We live in a multi-device world. Screens are everywhere — in our pockets, on our wrist, desk, lap, dashboard — and smart speakers are taking up every corner of the home. Without a doubt, it’s harder than ever to keep up with the top digital marketing trends and reach the average consumer.
Especially in the travel industry, changes in online consumer behaviour are evolving. The smartphone has become the ultimate travel accessory as more travelers rely on it for searching, navigation, booking, and paying. Mobile adoption is high, and China is the dominant market, with nearly 80% of bookings made from this handheld device.
Along with that, there’s an overwhelming amount of apps, blogs, podcasts, and websites travelers love and trust for finding inspiration and planning their travel. From social media to review sites to everything Google, they can stumble upon your tours or activities any time online, in millions of different ways.
Think you know where most bookings come from? See what comes out on top in our Booking Channels Report for Tours and Activities.
The traveler’s booking journey is messy, considering they can bounce from touchpoint to touchpoint, online to offline, as they please. It’s tricky to predict their online behaviour and provide a consolidated experience that leads them down the booking funnel while leaving a long-lasting impression. Even the top travel brands are trying to figure this out.
That brings to question, what digital marketing strategies should you focus on as a tour and activity operator in 2020?
In this article, we’ll look at the online travel industry trends you might want to keep on your radar this year. But if your business still lacks a website, booking system — start your free trial — or some sort of online presence, I strongly suggest you start there, seeing as you’re already far behind. Otherwise, let’s dive in:
5 online marketing trends to pursue this year
1. Send messages everywhere at once with omnichat
Perhaps you’ve just become familiar with the concept of omnichannel marketing, but there’s another trending online buzzword to know — omnichat. Falling under the same branch, omnichat is all about communicating with your guests across platforms at the same time, while maintaining a consistent voice and tone.
Why does this matter today? Because travelers now expect to chat with travel brands via text or messaging apps, instantaneously. In fact, over half of them share this seemingly unrealistic expectation, and what’s more, 30% use a chat platform to research and book parts of their trip. So where there’s a gap in your communication, there’s a missed opportunity.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat — the Chinese messaging app — are the most popular for chat sessions. In these places and others, you can talk directly with your guests, whether that means offering customer service, like taking booking information or using as a marketing tool to upsell an experience.
Of course, it’s a massive undertaking to reply to guests around the clock on each one without delay. Luckily, a chatbot can help you accomplish this automatically, thanks to the many affordable and easy-to-use AI chatbot platforms available. But I recommend trying out MobileMonkey.
That’s because this chatbot software allows you to build and manage all of your bots in one place. With the same messaging everywhere, your target audience can get a clear sense of your travel brand no matter where they choose to chat, which ultimately helps with conversions.
2. Reach more travelers with social media apps
Social media has been one of the top online marketing trends year after year. With new entries gaining viral popularity all the time, recently TikTok, there’s always an opportunity to push out content and get discovered. The influence of social media shows no signs of slowing down in the future.
Of course, Facebook and Instagram tend to get the most marketing attention with proven strategies around Instagram influencers and Facebook Ads. While you should focus on building a strong presence where your target audience frequents, there are a couple of star platforms you also shouldn’t ignore:
We’ve already mentioned WeChat in this article, and we’ll discuss it in greater detail in the upcoming months — so stay tuned. Chinese outbound tourism is snowballing, and promoting your tour and activity business on WeChat is the best way to tap into this growing market, considering Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are banned there.
With over 1.15 billion monthly users, growing 20 million per quarter, WeChat is the leading social media platform in China by a landslide. And it’s not hard to see why. Known as a super app, WeChat does it all, including messaging, social media, flight booking, ride-sharing and everyday payments. It even has apps within the app.
Since images are well-received on WeChat, especially of wildlife, nature, and adventure, operators that specialize in these types of tours and activities can easily stand out just by posting their photos. On top of that, WeChat supports long-form content, which means you can attract new visitors to your destination by sharing helpful travel tips.
As a visual discovery engine, Pinterest does inspiration exceptionally well and has become a go-to resource when it comes to travel planning. It’s one of the best marketing channels for tourism, despite being underutilized by tour and activity operators. Just look at these two stats shared by Pinterest:
- 69% of travel pinners use Pinterest to discover travel services when deciding what to book
- 76% of travelers searching on Pinterest follow through with a purchase after seeing travel content from brands
But here’s another, 5% of website referral traffic comes from Pinterest. Travel bloggers have discovered and capitalized on this fact for years, learning how to curate enticing Pinterest thumbnails that capture the attention of readers. And now, promoted videos promise even better results.
Since it’s a relatively new feature, videos stick out amongst the tall and narrow images that overtake a feed. Using this medium, you can make your tours and activities come to life on Pinterest — showing pinner’s an exciting experience they can have and then nurturing them once they click through to your website.
3. Make it on a traveler’s route with Google Maps
Google Maps isn’t hiding its plans for travel. In the last year alone, the mapping behemoth released feature after feature, some of which include:
- Detailed voice guidance for walking trips and the visually impaired
- Built-in translation that speaks names and addresses out loud in the local language
- A new timeline look that filters favourite places to help look back on a trip, create a list, and share with others
- Augmented reality with Live View to get visual directions while exploring on foot
- Google Assistant integration for quickly searching and adding stops along a route
- A Reservations tab for a single view of all hotel and flight reservations, which will hopefully include tour and activity bookings soon
With every update, Googe Maps makes travel planning and getting around in-destination more convenient and intuitive. Google Maps has a massive user-base, but the new functionalities will encourage more time spent and actions taken on the app.
That said, it should be a top priority to create a Google My Business listing — if you haven’t already— and continuously optimize. A higher ranking in Google Maps gets you noticed and providing relevant information, as well as a way to book using Reserve with Google, turns more travelers into paying guests.
4. Speak up with voice search and podcasts
In travel marketing trends 2019, we touched on the importance of appealing to voice search on your website. Since the global smart home market is forecast to reach over $53 billion US by 2022, and the total number of smart devices supported by voice assistants continues to increase, it’s on the list again this year.
As voice search grows, with the likes of 5-year-olds asking Alexa about everything, there’s a massive opportunity to get heard. While marketers are still figuring out strategies, it’s safe to assume conversational content will perform best and outrank. So think short sentences and easy speakability (not readability).
Also, search queries will only get longer. Think of it this way, when typing into a search engine, we often eliminate unnecessary words, which is why search engine optimization (SEO) has centred around keywords. However, with voice search, we speak full phrases, and so your website and blog should start to accommodate that.
How do podcasts come into play? Although Google Assistant doesn’t yet pull excerpts from podcasts to answer voice queries, Google seems to be on track for that one day. Even now, the search engine makes it easier to find podcasts and will show episodes in the results that fit a particular query.
If you don’t have a podcast, this might be an excellent digital marketing strategy in 2020. For example, a ghost walking tour could launch a podcast with haunted tales of their destination. But if you aren’t ready to dabble in this radio replacement, you can still make commercials for suitable podcasts as many are gaining traction and loyal listeners.
5. Engage your audience with interactive content
As you may already know, content is king. More and more businesses are seeing the value of quality content marketing and investing. That’s because it costs less than traditional advertising, and is extremely effective at building brand awareness and trust.
Plus, the right content at the right time helps drive conversions. By becoming an authority on your destination —travel tips and all — you can provide useful information for travelers in the research and inspiration phase. So who do you think they’ll turn to when it comes to making a booking?
But now, 91% of consumers are demanding more interactive content online. Beyond just reading and watching, they want something that feels more like a two-way conversation. Some examples of interactive content include:
- quizzes and surveys
- 360 videos
- assessments and polls
- and games
Along with chipping away at conventional content to climb the search engine rankings, it’s a good idea to work in some interactive elements. Participation will entice searchers to click-through in the first place, and active engagement will decrease bounce rates because visitors have something to do once they land on a page.
The digital landscape is continually evolving, and it can be overwhelming to keep up. But, take comfort in knowing, every little effort you make online will strengthen your presence and pay off in the long run. So, what digital marketing tactics are you initiating in 2020?