The Really Disturbing Truth Why Your Travel Business Is Losing Customers And What To Do About It.
This is part two in a three part series on doubling your customers, sales and margins in the travel business. If you haven’t read part one, you can get it here.
In part one, we discovered what your customers REALLY, REALLY want from you before they even think of spending even a $1 or £1 with you.
In this article, learn why there’s been a startling shift of power from the seller to the buyer, how your customers are using this to their advantage against you and what you can do about it to grow sales and margins.
Part Two. Why Your Customers Are Shopping With Your Competitors And What To Do About It.
I’d like to introduce you to Professor Kit Yarrow. She has something to tell you about your customers that will make you have sleepless nights.
“Today’s individualistic consumer is more responsive to marketers that honour, admire and serve them. The consumer wants to be the star and in a very personal way”.
Professor Kit Yarrow, Decoding The New Consumer Mind.
When did this happen?
Or more importantly, why?
Marketers have less time to GET ready, they have to BE ready.
Ten Reasons Your Customers Are Going Elsewhere
In today’s frantic world, customers spend less time looking at detailed information and they use social tools and apps to look for faster solutions but only IF the emotional connection has been made quickly.
The cognitive and emotional shifts in your customer from the use of technology has led to a complete change how and why she shops and buys.
But many travel agencies and tour operators are stuck in the same old business models and just waste money trying to be more efficient and competitive whereas the real opportunity lies in reimagining and creating an extraordinary business.
Here are the ten most important points you need to know to about why and how your customers have changed:
Your customer’s deep emotional needs are now driving her purchase decisions, but she doesn’t always know what she needs or wants until you can show her in an interesting, genuine way.
Customers today are overwhelmed with options and now expect something more than just the purchase.
If you give them an emotional uplift, for example through a good product, an event like a surprise pop up store, or an exclusive offer, they are more likely to see themselves in a positive light by buying from a business that gives them attention, personalized products and involvement.
Your customer needs to feel “in control” and is more emotional, demanding and vocal. Like many consumers, her anxiety levels and time spent shopping (especially online) have increased.
She wants to feel seen and valued for more than just her money and when she does shop, she wants it to be easier (you offer her clear and immediate emotional benefits), simpler and more enjoyable.
Your business now has to build relationships by inviting your customer to participate in your conversation, to seek out her opinion and offer her activities and rewards just for being involved. Apps and social media now allow you to create more intense experiences that eventually lead to purchases.
Customers are easily bored with products they own and “lust for the new”, always eager to be impressed by the next “new thing” being championed by social media, ratings and review sites. Because of new technology, we’re bombarded with stimulation and interruptions and now we want everything faster and even more stimulation.
We now live in a “Me” society – we have less in common with others, we’re more guarded, crave privacy and we interact more with our smartphones than with people. We’re easily distracted and won’t tolerate queues or explanations anymore.
Customers still want a positive relationship with your business and the foundations for that are trust (deliver your promise), authenticity and transparency.
Recent recessions have hard wired the bargain expectations of consumers today and in the travel industry, this has decreased your customer’s ability to understand the intrinsic value of holidays in favor of “cheapest”.
Your customer demands simplicity and clarity to match the way they think. They’re often confused and frustrated by store/web layouts, sale prices and product locations and will terminate the experience than try and figure it out.
According to Professor Yarrow, today’s individualistic consumer is more responsive to businesses that appear to honour, admire and serve them.
The consumer wants to be the star and in a very personal way.
The secret to cool is to make your customers feel cool and smart in choosing your brand.
“Authenticity is the new black”
Seven Guaranteed Ways To Attract Customers and Make Them Loyal To Your Brand
Turning your travel business around requires you to overturn what you’ve been doing up to now and provide the customer with an extraordinary experience right across your business.
Speak to the values of your customers. Your customers are increasingly socially conscious and environmentally friendly. Your brand and business needs to adopt these behaviours and actively promote them with your customers through social media content and events. Today, nearly 40% of people aged between 18-35 are prepared to pay more for a product if it’s related to a good cause.
Go to where they are and don’t rely on your own website. You have to have a presence and a strategy for the social networks where millennials and your other customers spend their time.
Make your engagement authentic. Today’s customers, especially the Millenials don’t want to feel they’re interacting with a social media department because they want your brand to be human with a human face and voice. What this means is that your content and products need to be created, marketed and communicated in a conversational, honest and transparent way.
Go beyond traditional advertising because your customers are the most tech-savvy generation that advertisers have ever targeted. Every claim you make, every promise and every article will be validated and shared against your customer’s social networks to make sure you can be trusted.
Use video as often as you can! Your customers, especially those aged 18-35 spend nearly 50% more time watching videos that are informative, entertaining and educational. Creating video content is relatively low cost compared to traditional advertising and you’ll increase loyalty by providing helpful content.
Provide experiences your customers will remember even if they’re not directly related to your business. Examples might be sponsoring events, creating and promoting online quizzes, contests and surveys. Create excitement, anticipation and interest by linking this to interesting content and then share this with promotional offers that your customers will remember.
Use only as a last resort: Millenials especially have a reputation for being less brand loyal than older generations and you MAY have to consider using discounts, coupons and rewards to attract your customers.
But do not repeatedly do this unless you want to lock in the perception you’re your brand is only about the lowest prices.
Three tactics to engage your prospects in three critical places in their customer journey:
- Get her to connect and engage with your travel business before she buys by offering her clear and immediate emotional benefits (highlight all the benefits of her holiday, even if she’s not going to take them all)
- The buying journey – make her feel more in control of the process (give her the chance to pick and choose different elements, such as room type, choice of meals)
- Reduce the fear of making a mistake by simplifying the decision process (give her two itineraries, not three) and prominently display and mention your 100% guarantee.
A 10 point checklist to transform the way you turn holiday prospects into loyal customers.
According to Professor Yarrow, her extensive research demonstrates that customers have a strong preference for businesses that correspond with their own views of themselves as unique individuals.
What does that even mean?
Your customer now tells you very specifically in ten different ways how wants you to treat her if you want her to buy from you.
1. Make it about me.
Customers are relying on your brand to translate product characteristics into emotional benefits, and the more extraordinary those emotional benefits, the better.
“To be suspended in time in a more interesting place, to feel allowed to break the rules, to be self indulgent, to be transformed into someone else with total power and control – these are the fantasies that excite overloaded, individualistic minds”.
Professor Kit Yarrow, Decoding The New Consumer Mind
2. Make me unique.
Customers buy from you because your beliefs and the raison d’être of your company is the same as their beliefs. For example, they will only buy a certain style of home accessory because it fits in with their own style.
Or customers will buy from your travel business even though it’s 15% more expensive purely because all the destinations you offer practice sustainable tourism.
- What does your business do that is unique or promotes that makes your customers say, “that’s me!” or “that’s what I believe too!”
- Ruth Stokes, of Ethical Travel, offers ideas, insights and inspiration on how to arrange holidays where customers care about the people and communities they visit.
3. Talk like me.
Nobody reads anymore (except my work, of course).
Consumers now read advertising, content and instructions the same way – scan and hope. Instead of the words being chosen, it’s the whole gestalt of the article, page or website that matters.
So talking like me means attending to the total visual image of communications, not just the words.
4. You always GET me!
Customers quickly form opinions about good taste (and bad taste) and they want to buy your product / service because it reinforces their personal constructs of their taste, ideas, character, personality and emotions.
5. Surprise me.
Surprising your customer works if three conditions are met – it’s novel to the customer, it’s rewarding and it reinforces her behaviour.
What do Costco, slot machines and pop up stores have in common?
The experience of finding something novel or a reward that the customer justifies translates to an in intoxicating, addictive win because it’s intermittent reinforcement.
6. Shock Me.
The occasional controversial campaign, if done well, such as the Benetton campaign, can cause your campaign to go viral and attract substantial traffic if it resonates with your brand, personality and style.
But it also has the potential to attract negative reviews and the opposite effect you’re trying to create.
7. Help me keep it simple.
Customers buy from you because the information about you, your business, your products, services, guarantees and payment facilities are easy to access and use and they feel equally confident using your store or website.
Simplicity is at the heart of success for Iceland, who focus on lifestyle merchandising, simplified shopping experiences and retail as theatre.
- Can you provide evening appointments for your customers?
- Can you provide interest free payment terms for high value holidays?
- Do you have chill out spaces where customers can relax with a drink and browse brochures or online IN your store?
- Is there any space for child care and playing areas in store?
- Showcasing a region, such as a Spanish tapas and wine evening with a guest speaker for invited customers and guests.
8. Help me multi task.
“I have so many things to do –make it easy for me”.
- Is your store and website always immaculate and relaxing?
- Are your customers able to browse, discuss and pay in a relaxed way?
- How do you reduce the time customers spend waiting for service?
“Waiting is a punishment”
9. Make me trust you.
- Customers make choices based on the promises you make to them and your credibility in delivering them.
- Customers are highly sensitive to other people’s experiences and opinions of doing business with you.
- Customers buy from you because of the consistency displayed by you, your team, customer service and your delivery departments.
- Remove obstacles to buying by displaying and reassuring your prospects and customers that you have 100% guarantees and the reputation you have gained.
10. Make me feel good.
Customers want instant gratification and don’t want to hang around for it – they’re looking for instant affluence, love, achievement, security and acceptance.
They want to know how your product or service gives it to them and improves their perception of themselves.
- Can you surprise and delight your customer by giving them something of value during or after the booking process?
- What can you do to send your customers images and summaries of their upcoming holiday that they can share with friends?
- After your customer has booked her holiday, what can you do to reassure them they’ve made the right choices? Can you send them a list of excursions and reviews?
By now, you’ve learned two key insights about your customers:
In part one, you learnt what they want you to do before they’ll spend any money with you.
In part two here, you’ve learnt why your customer behaviour has changed in the last five years and how you can change the way you talk to them to win them back.
In part three, coming next, you’ll get the SEVENTEEN most powerful and proven ways to drive your prospects into your business and convert them into loyal customers who keep on returning!
PS – If you really need urgent help in growing your leads, customers and sales, just reply to me at email@example.com and I’ll help, as one business owner who shares the same passion for travel as you do.