When starting to plan a trip, 78% of leisure travelers haven’t decided what airline they will travel with, and 82% haven’t chosen an accommodation provider. At this point of the journey, travelers are open-minded and eager to find an idea for their next trip. That’s why the first step for most leisure travelers is inspiration.
For travel brands, there is fierce competition when it comes to capturing travelers’ attention at the inspiration stage. Our research shows that 70% of respondents have used OTAs for travel inspiration in the last year and around half used search engines, meta search channels, and review sites like TripAdvisor. And the landscape is set to become even more competitive, as travel shoppers continue to shop around for the best deals.
Given this competitive landscape, how can your OTA make sure it’s winning customer attention at the inspiration phase of traveler journey? Here, we look at some tactics you can use to inspire travelers and guide them towards booking their next trip with your OTA.
1. Build traveler persona profiles
Building traveler persona profiles will allow your OTA to identify target customers and understand their preferences and behaviors. You can tap into what a specific traveler is looking for and provide information and offers based on that insight by combining data from the following sources:
- Booking history (e.g. lead time from booking to departure)
- Website activity (individual customer preferences)
- Demographics for typical website users
- Industry shopping trends
With such a large volume of data available to OTAs, it can be difficult to know what to do with it and how to turn it into actionable insights. Advanced data analytics technologies can help. They give you a deeper understanding of your customers and allow you to enhance their experiences at all six stages of their travel journey.
2. Optimize your website
When travelers are searching for inspiration, you need to make sure your OTA’s website is front and center. Mobile optimization and site speed are critical areas to focus on.
Google reports that while travel searches happen on all devices, 60% of searches for destination information come from mobile devices. So, when you are focusing on the inspiration phase of your customer journey, it should be with a mobile-first mindset.
Last year, Google made a speed update to its SEO algorithm and began rolling out its ‘mobile first’ indexing. Where Google’s crawling, indexing and ranking systems typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, it has now moved to using the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking. So, while optimizing your site for mobile is nothing new, it has never been more important.
Improve your site speed
With travel brands battling for traveler attention, your site speed is absolutely essential. It’s a simple fact: users will bounce off your website and go to one of your competitors if they don’t get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
Globally, 70% of mobile network connections occur at 3G speeds or slower. If your site takes around 10 seconds to load, you increase the chance of visitors bouncing from your site by 120%.
Again, when it comes to search engine rankings, Google takes site speed for both desktop and mobile seriously, as it affects the overall user experience. Google’s free tool Test My Site allows you to test your page loading time and recommends fixes you can implement to increase your site speed. For travel, the industry average page loading time is four seconds.
Read our guide to optimizing conversions across the customer journey for more insights on how to improve your site and search results speed.
3. Organic and paid search
Search optimization through organic and paid channels is a core part of every OTA’s digital marketing strategy. Target keywords and phrases will change as your customers move through their journey, so it is essential that when planning your SEO and PPC strategies, you consider each step of the process.
This is where your traveler persona profile data will add significant value. It is vital to work with the data function within your OTA to establish the customers you should be targeting, the keywords they’re searching for and, critically, how they are responding to your campaigns.
When considering search engine optimization (SEO) at the inspiration phase, you should target specific long tail keywords that are relevant to your personas and the stage of the journey they’re at. For example, if your goal is to increase bookings among your ‘family’ traveler personas within a certain destination, you might consider a keyword like ‘family-friendly destinations in France’. Remember, at this stage the traveler is looking for ideas, so your keywords should reflect this. While keywords like ‘car rental in [Location]’ is more appropriate when you’re targeting travelers at the shopping/booking stage of the journey, they are less important at the inspiration phase.
As more travel brands than ever are shifting online, search ad auctions are becoming more crowded, resulting in increasing cost-per-click prices. Suppliers like hotels and airlines are upping their direct booking campaigns in the space too, making the competition for customer attention tougher than ever.
When looking at your pay-per-click (PPC) strategy, you should choose very specific keywords to bid on that will deliver the best return on investment for your OTA. For example, if through your data insights you know that a large percentage of backpacker travelers take trips between September and November, you can bid on keywords like ‘best places to take a backpacking trip in September’.
4. Destination marketing
Destination content like blogs, images, and videos can help increase engagement at the inspiration stage and attract visitors to your website. Our Global Digital Traveler Research found that almost 50% of respondents are influenced by videos and images when researching travel.
You can begin to build up your own content library, featuring content on destinations that your OTA is promoting, either using in-house teams or agencies. Another option is to integrate a third-party plugin like ArrivalGuides, which sends up-to-date destination directly to your website.
5. Social media
Social media has a big part to play at the inspiration phase—32% of travelers use social media when looking for travel inspiration or planning a trip.
These are the social channels you should focus on at the inspiration phase.
- Facebook: Facebook users spend five times more time there than on travel apps, sites and searches combined and 68% of millennials found ideas for their most recent trip on Facebook.
- Instagram: Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world and hit one billion monthly average users in 2018*. Eighty percent of accounts follow a business on Instagram and users have ten times the interaction with a brand than on Facebook.
- Pinterest: Pinterest claims to have two million travel saves per day and over 40 million people in the US using Pinterest every month for travel ideas.
- Twitter: Although cost per acquisition on Twitter can be high, research shows that travelers who use Twitter want exclusive discounts and travel ideas, making it a good channel to use at the inspiration phase.
- WeChat: The Chinese ‘super app’ started as a mobile messaging platform and now offers everything from photo sharing to conference calls, travel booking, bill paying, and customer service. With over one billion monthly active users, WeChat is one of the most-used apps in the world and is used by travelers at virtually every stage of the customer journey.
Inspire and convert
Inspiring travelers at the beginning of their journey is a key step in nailing the conversion when the time comes to book. By offering engaging and personalized content to your website visitors, you can raise your brand profile and position your OTA as a helpful travel partner.
At this point of the journey, you have the chance to influence their entire experience, putting your brand front-of-mind from the get-go. For more on how your OTA can own the traveler journey, from inspiration to post-trip, read our free guide to optimizing conversions.