The position of tour operators in the first stage of the customer journey 2.0

The customer journey is a well-known model used to understand and explain the customer experience from the beginning till the end. As mentioned by Peelen and Beltman (2013), Boswijk (2011) explained, the customer journey describes the sequence of contacts between the customer and the organization. There are so-called touch-points, which are the moments that actual contact takes place. In terms of customer engagement management, it is extremely important that you engage your customers during these touch points of the customer with your company. Only a few years ago, Google came with “The Five Stages of Travel”, including the dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing phase of the customer journey of travelers. However, due to the increased use of mobile devices and changed customer behavior, the traditional customer journey is almost outdated already and it is time to understand the customer journey 2.0 from now on (Gevelber & Heckmann, 2015).

First of all, due to all technological development and the massive increase in use of mobile devices during the decision making process of travelers, the customer behavior has changed and has resulted in a new customer journey; the customer journey 2.0. As Gevelber and Heckmann (2015) state, mobile web conversion rates for travel sites have grown 88% over the last few years, which explains the absolutely need for tour operators and other players in the tourism industry to react to this development. Besides that, the customer behavior in general has changed very quick over the last few years. People want to live in the moment and to get the most out of everything. This in combination with the possibility to get all answers right on the spot on your mobile device, has resulted in a society that lives on so-called micro-moments. These micro-moments are an intent-rich moment when someone acts on a need (Gevelber & Heckmanm, 2015). In travel, these micro-moments are the I-want-to-get-away moments, I-want-to-make-a-plan moments, I-want-to-book-it moments and the I-want-to-explore moments.

This trend of living in the moment, has definitely resulted in a changed decision making process of the customers. To start with the I-want-to-get-away moment, the majority of the potential customers – about seventy percent – searches for information on their smartphone, but just to look for the most relevant information on that moment (Think with Google, 2016). In the earliest stage of the customer journey, it could be said that customers are not loyal to any brand at that moment. This is exactly the moment that tour operators should ask for attention of every single potential customer. In case of tour operators, it is important to understand that the customers are still in the orientation phase of the whole customer journey. This means that the majority did not make a decision about the destination and specific tour operator yet and people are looking for inspiration. This is exactly the moment for tour operators to engage with new customer and to impress the potential customers (Think with Google, 2016).

But what is the best way to engage people during this early stage of the decision making process? As mentioned before, people want to be inspired and are looking for help to make the best decision for their next trip. For the reason that more than half of all searches for possible destinations are done on mobile devices, it is extremely important to be visible online and to be in the top search results on online search engines and to be sure your website is responsive on mobile devices. Most of the searches are geography or type of trip based, so it is important to provide detailed and useful information about all destinations as well as theming different types of trips on your website. It is essential to combine this information with visuals such as images and video. This because people want to get an idea about what to expect at a certain destination and what you can offer as a tour operator. TUI is doing well with these type of videos and visuals. One of their latest campaigns is the “50 shades of …”-videos. These short videos show what a certain destination has to offer and the interaction on their Facebook page is significantly higher when new videos are uploaded than when just an offer is published.

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Source: TUI Facebook page (29 September, 2016)

Another way of engaging customers is by publishing vlogs, created by your own customers. A vlog of people who when on a honeymoon to the Dominican Republic for example could engage a specific target group with potential new customers. People who are looking for a honeymoon will be triggered at that moment and they get an answer to their need of information at that moment. When making the content as personal and recognizable for the customer as possible, the more they will feel engaged with your company and it will be more likely that they will stay with you during the following steps in the customer journey. Also during the next phases, engagement and creating touch points with the customer is essential in order to keep them attached to your company. Overall, to be there and to be useful in the online environment, with the special focus on mobile devices, is the most important aspect of creating engagement in the customer journey 2.0.

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Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Chapter 5, Customer Knowledge Strategy. In E. Peelen, & R. Beltman, Customer Relationship Management (Vol. 4, pp. 201 – 250). United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.

Think with Google (July 2016). How Micro-Moments Are Reshaping the Travel Customer Journey. Retrieved from https://think.storage.googleapis.com/docs/micro-moments-reshaping-travel-customer-journey-b.pdf

Gevelber, L. & Heckmann, O. (November 2015). Travel Trends: 4 Mobile Moments Changing the Customer Journey. Retrieved from https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/travel-trends-4-mobile-moments-changing-consumer-journey.html

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Published by

Joyce Zengerink

4th year International Tourism Management and Consultancy student at the NHTV in Breda

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