Buying goods online is so commonplace nowadays that the act of doing so has become almost trivial. Every conceivable industry now benefits from marketing and retailing its products via online shops. But while a lot of impulse purchases are unquestionably made via this medium, some ‘bigger box’ items require a bit more deliberation from the consumer.
According to statistics assembled by Google, members of the public take nearly three months on average to decide on a new car purchase. This obviously gives both car makers and dealerships a significant period of time to market their wares. And current trends would obviously indicate that the best place to do this is online. Indeed, research carried out to by the car magazine Autotrader indicates that 95 percent of millennials research mostly online, and 75 percent of car buyers conducted all of their car purchasing research online.
Car and holiday parallels
This particular phenomenon also has great relevance to the travel industry. In the motor trade, a great deal of research is done online, yet in almost all cases the deal is ultimately clinched in the real world. The same can be said of the travel industry, even though more and more people are ordering holidays via online websites. Despite this, the pull of the traditional travel agencies remains quite strong, and even when people do choose to book online it is important to understand that selecting a preferable travel destination comes in two distinct phases.
Travellers research holidays diligently before committing themselves to booking. Similar to purchasing a car, holidays are considered a large item which should not be ordered frivolously. Additionally, the emotional impact that a trip can have on an individual or family means that holidaymakers are extremely cautious about committing themselves to a destination without conducting ample research.
In a previous article, we looked at the importance of marketing in the process of booking a hotel. A report conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey found that hotels’ own websites play a significant part in the ultimate booking decision. This implies that during the research phase of planning a holiday, presentation and marketing should be considered extremely important. It is this which will ultimately decide many travellers' decisions on destinations.
The importance of third-parties
Another parallel between the cars and holidays is that third-parties play a significant role in both industries. Car buyers seldom purchase directly from the manufacturer, but almost without exception from a third-party dealer. Similarly, in the tourism industry customers frequently book via online travel agency websites.
Typically, during the planning stage of a trip, travellers explore a wide variety of online resources. For example, research has shown that 56 percent of US travellers use websites such as Expedia or Travelocity to gather information on pricing, and more than half use them for comparison purposes. This makes digital marketing extremely difficult to measure in the holiday industry, as a lot of the most important traffic is directed away from the booking and destination sites themselves.
The notion of experience is extremely important in both holidays and cars. Both of these products - if you’re willing to accept that a holiday is a ‘product’ - trade strongly on emotion and personal identification. Both travellers and car buyers are often seeking a particular experience, and it is essential for travel businesses and destinations to distinctly communicate what experience they will deliver. This can be done via digital means, with marketing that provides a digital experience which attracts customers and gives them a flavour of a particular destination or travel-related product. This process can ultimately inspire a booking.
Additionally, both car buyers and travellers greatly value the input of others. They want to learn from the experiences that previous consumers have had. Therefore in both cases online review websites should be viewed as particularly important. Travel industry marketers should incite and entice happy customers to share their experience via social media platforms, and write positive reviews about both experiences and products on popular comparison and review sites.
Delivering personalised content is becoming increasingly important. According to the results of the 2013 Online Personal Experience study released by Janrain, three-quarters of online consumers become frustrated with websites which have no relevance to their interests, while a similar proportion have no objection to retailers using personal information to improve their customer experience. People want to feel a particular campaign, product or destination is speaking directly to them, and marketers can now deliver digital content that fits this criterion.
Digital marketing strategies
Additionally, the importance of sharing and the feeling of community cannot be underestimated. Destinations are rapidly taking advantage of crowdsourcing content, and creating vibrant and integrated platforms which embrace social media. Two recent examples of this are the Visit Denmark’s ‘Location Hashtag’ campaign, and TripAdvisor’s community-based television advert promotion.
The Internet is also a fantastic medium for sharing photographs and videos, and research has shown that utilising these effectively can have a massively positive impact on the way that consumers perceive a certain product or destination. Increasingly, destinations are producing professional videos to promote themselves, or encouraging customers and travellers to do so as a form of self-promotion. With online video views on Google related to travel growing by 118 percent in a year, and two out of three US consumers watching online travel videos when considering a holiday, the importance of this medium cannot be underestimated.
There are many parallels between the car industry and the holiday industry, and understanding how the nature of the two correlates can be extremely valuable for digital marketers.
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