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Emma Lawton


#DTTT Blog


In a time of financial uncertainty, travel becomes a luxury. Potential visitors are looking for something that offers good value, feels unique to them and their needs and ticks all of their wish list boxes. They expect more bang for their buck. So how can you make sure your business knows its audience well enough to second guess its wants and needs? To be ready to not only meet their expectations but exceed them. To be a story they tell all their friends.

I’d like to share my 5 tips to getting inside the brains of your customers to be able to market to them and their peers more successfully.


I know this sounds obvious but if you’re not speaking directly to your existing customers then you’re missing a trick. You can gain invaluable detailed information about everything from your customer demographics (age, sex, job etc.) through to reasons for visiting your destination direct from the horse’s mouth. This information can then be used to market more successfully to people like them, to spread your reach across other demographics and to fix any snags that you might not have been aware of. To get really in--depth insights there are a number of techniques I’d recommend:

One-to-one interviews - If you have a mailing list of existing or previous customers select some who live locally and invite them to come and share their feedback with you. Script a set of targeted questions but allow the conversation to flow. Offer them a financial or discount incentive to encourage interviewees to participate.

Focus groups - Focus groups work on a similar structure to one-to-one interviews but are a great way of getting multiple customer opinions (a maximum of 10 people is optimum) in one relatively short session (usually no longer than 2 hours) The benefit of a focus group is the depth of information gathered as interviewees tend to chat more comfortably between themselves and the interviewer than when they’re on their own.

Online video chats – Speaking to local customers will only give one perspective on your business so encourage those further afield to have their say with one-to-ones or focus groups over Skype or Google Hangout.

Guerrilla testing - The guerrilla method is a quick, low commitment style of testing small tweaks with existing customers to gauge their responses. Where focus groups are based on gaining a few high quality insights, guerrilla is a great way of getting out amongst your customers and discovering the preferences of a larger quantity of people. For example, a restaurant could test a potential new menu by giving each diner a small sample taste. A hotel could show a proposed website feature to guests on an iPad to see how they respond to it. If it gets a lukewarm response make further tweaks and retest or move on to other ideas.

Surveys – Encourage visitors to fill in comment cards whilst at your destination or send out a survey to your mailing list using a system like Survey Monkey.

Sentiment measurement – Set up measurement points at strategic parts of the visitor journey to see how your customers feel, for example putting an iPad with clickable sentiment icons at reception (see how the city of Dubai are employing this technique http://www.xische.com/Happiness-Meter)

Reviews – At the very least you should be monitoring reviews written about your business on sites like TripAdvisor and on your Google business profile. These will flag what your customers expect from you and where you’re falling below or exceeding that.

This list isn’t by any means exhaustive but carrying out at least one of these methods will set you on the right path to knowing your customers.


Once you’ve spoken to your customers you can start to group the people you received insights from into sets based on similar attributes like age, lifestyle etc. These will become the basis for your personas, a set of character profiles that match your key audiences. Personas should include information on the following:

  • Key demographics: age, occupation, income bracket, marital status and education
  • Internet and social media habits
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Media consumption: what are they listening to, reading or watching and how
  • Attitude to travel
  • When they travel: frequency and times of year
  • Needs from specific trips: family holiday vs. romantic break
  • How they source travel information prior to booking and during their trip


Once you have created your personas you can use them as a reference point for what your customer would want when you are making decisions. For example: Katie would love http://wanderlusthotel.com ‘s initiative to encourage direct business by lending 4g enabled mobile phones to customers who book through them.

Just like real people personas need to develop over time. Make sure you go back and review them to see how the people have changed, they will have become older so their demographic group will have shifted and they may have had dramatic lifestyle changes, for example getting married, which adjust their priorities.


Now you know who your customers are its time to see how they’re interacting with your website. Technology such as Google Analytics make it really simple to see how your users travel through the site and equally important, where they exit it. If you don’t have Analytics installed on your website to monitor any visits I would suggest this is a must. If you already have Analytics set up then you should have data ready to scrutinise. You want to be looking for where users are coming from into the site, the pages they visit, how long they spend there and where they leave the site. These are all useful bits of data you can collate to build a picture of what they expect from you and your site. Usually very short visits suggest the user wasn’t able to find what they were looking for instantly and gave up. Longer visits with users visiting multiple pages might mean they are looking for something and items have caught their interest en-route.

This is no exact science though as the statistics are concrete but how you analyse them can be subjective. I would suggest adding a chat functionality to the website to catch any users who can’t find what they want or have an immediate question. The questions asked on the chat functionality can be used to guide any additions or changes that might help the site field them without the need for human interaction.

  1. BE THEM

Go undercover. Visit your competitors who have great TripAdvisor reviews to see what they’re doing right. Try to switch off and enjoy it as a customer rather than a business owner. This is a model that the retail sector utilises to great business benefit, with visits to other stores a weekly occurrence. If covert isn’t your style speak to them directly. Approach more expensive and cheaper competitors and try to find out the reasons people choose them. This will help you to position yourself, to know what you’re not and what customers don’t expect from you. This is almost as valuable as knowing what they do expect.


Not literally. But metaphorically. Your customers, sensing that you know them and understand their needs, will look to you to delight them with the unexpected and push them slightly out of their comfort zones. This might be an email that shows them activities they’d usually enjoy with an added suggestion you’d usually market to a less risk adverse demographic. Or a reduced rate upgrade to a more luxurious room for a special occasion. 

Remember you can’t be everything to all people, but by finding out who your core customer groups are and exceeding their expectations you’ll create a loyalty that will stand the test of time.

If you would like Emma to help you understanding your consumers better, then get in touch with her at emma@thinkdigital.travel, or give the #DTTT expert team a call (+44 20 7193 1003) to see how we can help.

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