A Pirate’s Life for Me: The treasure map of the booking journey
Read original story HERE
TRAVEL IS TORTURE
Travel is torture. At least if we stick with the etymology of the word. Linguists tend to agree that the term comes from “travail” (“work” in French) or “travailen” (“torment” in Middle English). Not very tempting, is it? Well, wait for the worst part: these two words probably share an even more sinister meaning: according to author and journalist Simon Winchester, in fact, they very likely derive from the Latin term “tripalium”, an ancient torture instrument used in the Roman Empire. Today, when we think about travel, we picture fast trains, intercontinental flights in business class, sandy beaches, and Mojitos, but things were not always as smooth. Travelling was extremely difficult (and risky) in ancient times and organizing one’s travel was, indeed, a torture.
THE EVOLUTION OF TRAVELER’S JOURNEY
Of course, things improved over the last 3,000 years, but the travel journey continued to be, if not a torture, at least a frustrating experience up until only a few years ago. During the early ’00s, in fact, booking a hotel online was a long and boring process: once the travelers chose the destination, they had to visit dozens of individual websites to have a better understanding of the hotel’s location, rates, and availability. There was no way to compare properties rates, reputation or location in one click like we do today, and review sites and metasearch engines were yet to come. A fragmented search like this could take hours if not days, and the overall user experience was very poor.
IT’S HARD TO BE A PIRATE
With the birth of what is commonly known as “Web 2.0”, online users were finally put at the center of the web ecosystem and things started to change: travelers became increasingly connected, aware and selective and, more importantly, they started to expect to get answers to all their questions in real-time, on any device and technology. In this scenario, the classic Google’s search engine results page of the 2000’s was the digital equivalent of caravan-traveling in the Middle Age. On the other hand, it was quite easy for hotels to follow and predict this pretty linear behavior: a decent website, some search engine optimization and a booking engine was pretty much all they needed. Picture a treasure map with a big red X marked in the middle. Back then, if you wanted the treasure (the booking) all you had to do was to take a shovel and dig where the X was. Today’s travel landscape, on the other hand, looks more like an over complicated treasure hunt: you dig to get the first clue that brings you to a different location where you find another clue and, before you know it, you interacted with your potential guests on a dozen of different websites and devices. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! Looks like pirate’s life is getting harder. But is it?
THE CURRENT TRAVEL SCENARIO
OTAs, metasearch engines, artificial intelligence, travel personal assistants, social networks, travel apps and review sites (just to name a few), made it way easier for users to book their travels online, but created a more complicated landscape of multiple touchpoints that hotels can struggle to understand. Remember that travelers’ behavior and hotels’ strategies walk hand in hand: both are subject to technological developments and the change of one has an impact on the other. Good news is that technology can help hotels getting the best out of each step of the customer’s purchase journey. At a closer look, in fact, even though the current purchase path is remarkably intricate (multiple contact points, different interaction levels, circularity, etc.), the motivation behind each step of the journey is pretty much always the same and you can easily identify basic, fundamental and unaltered constants in it. In a nutshell: the treasure can be buried deeper, but it is definitely still there. You just need the right tools to unbury it.
MOMENTS OF TRUTH, MICROMOMENTS AND TRAVEL STAGES
Over the years, a multitude of words were used to describe the various phases of this treasure hunt: Silicon Valley’s evangelist Brian Solis, for example, borrowed (and expanded) the famous Procter&Gamble’s “Moments of Truth” concept, while Google came up with terms such as “multiple touchpoints” and “micro-moments”. Semantic differences aside, these terms always refer to five essential steps of the travel journey:
Understanding these phases is crucial in order to be at the right place at the right time and, even though it can sound pretty complicated, the good news is that there are tools suitable for each stage of the guest journey: from promotion to acquisition to guest retention, software can help you decipher all the “clues”. And making them work together with a holistic approach is what makes a good strategy great.
THE JOLLY ROGER’S EFFECT: INSPIRATION
During the “inspiration” phase (a.k.a. as “stimulus”, “1st micro-moment” or “dreaming”), travelers are not actively looking for a specific hotel or destination. According to Google, in fact, 66% of travelers is unsure about the destination when starting organizing its trip. Therefore, during this stage, brand awareness and recognition are key, in order to gain the attention of your potential customers and inspire them. Tools like Marketing Automation Software and Media Planners comes in hand during this first step of the travel journey and, in general, all the tools that are used by Marketing Department. To keep the pirate metaphor alive, it’s like raising your skull and bones jolly roger’s flag on the open sea. Travelers now know that you exist.
PUT YOUR EYEPATCH ON: INFORMATION
Sometimes called “planning” or “2nd micro-moment”, information is the phase of the booking journey in which the potential customers gather more info about the hotel. The main action here is to get these users to visit your website, social media, review sites or landing pages and provide them with all the data they need. The departments involved in this phase are IT, Web and Marketing, and the tools needed are the ones related to the management of your online identity, such as Content Management Systems, Landing Page Builders. This is where you wear your eyepatch and your pirate parrot. Now travelers know that you’re a mighty fearless pirate, ahoy!
Also known as “3rd micro-moment” or, simply “Booking Stage”, this is a key moment in the traveler’s journey. Once the potential customer got inspired by your brand and gathered all the information needed, he is now ready to book. The acquisition phase is all about converting website visitors into actual customers. Departments involved are Reservations and Revenue, while the software used are Booking Engines, Yield Management Systems and CRSs. Well, this is when you put the artillery out. Travelers now know that you got big guns on them!
MORE GROG! THE EXPERIENCE
During the experience, or “4th micro-moment”, the guest is in-house and enjoying his stay in your hotel. The responsibility goes mainly to the Front Office, F&B, SPA, MICE and Housekeeping departments and the software needed in order to manage the on-site guest experience are Guest Management Software, WIFI Gateways, Event Management Systems and PMSs. Ok, you got the travelers on the ship: serve them good Grog and show them your three-headed monkey (videogames geeks will get the quote…).
FINAL PHASE: LOYALTY
Loyalty or “Final Moment of Truth” is the last phase of the digital travel journey. At this stage the guest lived the experience and will share it (via word of mouth or online), creating new contents for travelers in the “Information” phase. Moreover, if the experience was satisfactory, the guest could become a loyal customer of your hotel. During this delicate stage, there are several marketing and sales automation systems that can help you, such as CRM and email marketing tools. Other than gathering customers information, in fact, these tools can organize and segment your clientele on a proper database and allow highly targeted marketing actions. Travelers left the ship safe and sound and now they’ve got a pirate spirit. Things will never be the same and they will talk to all their friends about the buccaneer fun they had. You did a good job, Captain!
You may be a pirate, but you still need a map if you want to conquer the seven seas, because proactively understanding the changes in the travelers booking journey is crucial to stay competitive and relevant in today’s industry. But there is no map without a cartographer drawing it, and here’s where tooly.tips can assist you, by “drawing” your treasure map and helping you identify the right software for each step of the booking journey. Moreover, despite being stinky, drunken criminals, of course, pirates use a democratic, collaborative system (it’s true, look it up!) so you are welcomed to get your contribution in the mapmaking: are you using a software that is still not listed on the site? Just get in touch and help tooly.tips creating an even more detailed and complete map. So you can simply sail with the wind.
And drink grog. Arrrr!