Posts by: Mark Murray

Coronavirus and the Travel Industry: 8 Tips for Marketers

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What does coronavirus mean for the travel industry and its marketing? Here’s our advice on what do to next…

As COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreads throughout more countries, the travel industry has been at the sharp end of the impact. As of early March, the IATA has forecast that the aviation industry’s global losses could be between $63 billion and $113 billion. With Flybe becoming the first corporate casualty, the picture looks intimidating. 

Working with hundreds of travel brands across the world, we’re seeing strategies unfold minute-by-minute as the situation changes. There are decisions to be made at every level, but what about marketing in particular? 

Here’s what Mark Murray, Yieldify’s Head of Travel, recommends for travel marketers to cope with the crisis. Plus, importantly, what the travel industry can do to be positioned for a good recovery when the time comes…

How to cope with the coronavirus hitting the travel industry

1. Take control of the conversation at every touchpoint

If there’s one point to be clear on, it’s this: every consumer engaging with you is thinking about coronavirus. This means there’s no benefit in trying to avoid the elephant in the room. It’s critical that you’re proactive in your messaging, getting on the front foot to assuage concerns wherever you can. 

Take a cue from Topdeck Travel. We’ve added a notification on their website to proactively inform their visitors about their policies in light of the outbreak: 

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

Being proactive is important, and being consistent is equally so. Don’t bury a message in an email and consider it done. Make sure that you’re reassuring customers across every touchpoint, including your website.

2. Don’t assume the worst for the travel industry

Our data indicates that the impact of COVID-19 varies hugely depending on different businesses within the travel industry.  

For example, we’ve actually seen conversion rates on holiday booking websites grow with the impact of coronavirus. This could be due to many consumers pivoting from international travel to more domestic ‘staycations’:

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

If you’re in the staycation business, it’ll pay to double-down on this message for those travelers who have recently had to cancel or postpone international travel.

The picture for transportation (buses and trains) has been similarly mild. Engagement remains steady, along with conversion rates. Again, it indicates that domestic travel remains steady for the time being: 

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

Unfortunately, we’re unable to say the same for leisure and attractions. Both traffic levels and conversion rates have plummeted: 

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

Seemingly indicating that consumer behavior has immediately moved away from the short-term booking of activities that involve crowds, this is one segment of travel that needs to be the most on its toes. 

3. Move your focus from acquisition to conversion 

Whether you’ve already been hard-hit or simply preparing for a worst-case scenario, one of the most important things you can do now is to pivot your focus from acquisition strategies to conversion strategies. 

Fluctuating traffic levels within the travel industry are inevitable at this juncture – there’s no amount of budget that can secure interest that’s simply not there. In fact, going overboard with promotional activity and fire-sale-like behavior could negatively impact your brand equity for when the current crisis passes.

All this means that the traffic you succeed in acquiring now is all the more important – work on making sure that it converts. 

Working on your conversion rate isn’t just a short-term concern – it’s critical to ensure that you have the quickest-possible recovery once the crisis passes. If you focus on your conversion rate now, you’ll be on a much stronger base when traffic starts coming back, enabling your overall revenue to be higher:

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

4. Re-evaluate your channels 

At this point, your channels won’t be doing their normal job. In this time where ‘business as usual’ has gone out of the window, you need to rethink what those channels can be doing instead. 

Now is the time to invest additional energy into your brand positioning and messaging. Aim to solidify relationships, rather than attempt to generate bookings that simply won’t be happening for a little while. 

For example, if social media is normally a major acquisition channel that’s suddenly dried up, how can you use it to deliver value-add content instead? Now’s the time to really double-down on your brand and building recognition. This means that when traffic starts coming back, it’s in a much better place to book quickly. 

5. Be proactive with policies to assuage doubt 

For many travel companies, you’ll have seen spikes in queries from both existing customers and potential customers asking about what should happen if coronavirus impacts their travel plans. This data below shows how the number of sessions on coronavirus-related pages on travel industry websites has grown rapidly in the last week:

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

Now’s the time to shout loud about the meaningful action you’re taking to protect your customers. Take the approach of proactively showing your customers that you’ve got policies in place in order to earn trust. Here’s an example from JetBlue:

Coronavirus impact on travel industry | Yieldify

This approach doesn’t just apply to your policies regarding cancellations or flexibility – surface your health and safety credentials in order to reassure customers that you’re taking clear action in their interest. 

6. Take stock and be ready to act quickly 

The constant change to travel advice and restrictions means that you may need to change your existing marketing campaigns quickly. Marketing destinations that have become no-go areas is at best a waste of money and at worst could be perceived as distasteful. 

Thoroughly audit the campaigns that you have scheduled and the targets they’re aiming at. Be ready to take action fast if needs be, and stay on top of activity within the wider travel industry.

7. Re-segment and re-forecast 

Crisis mode is all about prioritization. During a time when your new customer acquisition is likely to take a hit, consider what kind of audience your time is best spent engaging. Now’s a good time to step back and re-segment your customer base. This will give a clearer picture of where your advocates are and where your vulnerabilities might lie. 

Try to do this exercise early on so that you can engage your advocates before the recovery comes. Then, continue to work on your less-engaged customer base so that your brand shines through. You should also review the kind of engagement you have with customers who have existing bookings. Question whether the volume and message are enough to sustain confidence. 

It also goes without saying that reviewing your forecasts sooner rather than later will help manage expectations for the rest of the business. 

8. Be ready for the travel industry recovery 

Use the time you have now to ensure that your ‘all clear’ message and strategy is ready far in advance of when you’ll need it. 

It might be tomorrow, it might be in two months’ time – it might be longer. Know that that recovery will be hard enough in itself – don’t make it any more difficult by having to scramble to show that you’re back in business.

Read Part II here: Coronavirus and Online Travel Booking: 3 Facts Travel Marketers Should Know

#AskYieldify: How to Build Customer Loyalty and Improve Retention

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Customer loyalty and retention | Yieldify

In this series, we put the big e-commerce questions to our team of expert consultants. This month, we’re talking customer loyalty and retention with Mark Murray, Yieldify’s Head of Travel.

In last month’s edition of #AskYieldify we learned all about the power of social proof. This time we’re looking at customer loyalty and retention, so let’s get started…

Why care about customer loyalty?

There are lots of reasons to look at how you can create customer loyalty, as well as improve the journey for your loyal customers. Here are just a few:

  • The success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.
  • Existing Customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more when compared to new customers.

Yet, despite these oft-cited statistics, marketers are still pretty firmly focused on acquisition, with more than half in a recent survey stating that they spend 60% or more of their time and resources on acquisition. But some marketers are coming around to the idea that it’s not all about acquisition, by digging into their own data to understand the value of loyal visitor segments.

At our recent #Journey2019 event, Sam Willan, General Manager at StudentUniverse shed some light on why the travel brand is looking to loyalty:

Source: Sam Willan, General Manager, StudentUniverse UK speaking at #Journey2019

Sam presented some pretty compelling numbers, demonstrating that for StudentUniverse at least, loyal customers are worth focusing on, summed up nicely by this quote:

A repeat booker costs half as much to acquire and returns 2.5 times in income”

Sam Willan, General Manager, StudentUniverse UK, speaking at #Journey2019

How can brands leverage customer loyalty to drive conversions?

When it comes to loyalty, one of the first techniques that come to mind is customer loyalty programs. But driving value from a loyalty program isn’t as easy as setting up a scheme and waiting for the conversions to roll in.
One of the biggest challenges is actually getting visitors to join the program in the first place.

We’ve found that emphasizing the benefits or unique selling points of your customer loyalty program is one successful tactic to try. A retail brand we work with tested this out by highlighting the benefits of its loyalty program with a corner notification when visitors were about to register as a user. The campaign worked so well that this has now been incorporated as part of its registration page.

Personalization is also really important when it comes to loyalty messages. Beauty brand Skyn ICELAND, personalized based on whether a user was new or returning to drive registrations for its newly launched loyalty program:

Skyn Iceland: building loyalty and lifetime value with personalization

Once you’ve registered your users, activating them is the next challenge. Reminding members of their rewards is another way personalization can help drive conversion. In another example from the world of beauty, haircare brand Ouidad serves different messages depending on the loyalty level of a consumer.

Ouidad: building loyalty and lifetime value with personalization
Ouidad use different messages for subscribers vs. customers

The brand created campaigns to re-engage lapsing users and reward top customers, driving a high level of engagement, boosting customer loyalty and improving retention. Last year, Ouidad loyalty members had an average repeat purchase rate of 54.4% (vs. 29.8% for non-members) and a higher annual purchase frequency.

How can I build customer loyalty as a luxury brand?

Luxury brands can have a bit more of a challenge when it comes to customer loyalty programs, as giving away discounts can be seen as detrimental to the brand. As always, it’s important to test and learn to find what works best for your audience.

For instance, a luxury department store tested out placing a points-led message front and center to drive uptake of its loyalty program. However, the analysis revealed that this ‘push’ style message was not having a positive impact.

With this learning, the brand was able to quickly update the format of the messaging to act more as a reminder, giving users the choice to interact if interested, rather than forcing the message on them.

A more subtle ‘pull’ style message can be more effective for luxury brands

How I can optimize the post-purchase experience for customer loyalty?

Building customer loyalty and improving retention aren’t just about customer loyalty programs. It’s about providing value and driving engagement, fortunately, there are lots of ways you can do this.

Post-purchase is the perfect opportunity to point users toward other content or channels you want to highlight, such as social media platforms, as you can then build a much more regular rapport with them.

You might also want to push users toward your app, as it’s been shown mobile can be a powerful driver of customer loyalty. You could also take the opportunity to incentivize your users further, by offering a discount on subsequent purchases, or in exchange for a referral.

Interestingly, post-purchase can also be a great moment in which to secure loyalty scheme membership. At this point in the customer journey, you have enough data to make a pretty compelling and personalized offer to your audience.

One technique we have used successfully is by dynamically populating messages with how many points visitors could earn, based on the purchase that has just been completed. A recent campaign with a travel brand drove uplifts of +5% in conversion rate by showing this alongside USPs.

Building loyalty and lifetime value in travel

What part does customer feedback play when it comes to loyalty?

Customer feedback is an important tool to both create and build loyalty and improve retention along the customer journey. If you never ask your customers what drives their loyalty and satisfaction, it will be impossible to amplify and recreate this…or know where you’re going wrong.

But when should you ask customers for feedback? Think about this carefully – for example, if you’re a travel brand, asking a user to rate their experience after they have gone on holiday may not be the best time to get online feedback.

This is something that should potentially be done after the booking is complete and before they travel, that way you can be assured they’re rating the booking process and experience of your site, rather than the holiday itself!