever channel directs customers to the site, the next challenge for the travel seller is getting people to spend some money.
Quality visual content is a good way to inspire people about travel possibilities. BA’s Picture Your Holiday or Singapore Airlines’ The Lengths We Go To are strong examples: high-impact images presented in an engaging format, bringing to life not only the holiday possibilities but also the airline experience.
You can get people looking but booking is another question. The travel industry does not perform highly on conversions Four out of five travellers abandon their online booking, with more than 50% giving up on the process when they see the price.
Here, the search environment plays an important role in helping the customer to find fully-priced travel options. Knowing exactly what’s available and at what price much gives people the confidence to make buying decisions.
Precomputed price search environments are ideal for accessing large volumes of search content and delivering the information fast. And they can deliver very high accuracy, with regular refreshes or using a mixed precomputed-and-live environment.
Once the sale is made, the focus on quality content can provide the basis to build a relationship with the customer that lasts beyond the transaction.
Allowing customers to share their travel experience has a double benefit. It can give travellers more confidence at the booking stage if they can read about positive experiences of other customers.
And a travel web site which features reviews comes across as less driven by sales and more customer-friendly.
Reviews also create a community feel – the success of travel businesses such as Airbnb shows how this community atmosphere can really engage people.
Even letting people share their travel photos, as US-carrier JetBlue does, goes some way to creating that spirit.
Content and more
As mentioned, content is more than what is on the web site: data from a sale is content and allows travel sellers to personalize their offering to customers.
Email campaigns can address "a market of one" and allow sellers to target relevant offers at customers, based on their known preferences and history.
Emails are a powerful part of the marketing mix but with one proviso: accuracy is as critical for emails as for the web site.
Travel email solutions should make sure the targeted and promoted fares are available for the customer to book when they open the marketing email.
Content makes the difference
It takes the right stuff for online travel sellers to succeed in today’s market. And that right stuff is great quality content. Delivering content that’s engaging, relevant and accurate through the customer journey and beyond will make all the difference.
NB: This is an analysis by Eric Dumas, CEO at Vayant Travel Technologies. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2 World clock image by Shutterstock.