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Building trust in travel  

So-called “travel chaos” in post-pandemic years (cancelled flights, over-booked hotels, inefficient communication) has left consumers with diminishing trust in the travel industry.

According to ABTA (1), 2023 is the year of the “Conscientious Customer”, where consumers are taking an even more detailed approach to planning travel and holidays than before 2020.

Here are the numbers:

  • 36% are now more likely to book with a travel professional
  • 45% want the security of a package holiday
  • 75% say booking with a well-known name in the travel industry is an important part of the booking process
  • 67% say previous experience of booking with a company is important

What happens if you’re not one of the biggest brands in the travel industry?

It’s a tough environment for travel agencies, both on and offline. The ongoing trust crisis, coupled with a cost-of-living crisis and global operational issues, means that consumer spend in the travel industry is more considered than it has ever been.

So what tactics can you employ if you are a challenger brand to the big giants?

The answer lies in your brand’s communities.

A massive 92% of consumers are influenced to buy (over anything else) by the people they know in real life – friends and family, the people they speak to at the school gate, their teammates over a pint in the pub, perhaps a colleague at work.

Yet as brands (until now), we’ve had no idea how to find these pockets of influence in the real world, so we turned to social media listening tools, brand health metrics and share-of-voice (SOV) indicators, to give us an understanding of where we think our customers are most influenced. This only gave us a limited view of our customers.

Word-of-mouth is notoriously powerful for travel and hospitality brands

Much of this word-of-mouth (WOM) happens organically, but imagine if you could detect where the most powerful WOM influence is happening, and use it to drive advocacy and trust.

Herdify’s AI technology enables travel brands to do just that. Discover where your brand has the strongest communities, and tap into this advocacy to build brand awareness and encourage conversations around trust.

A brand of any size will have pockets of community (and these are crucially not the same as your competitors). The skill is in finding and harnessing these communities to drive growth.

Once you know where those communities exist, you can create trust-building campaigns to seed word-of-mouth and grow positive sentiment and awareness.

How does this real-life community thing work?

Let’s take Darren. He asks his friend at work where they’re planning to go on holiday this summer, and who they’ve booked with. They recommend a certain travel business. He also asks another school parent, and one of his teammates from rugby. They both endorse the same business, reinforcing the recommendation.

Once Darren receives the first positive recommendation from someone he trusts, he “unfilters” the brand in his brain, most likely having ignored anything about it in the past. The more recommendations he receives, coupled with any marketing activity from the brand, the more likely he is to trust – and act on – that recommendation.

7 steps to take to build trust in your real-life communities right now

  1. Consider the people in your brand’s communities as your real-life influencers. Use their content as the basis for creative campaigns in each local community. For example, “Jane from Bristol…”
  2. Encourage UGC through social media, but use it in a much more localised way to reinforce community recommendations
  3. Similarly, ensure that reviews and feedback are fed back through the communities where the reviewers live. “96% of people who live in Manchester trust our brand” is much more compelling than “78% of our customers trust us”
  4. Make sure that customer experience is on point for every customer, but particularly for those in your strong brand communities. Ensure that these customers have the right answers to hand (so they can pass on through recommendations) by creating clear post-sale marketing
  5. Consider an enhanced customer experience in certain areas where you have strong communities. You could give them a free gift, or invite them to be part of an elite club
  6. Create a limited sign-up campaign or limited stock – for example, customers need a referral code to get in, for access to early discounts or new experiences. This makes brand advocates feel special – and it’s a message they’re likely to pass on
  7. Most importantly, reinforce loyalty and encourage repeat bookings. The more people who book through your company in a certain community, the more likely they are to remind each other about the benefits of your business in the future

(1) abta.com

Friends in conversation | Herdify

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Ignite your brand power: Why your offline community is the real influencer

“Social communities grow more powerfully offline, yet most marketing tactics tap into the online element. 92% of word-of-mouth – the single biggest influence on consumer buying behaviour – happens offline."

~ Ed Barter, Lead data scientist at Herdify

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