Travel and Tourism in Australia

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How travel companies use digital channels

Most companies across the travel and hospitality industry have embraced online media to some extent, but they haven’t demonstrated sophisticated use of digital channels.

Companies’ biggest misstep?

They’ve tried to be just as “social” as consumers. For consumers, these channels are social. For companies, they have to be all business. That means finding the place where their marketing strategies intersect with the ways consumers use these channels—ways that are not only social, but also different from how they use TV, radio, or print.

What have travel companies been doing online?

A lot of “social listening” to observe brand mentions by consumers in the hope they’ll glean nuggets of useful information. That is worthwhile to do, but not the only way a business should interact with digital channels. Some companies use these channels to engage consumers as a forum for feedback. One-third of consumers say they’ve left a comment or sent a message to a travel brand’s social media page, and half of all frequent leisure travelers (defined as those survey respondents who took at least six trips in the previous year) do. Some companies use this kind of outreach to provide more customized services; for example, Hilton has extended its Twitter-based @HiltonSuggests concierge service to anyone traveling—regardless of whether they are staying at a Hilton property.

3 Travelers can ask about restaurants, activities, tours, or other suggestions and a local expert will tweet back. Socially, this is innovative. But it can be challenging to tie these specific behaviors to a direct uptick in sales or brand awareness. Other companies use digital channels for giveaways or contests. About one-third of all consumers, and half of all frequent Travelers, report seeing these offerings. These promotions can engage the consumer base, but the key is to ensure these actions align with other key business goals instead of standing outside them. For example, consumers can enter many of these contests simply by “liking” or “following” the brand. Companies spend time and money to run these contests—and hand out rewards with real market value in exchange for loyalty that may be fleeting. Fortunately, there are other measurable ways to engage travel audiences online. What’s in a name? The journey from “social” to “digital” Traditional ads could never be anything but one-way channels. They offered no interaction, no window into the identity or mindset or behavior of the buying audience, and only the most basic metrics. Today, digital channels offer all these advantages to the companies that know how to take advantage of them—and yet many haven’t been taking full advantage of their potential. Yes, you can use likes, follows and shares to build a large audience. But what will you do with it once you build it? Moving forward, businesses need to replace the term “social media” with “digital.” These channels are social for the consumers, but not for the marketers. You wouldn’t call television “leisure media,” after all. You take it more seriously than that. What’s in a name? In this case, the change is more than just semantics. It’s the fulcrum on which a company can shift its behavior and align digital channels with real business goals and strategy.

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