Editor’s note: Casey Hanisko, ATTA’s VP Marketing & Communications, tracks marketing and business trends for the adventure travel industry and shares her expertise with AdventureTravelNews readers.
Last week I shared a trend with my colleagues and was met with a surprising reaction that can be best described as repulsion. The trend was about personalization in marketing and how TAM airlines is creating custom magazines tailored to each individual traveler based on their Facebook profiles. I thought this was smart and something we'd use for communicating to ATTA’s adventure industry community.
"To celebrate the anniversary of its Milan – São Paulo route in May 2015, TAM Airlines created free personalized on-board magazines, Ownboard, for each passenger. The airline introduced a Facebook Connect request during the online purchase process in order to access information about passengers’ friends, likes, places and photographs. The information was used to generate customized content for each passenger; their name and photograph were on the front cover of the magazines placed in their seats."
-- Trendwatching.com September 2015 Trend Briefing: Post-Demographic Imperatives
In my mind I thought, “How cool: I could sit down and read about business news, marketing, travel articles, maybe a bit of fiction and as well as some pop culture updates (for when I like some mindless entertainment).” My colleagues did not agree.
Being over 40, it may be surprising that I can accept what many see as an invasion of privacy and a potential to narrow people’s viewpoints. However, there is nothing I would rather have than personalized content. And the generation growing up now doesn’t understand a world without it. This brings me to the point of my article: the future is now and there are several trends in travel marketing that we have to learn to accept and embrace.
Trend 1: Personalization - Travel brands need to act on what they know about their travelers -- nicely called “Taste-Led Marketing” in the Trendwatching report. This is about the relationship you have with your traveler. And this starts with collecting data from various sources including web analytics and online booking patterns, reservation agents, guides, your traveler’s own photos and content shared during and post trip, surveys and other follow-up. Each of those moments in the traveler’s customer journey allow you to learn more about them. And the more everyone in your company learns about your customers, the better you can all serve them.
Here is an example: If during a conversation I have told the reservation specialist that I never travel to cold destinations and do not like kayaking but then later receive an email or information on a kayaking trip to Iceland - what will happen? I won’t book it. It is wasted marketing dollars and time and I won’t feel like I have a relationship with you. In contrast, if I receive information on a trip to a warm climate and it is a hiking and walking tour - it is much more likely I will be interested. What if there is also a personalized message that says “Casey, we thought you’d enjoy our new walking and bike tour in Vietnam, we know you enjoy cooking as well and this tour includes a day-long cooking class.” Win. I will like that and, by the way, (in case someone is collecting data on me) I would like the kayaking and Iceland tour as well.
Trend 2: Passion - This one is easy for travel businesses. We are all passionate about travel and we have engaging products to sell. The trick is 1) not forgetting to live your passions and 2) sharing your passion with others. It is contagious, it is part of your story so letting this permeate your business life is important. Where did you come from? Why do you do what you do? What drives you? Be human, be compassionate, be genuine. When people know you, it is easier for them to relate to you, buy from you and be loyal to you.
Story: I worked for a tour operator for many years. One of the founders was a man named Peter. Peter is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. This is a man who loves birds, who loves fishing and who is an artist. As a founder he went out often in the field as an ornithologist to teach people about the birds living in the habitats encountered on the trip. This is a man who writes birding guidebooks, paints birds, donates and raises money for the Save the Albatross campaign and other birding non-profits. When he sees a bird - no matter if he has seen it 100 times - he is delighted. His delight is infectious, it makes his guests interested and passionate themselves. He teaches travelers as much as he can about that bird. A traveler leaves the trip knowing what he cares about. How do they know? He eats dinner with travelers. He tells stories. He communicates with travelers after the trip. And you know what travelers do? They follow him to his next trip, and his next trip and his next one. Where Peter goes others follow. Why? They have a relationship (back to that personalization trend: he knows them and now they know him) and they have a relationship because he is passionate and cares about something they do too.
“All of these new ways of communicating mean that the more you act a certain way, the more likely it is that the truth will get out about who you are.”
-- Seth Godin, The Future of Marketing: Six Visionaries Speak
Trend 3: Art - This trend is an interesting one. The idea is that creative and analytical tactics will come together and present some interesting outcomes in the process. In travel marketing there are a lot of possibilities here because travel can be inspirational to creative types. And, well there are a lot of travel photos, travel videos and travel stories out there. In order to appeal to emotions and be memorable brands are going to need to get creative and also know what appeals to their clients. This is where your customer data comes in.
Idea - wrapping kayaks (or other gear) in art. Cars and vans have wraps - what about customer driven or created art that appears on your company’s kayaks? Did a guide or a guest write something memorable after one of your trips? Maybe you could have them record it and use that audio over a post-trip video… What about asking for video clips from your clients’ trips and stitching those together into a montage for the group that is shared online? The possibilities here are truly endless.
Trend 4: Marketing is at the Table - Marketing is permeating all areas of business from product development to business strategy and operations. Even finance can be affected with crowdsourcing as a fundraising option. The data you need to inform your company’s strategy or product development heavily relies on knowing what your customer wants, and with marketing analytics you can know or should know how to access this data. Invite your marketing team to product development discussions and to meetings where your technology team presents a new solution that you want your clients to use or interact with - such as, is that new app a good idea?
"Their role [marketing] is coming up with experience, an environment, a product that people can’t help talking about and then consistently delivering on that.” -- Seth Godin, The Future of Marketing: Six Visionaries Speak
Trend 5: Analytics / Data - Something many travel businesses struggle with is Return on Investment. When consumers are dreaming and collecting those bucket list trips, researching specific destinations, investigating possible activities, comparing prices, it can take over 11 views before a consumer makes a purchase and that is a general statistic. I’d argue it takes longer in travel; in fact I saw a statistic that said travel takes 33 views.
I like this advice by John Hagel:
“...it’s not return on investment. It’s return on information. It’s starting to track carefully how much it costs to accumulate information about a customer and divide that by what I can earn by using that information more effectively.”
-- John Hagel, The Future of Marketing: Six Visionaries Speak
So what can we do as an industry? I’d say for those small to medium sized businesses, look for affordable options -- they are out there -- to track data on your customers. Use free tools like Google Analytics as much as possible and bring your technology and marketing teams together. Broaden your teams (by hiring, partnering or contracting) and ensure they include people with a variety of strengths that include creativity - designers and copywriters, content strategists, analysts and data experts, social media experts. Review your customer journey and look for all the touchpoints where you can customize or add engagement. What are the results of that personalized marketing? Create, test, create again - keep looking at data and making adjustments.
“The accelerating development of new technologies (from algorithms to big data to programmatic) gives brands the power to treat customers as the individuals they are, rather than as members of generic segments.”
-- Trendwatching.com September 2015 Trend Breifing: Post-Demographic Imperatives