The online route we travel before we pack our bags and head off to vacation is a digital journey filled with opportunity for marketers. Travelers now experience their destination through video, photos, Instagram, and online reviews before deciding to book a ticket and hop on a plane.
Google calls the act of pulling out our phones and searching for videos, photos, or articles about a destination a “micro-moment.” It is the moment when a traveler is actively seeking, planning, and dreaming about traveling. And for a tourism company to have their message show up on a Google search, a video, or an Instagram photo at these moments is powerfully persuasive.
According to Google, “69 percent of leisure travelers who are smartphone users search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they’re standing in line or waiting for the subway. Nearly half of those travelers go on to book their choices through an entirely separate channel.”
Travel marketing relies on optimizing the micro-moment
Google’s research highlights the circuitous route that vacationers take to the booking button. It is not linear or confined to one device. And it is driven more by the vacationer’s psychology rather than any static process.
The “micro” qualifier refers to the short bursts of time we spend browsing our phone, leaving marketers with sometimes only seconds to make an impression. Research from Kleiner Caufield Perkins & Byers shows that the average consumer checks his phone 150 times a day (this is not a typo), but only spends 177 minutes per day on their phone – meaning that the average smartphone session lasts only 1 minute and 10 seconds.
But micro-moments are also defined by three attributes – they combine intent, immediacy, and context. Vacationers are searching for something (intent), they want it at their fingertips (immediacy), and they want it to be relevant to their planning (context).
Travel marketing’s three motivators: Go, Do, Buy
Here is a tour through the steps vacationers take as they go from someone with a casual interest in a destination to a vacationer booking a trip, and how marketers and travel companies can get travelers’ attention during each step of the process.
I Want to Know
It might be spurred by a conversation with a friend or a stunning photo on social media, but most travel trips start with one simple thought – I want to know.
I want to know more about that small beach town in Mexico that my co-worker just raved about. I want to know about the most family-friendly Hawaiian Island.
These “I want to know” moments send us to our smartphones where we search the photos, articles, and videos that inform us about a destination.
Each tactic has its advantage. Paid search assures your message shows up in front of the right person at the right time, but the message stays there only as long as you continue to pay for that placement. Organic SEO, driven by well-written content and metadata, and earned media (through public relations and video campaigns), has a longer life span and a more authentic, unbiased appeal to travelers.
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I Want to Go
The first decision has been made. After learning more about a destination, this prospective traveler wants to go. This is a big first step, but it is only the first in a string of very important decisions that make up vacation planning. Intent has turned into desire. The first hurdle has been crossed. If you are a destination marketing organization your job is partially done. Through compelling content available to the traveler at the right time, you have made the traveler choose your destination. If you are a lodging property, tour operator or restaurant, you now have a great opportunity to make your case.
Anticipation is a big part of success at this “micro-moment” stage. Understanding an audience and personalizing messages will earn you a click, a read, and ultimately a purchase decision.
At this stage of the process, it is a competition: the company that serves the most relevant content at the most opportune time will likely win the traveler.
According to a Google and Ipsos survey, one in three smartphone users has purchased from a company other than the one they intended to – because the brand they finally picked delivered them relevant information at the moment they needed it.
Think of “I want to go” moments not only as opportunities to influence vacationers in the planning stages but also in the moment. While lodging may be booked months in advance, targeted location-based mobile ads can inspire travelers to visit restaurants, take tours, and add unplanned events at the last minute mid-vacation.
I Want to Do
Travelers often book a trip to try new things – new foods, new experiences, new adventures. But doing new things requires some forethought and research, and much of that is now done on mobile devices. Useful web content that explains, educates, and inspires seals the deal for most travelers. Web traffic trends confirm this growing demand for educational content. YouTube searches for “how to” content is increasing 70 percent year over year, according to Google.
While the “I want to go” searcher may only visit a location once, the “I want to do” searcher has a high probability of becoming a lifelong consumer. Capturing the attention of that person wanting to experience a new sport, a new activity, or a new skill may become one of the coveted brand loyalists that deliver long-running “lifetime value” to a brand. Whether you are a ski destination, a mountain biking mecca, or a golfing paradise, capturing the imagination and loyalty of a traveler discovering your destination and a new activity or sport at the same time is one way to tap into the lifetime value of a repeat visitor or a brand loyalist.
I Want to Buy
Causing a customer to click the booking button typically requires connection across multiple devices at multiple points in time. Consumers do more research, more thoroughly than ever before.
When the momentous booking moment arrives, all of those “I want to know,” “I want to go” and “I want to do” micro-moments that preceded the booking decision matter. If your destination, travel company, or hotel served up useful information on things to do and things to see, the traveler is more likely to book with your company. Remember that Google/Ipsos study that showed a third of consumers will change allegiance and buy from a brand that served them up that relevant content at the moment they wanted it.
Connecting with prospective travelers throughout the research process also gives brands the data to connect and re-connect to the most relevant customers during these micro-moments. Using that data, brands can establish more personalized relationships with customers, making sure that they understand what their customers want in those valuable moments when they are seeking information and inspiration for their next vacation.