Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear Travel Industry - Impact of Internet and Social Media on Travel Purchase Decisions

I have decided to step up and make "Dear Travel Industry" a weekly feature on my blog. The more I dive into the industry, the more great information I find about trends that I think people in the industry should be aware of. My goal is to distill what I'm reading into something that can be digested by the average industry participant.

I just read a summary of the third annual Consumer Technology Survey over at PhoCusWright. Although there is only a summary of the results, I think there is some insight that is worth discussing. Here is my commentary:

Mobile isn't here yet, but it is coming
The report indicates that most travelers are not yet using their mobile phones to surf travel related sites. However I think that travel industry webmasters and marketers need to take note that it won't be long. 2010 will be the year that smartphones like the iPhone move out of the hands of geeky early adopters and end up in the hands of the average traveler.

Based on my experience so far, travel industry websites are starting to appear extremely dated and therefore do not display correctly in mobile browsers. I can tell that most were built in 2000 or 2001 and haven't really been updated.

At the same time, most email newsletters or promotional email messages I am receiving do not display correctly on my iPhone email client. While I am on the subject of travel industry email marketing, I should also point out that many of the emails I get are also being coded for older web email clients and don't display correctly. Many are too image heavy and most end up in my junk folder.

Key Takeaway: It's time for the travel industry to review their web and email standards and put a project on their calendars to update them. Make sure everything you produce is tested across browsers and platforms, including mobile, for display and usability.

Travel Reviews Matter
The report indicates that reviews on travel industry websites, particularly those on on online travel agency sites.

I think if you are a travel agency, and even if you don't book trips through your website exclusively, you should be doing your best to cultivate feedback and reviews from your clients. I have lots of quoted reviews on travel websites but I think that the industry can do one better and encourage customers to share more than a paragraph about their experience.

Perhaps travel companies can be encouraging clients to share photos and videos of their trip. Youtube is perfect for helping them do this. Videos can be uploaded easily and shared directly into a website. Make your website more social while you're at it and create places for visitors to interact and discuss trips. Tools are easy to find that would let include Tweets about destinations and your business. Let people see that you are being discussed!

Key Takeaway: Actively cultivate and encourage your customers to share their experiences. Update your website to encourage active sharing by making it easier for customers to leave comments and reviews while allowing them to share memories. I would recommend that the travel industry take a look around at what is being done in other areas like real-estate and consumer technology and co-opt what they are doing in these regards and learn from them. It has never been easier, or cheaper, to step up your game!

There are certainly more discussed in the report itself and I would strongly encourage you to visit the PhoCusWright site and explore as you never know what you will find.

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