There’s no doubt that consumers (including us!) have changed.
We’re hyper-connected 24/7, time poor, and super selective with what gets airtime; we don’t want to be sold to, but we research to the ‘nth degree (especially big purchases) on numerous platforms and sources to ensure we make the best purchase decision on everything we invest in; we want a personalised experience, but not give away too much personal information; and most importantly, we trust word of mouth recommendations way more than advertising.
If we go back 15 years, when the internet was in its infancy, the purchase journey for any investment involved minimal research, and going somewhere to look for and buy something. The first experience we had with a product or service was on a shelf. Businesses had a transaction mindset when dealing with customers, and ‘relationships’ and ‘engagement’ prior to purchase were rare.
These days, customers have the ability to connect with products early in their purchase journey, in ways that weren’t even conceivable back 15 years ago. And it’s because of this, that businesses need to understand their customers inside and out, in order to influence their inevitable purchase decisions very early on in their purchase journey.
How does this change the way we market tourism brands?
From a tourism marketing perspective, destinations and tourism businesses need to be really clear on who their best visitors (not necessarily who is already coming, but who we’d like more of) and then engage them through their travel purchase journey – dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing.
To operationalise this, you need to do 2 things:
- Profile your Ideal Customers (check out our blog article on how to do just this!), then
- Map their Journey with your tourism brand
Typically, a SME tourism businesses will be trying to attract 1, maybe 2 Customer Personas, whereas a destination can have up to 3-5. It’s best to try and limit the number of Personas you target, simply because, each Persona will need a different content marketing and communications strategy in order to effectively engage them.
Once you have profiled your Customer Personas (which essentially involves understanding their demographics, psychographics and to a lesser extent their geographic details), the next part is mapping their travel purchase journey – which is a process called Customer Journey Mapping.
Developing Customer Journey Maps for your Personas
Journey Mapping is literally taking your Persona and elevating the detail, to brainstorm more prescriptive information about your Personas. This process will help you to pinpoint what marketing media you need to invest in, and what exact content and messaging you need to create and publish to engage your Personas throughout their purchase journey.
Journey Mapping is literally a process of asking yourself a series of questions, as it relates to your Persona and their Travel Journey.
1. What are your Customer’s Goals during each stage of the purchase journey?
The first part of creating a journey map for your Customer Personas is to have a clear understanding of what their goal is at each Stage of Travel. This then helps us start to really get to know them and understand what they are looking to achieve at each stage.
Goals can be really simple such as:
- Dreaming – Decide on where to go on their next holiday
- Planning – Confirm the destination, and tourism activities that will suit their travel desires
- Booking – Confidently decide and confirm the base of their itinerary, and book major product (flights, some accommodation, some activities/attractions)
- Experiencing – Continue to book experiences whilst in destination. Ensure they have the best time possible. Share their story with family and friends.
- Sharing – Share their story with family and friends to massage their ego
2. What questions do ask themselves/others during each stage of the purchase Journey?
The next step is to really get inside the heads of our Personas, and start to hypothesise what questions they will have throughout their purchase journey. Understanding these questions will give excellent insight into what information they will need in order to progress through their journey, which gives tourism brands a clear base for content creation.
3. Where are they going to find answers to these questions?
Understanding the touch points in which each Persona references throughout each stage of Travel will indicate to tourism brands what platforms are most relevant. This helps marketers know where to focus their marketing investment and time (and or what we need to ignore and say no to).
For example, some of the major touch-points for most Personas relating to travel include:
- Dreaming – Search, Social Media, Word of Mouth, Destination Websites
- Planning – Social Media, Review Websites, Branded Websites, Aggregator Websites, Destination websites, Word of Mouth
- Booking – Branded Websites, Aggregator Websites, Destination Websites, VIC websites, Travel Trade
- Experiencing – Social Media, Destination Websites, VIC websites, Word of Mouth (local), Review Websites
- Sharing – Social Media, Review Websites
Your Ideal Customer’s Emotional journey
When you think about customer experience, you would more than likely consider the physical value you are offering your customers. What you may not be aware of is that the tangible experience only represents 50% of your customers’ experience with your brand, with the remaining 50% being the emotional experience they have.
This is why it’s critical that we not only understand what their travel needs and motivations are, what questions they have and where they want to find answers to their questions, but also how they are feeling throughout the travel purchase journey.
Tourism businesses can develop an emotional journey map by brainstorming the potential highs and lows that their Ideal Customer’s go through along their Travel purchase journey. Destinations can do the same, but take a more high level perspective.
Why Emotional Journey Mapping is Essential
Understanding the emotional journey that our customers go through with our brands allow us to ensure we provide the right customer service and ensure that we have create and publish emotionally sensitive content through marketing activities.
This is particularly pertinent as we work our way through the ever changing COVID landscape, and there are many sensitivities around planning and booking travel.
Learn More about Customer Journey Mapping
If you’re interested in learning more about Journey Mapping, then I encourage you to jump across to Holly G’s Podcast and have a listen to her interview with Dr. Moira Scerri from SEPIA Consulting.
This blog was first written in 2017 and most recently updated in August 2021.