The jury’s still out on whether consumer spend on travel in 2024 will take a nose-dive, or whether it might just remain at 2023 levels.
Many experts agree that travel is the one discretionary item that people are not willing to cut, with KPMG stating: “Despite being faced with mounting household costs, what’s clear from our research is that consumers, where possible, are still prioritising holidaying this summer.”
Travel Weekly also reports that early indications from travel agents demonstrate early pick-up in demand for next year.
But the fact remains that the outlook is far from rosy. Just this week, the FT reports that “economists grow gloomier on 2024 as central banks delay rate cuts”.
With January peaks sustaining many travel businesses for the rest of the year, what can marketers do now to encourage as many early bookings as possible?
Behavioural science can unlock herd mentality
“Only one-in-four consumers use a physical travel agent, with over half almost exclusively booking online without human interaction,” according to The Cut Back Economy, a joint report by Grant Thorton and Retail Economics.
We might not book through a human, but the truth is that we’re influenced by the humans around us, long before we get to the booking stage. Only 8% of us book without a recommendation from someone we trust – and we have a feeling that number might be even lower when it comes to booking holidays (we’re yet to do that research!).
And while we’re guided by online reviews and Instagram influencers, the real influence happens in the real world… In the streets, towns and cities where we live; at the school gate, over a pint in the pub, via the neighbourhood WhatsApp group.
The behavioural science behind this herd behaviour is fascinating, but as marketers, how can we apply the concepts to a practical strategy? The key lies in targeting your marketing activity to locations that have already heard of your brand through community conversation.
Here’s your 5-point plan to harnessing your brand communities
In doing so, you’ll be able to concentrate your marketing resources and budget in the areas where they’ll really make an impact.
2 | Find the right micro-influencers
Micro-influencers are a powerful way of supporting community conversation. If you can find influencers who genuinely use your product and who exist in your brand communities, you’ll see an uplift in the impact they have.
3 | Use UGC in community hotspots
Fuel brand awareness and advocacy with genuine and authentic content from customers who live in your brand’s community areas.
4 | Spark conversation and FOMO
Use clever ad copy to create “fear of missing out”. For example, “Did you know that 47% of people who live in Bristol have already booked their 2024 holiday?”
5 | Be tactical with keyword bidding
For most travel brands, non-branded keywords are prohibitively expensive and consumers are most likely to click on the well-known brand links. People in communities often have a different search behaviour – they usually know the brand that they want to click on (because it’s been recommended to them) but can’t remember the name. Your keyword bid provides the prompt.