8 tips on what influences customer purchases online
Mobile, social media and search technologies
Technology has changed the way we consume information, not only in the tourism sector. Just take a minute to think about how you get the latest news? Chances are, it comes through your Facebook feed via a news service. Next time you’re out, try to notice the number of people on their mobile devices consuming information. There is no doubt that advancements in technology and the interrelationship between mobile technology and social media are driving change in customer behaviour.
People are consuming information differently
Over the last 10 years we seem to have gotten even busier; we are more connected via our devices and some would argue disconnected personally. When we have a few spare moments to gather information, we research travel options online in what Google calls “micro moments”. Due to the abundance of information available we have limited attention spans and digest small pieces of information often. No longer do we sit down and plan an entire holiday, we gather information and save it on our device to review later. We even leave some elements till when we arrive to add some flexibility.
Your customers are being inspired, consuming information and making bookings on devices and platforms of their choice
Customers gravitate to the device and platforms they are most comfortable with at the different stages of their travel purchase cycle. Research shows that whilst searches on mobile are growing, when it comes to booking there are still a lot of people who like to do this on a desktop or laptop computer. Whilst a growing number of people are adopting social media and there is no doubt that posts from friends and relatives can influence decisions on destinations and types of holidays, most people actively search for holiday information in search engines, Google being the first choice by far.
A key to successful attraction and engagement for your business online is to develop a clear understanding of your target customers and their pathways to purchase. A great method to do this is to develop personas for your target markets.
Search plays a role at most stages of the travel purchase cycle.
Google continues to dominate the market and continues to change its technology which impacts how easily your business can be found by your target customers. 90% of people say they use search engines in the planning stage of their travel purchase, so it’s vitally important that you do everything you can so that your website comes up on page one in relevant searches on Google. If your website is buried on page 2 or lower for a relevant search term, then the chances are that your customers won’t find you. So, invest in ensuring your Search Engine Optimization on your website is up to speed. Don’t forget to claim your Google My Business listing. It is free and helps Google to list you for local searches, that’s when the customer puts in a location in their search.
Did you know that, on average people visit 7 to 13 websites before making a booking?
Why is that so important?
People have so much choice, which means that your offer must be compelling in terms of both text and imagery
They’ll also be looking at the competition and they are swayed to the most professional looking online image
The information they see on websites must be accurate, otherwise you’re setting yourself up to disappoint your customers
Your online presence must connect with their needs and the type of holiday experience they are seeking
Your content across all platforms should provide and deliver the right message to your target audience, supporting your promise to them.
Social media is most relevant at the “Dream, Experience, Advocate” stages.
Small businesses sometimes struggle to see how social media is providing commercial benefit to their business and that is usually because they don’t see sales or bookings coming from their social platforms. Social media when used well is a great tool in the early stages of the travel purchase cycle, the Dream Stage. It makes sense when you think about it; when you are dreaming of a holiday destination you might start with Instagram because it’s the most visual platform. Social media platforms are what your customers use when they are on holiday as they share their experiences with family and friends on Instagram and Facebook and after being your guest they will add reviews on TripAdvisor and other review sites.
Understand your target customer’s online purchase journey
This is in my opinion the key to success. You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s not possible for a small business to be active on all platforms all the time without a dedicated resource and that’s probably out of the question for most of you.
That is why it’s important to understand what platforms your customers use and what information and functionality they need at each stage of their purchase cycle and focus on delivering that.
Facebook, Instagram, You Tube and TripAdvisor must be part of your marketing
These should be the essential four pillars of your social media strategy, but don’t be daunted… after all, you can share digital assets across platforms; pictures can go on both Instagram and Facebook and likewise for YouTube and Facebook for videos. Still, make sure you tweak your comments, so they are appropriate to that particular audience and platform. It’s all about engaging, meaningful and relevant content for your customers on the right device at the right stage of the purchasing cycle.