The tourism industry is an absolute force in the world of digital marketing, estimated to have spent over 6 billion dollars on digital ads at the height of purchasing in 2019. The trend will continue - it's estimated this industry spend will have fully rebounded from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic by 2023.
Many companies in the industry clearly see the value in building the capability in-house to elevate their brand and acquire customers through direct digital marketing, alongside their traditional distribution channels like OTAs or reseller networks.
We believe that tours and attraction operators should think of their digital marketing campaigns as an extension of their guest experience.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your online creative content grab customers’ attention?
- Is your online ticketing engine smooth and simple?
- Is your content shown on your guests’ preferred platform? In their preferred format?
- Are you taking the opportunity to communicate with them before and after they purchase a ticket?
All these factors combine to create the first impression of your business, which will last right through to after their visit (when they are likely to leave a review or refer you to their friends).
Here are some thoughts to consider as you look to enhance your guest experience through digital marketing.
Own your distribution, own your brand
Much like Apple building their own network of retail outlets, or Louis Vuitton insisting their stores stand-alone in only certain neighborhoods, controlling your digital advertising gives you complete control of the path your customer takes to ultimately purchase a ticket.
While OTAs and reseller networks can be great distribution partners, there are situations where they simply do not put your best foot forward. It’s difficult to justify a costly OTA commission for a jam-packed offer on a summer night. It can also be counterproductive to have an offer listed on a reseller site known for discounts as you are looking to increase your profit margins.
In both the above cases, think of Louis Vuitton being offered off the shelf at Wal-Mart. You’re being buried among the masses when your goal is to stand out.
Content, measurement, optimization
What are the components of this “first leg” of your customer journey? This is a mix that you will put together based on where your customers live online, and the message you want to get across, which will dictate the content you serve.
- Fun & Visual
- Expert Instructional
- Persuasive & Viral
- Paid ads
- Email Lists
- Social channels
- Pictures and videos of your attraction or experience in action
- Written blogs and How-To guides
- Reviews and Social Proof
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it never hurts to reassess if the path your customers are taking to find you includes a logical mismatch across any of these components.
Many tourism companies are very visual, which lends naturally to social media. But for an audience that likes to “geek out” on their product or service, they may be missing opportunities in blogging and email.
Experimentation can go a long way in determining the correct marketing mix.
Marketing costs money, but what’s the ROI?
There is a cost to acquire any customer for your business, be it online or otherwise. However, this mentality sometimes holds operators back when they see a large price tag associated with their online ads. The key mantra to remember is – what is the ROI?
- What is the ad cost relative to the purchase?
- What is the ad cost relative to an OTA commission?
- What is the average order value (including upselling) of my online channels?
- What is it worth to me to have cash in the bank and customer information days (or weeks) before the event?
Follow the ROI to your highest-performing channels and product using Google e-commerce conversion tracking. Naturally, these are the purchases that give your customer the most value.
Check-in on your Checkout
Modern software gives you the unprecedented ability to customize your checkout to your brand and add upselling and cross-selling options to increase your average order value (more on that here). But before you optimize for additional revenue, start by optimizing to reduce drop-offs.
A modern checkout with cart abandonment features, re-engagement options, and a smooth and user-friendly interface can increase conversions significantly.
Is this worth it?
Marketers, ask yourselves what the impact of the following would be for your business:
- A 15% increase in online conversions?
- A 20% increase in average order value?
- Tripling your lifetime customer value through repeat visits?
- Saving 20% OTA commissions on a portion of revenue?
These are some common outcomes that businesses experience when they focus on adding value at each point of their customer journey – beginning when customers are searching for things to do.