Today digital consumers have access to a vast amount of travel tools; the ability to access information and book travel experiences at a click of a button has never been easier. However, with that ease also comes an overwhelming amount of choice. The consumer is then forced to filter and refine their selection to find the perfect travel experience. This article from Qubit takes a look at the value for brands who prioritize personalization throughout the traveler journey.
There are any number of ways to provide personalization to make the process easier for the consumer to evaluate the overabundance of choice they experience online. One tactic to capture and convert them stands out though -- social proof.
Social proof is defined as “treatments that leverage the behavior of other users to provide information about trending products and currently popular items.” In other words, communicating what travel choices other travelers have made to the current consumer. Drilling down further we can pay particular attention to group behavior and then serve it up to consumers in a meaningful and persuasive way, entirely driven by live data. Deploying real-time data promotes what's popular, and supports merchandising efforts across an organization. Paying attention to what the masses are doing but also within genres can translate to a customer taking action instead of drowning in choices. It’s basic human psychology, humans are driven by what others have done.
Here’s why it matters: according to original research from Qubit, assured by PwC, social proof can result in 2.3 percent uplift in Revenue Per Visitor (RPV) and is highly likely to boost profitability (82 percent) compared to other tactics (Source: What works in e-commerce - a meta-analysis of 6700 online experiments, a report independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers UK LLP). While 2 percent may not sound like a huge number, it can translate to huge revenue increases for global businesses, often in the tens of millions of dollars. Serving up suggestions for the active customer on what locations, hotel properties, seasonal activities etc. have been popular may serve to boost results by motivating or validating their purchase.
Let’s break it down by starting at the beginning of the typical consumer booking journey, the research phase. Travelers often begin by searching by destination, date or genre. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Qubit by Toluna Quick Surveys, of over 1000 travelers in the U.S. and U.K. in late 2017, 37 percent of all customers wanted to know which holidays and destinations are popular while booking online, leveraging methods such as social proof. This rose to 57 percent for under 35s. And 53 percent for family bookers. Displaying what’s trending is an effective way of drawing visitors into the site, then take them one step further by showing them "x users have done y" data points. Social proof can be targeted by consumer segment to supercharge the effect (by up to 3x according to the PwC research). For example, if a consumer searches for a room for 2 adults and 2 children, we can deduce they are a family booker. We can therefore fire social proof based on what other family bookers have done or bought. This approach of targeting by segment can be extremely persuasive -- and surprisingly very few businesses are doing this!
This knowledge also helps us in the next phase: decision time. The popularity or positive reviews of others may help when deciding between a few choices and which add-ons are worth considering. Think a hotel suggesting room upgrades as a most frequently purchased extra for this trip. Or if the customer is booking for a couple's getaway, the hotel website can show popular products that are well suited to them—such as a romantic massage or a spa day with mud baths, again emphasized with social proof. For example, “Three couples in your hotel have just booked massages for their trips.” Another service that might be popular with couples or families is speedy check-in—offering guests the chance to pre-fill their details so they can collect their key from the desk without any hassle, again suggesting the popularity of this option.
Large hotel groups can also use this strategy to manage available inventory and demand. If the hotel property has a heavily booked property in one city, but also other properties close by with more capacity, guests can be encouraged to try other venues, again using social proof examples to show popularity of nearby hotels.
Once the trip is booked, you might be tempted to think that the chances to leverage social proof are complete. But consider the post-booking phase - the window of time between when the trip is booked and before the travel begins that is ripe for cross-sell or upsell opportunities. Here again we can suggest popular items, such as the chance to upgrade your reservation, pre-buy a meal at the famed hotel restaurant, arrange a transfer service to the hotel, and more. For example, a hotel might suggest “50 percent of travelers book their car service from the airport to the hotel ahead of time.”
Even once the customer is on their journey there might be opportunities to remind them via email or text message of popular events based on local recommendations. Additionally, if the customer has opted in to email tips or text alerts hotels can gain insights about the customer’s experience to make future bookings more insightful for that customer and others. For example, did the family make use of the childcare facilities? Did they enjoy hotel amenities such as the “magician’s corner” or cinema club for the kids? If so, these can be highlighted for future bookings. The data gleaned can be stored to personalize that client’s repeat travel but also tallied to provide even more targeted social proof for other travelers.
The digital consumer journey is full of opportunities to inspire your guests to consider various travel choices with the power of social proof. We, as humans continue to be motivated by what the Joneses are doing en masse, partly because it saves us from the indecision paralysis and partly because we value the insight of what other customers have to say. We may not always require the help of specialist travel agents when travelling, however we still need that reassurance and validation that the choices we are making are good for us. That’s where brands have a real opportunity to assume that role of trusted agent and assistant within the traveler’s experience.