The New Travel CMO: A Digital Consumer Behaviorist
The rise of the Internet of Things and the evolution of the digital consumer are redefining the skills required for the Travel CMO. No longer can the role operate in the silo of advertising and non-interactive communication. Travel CMOs in 2016 must understand the market dynamics that are changing how consumers shop and buy travel. That understanding will enable them to engage consumers, track the shopper journey, meet them where they shop, and ultimately convert them – all based on behavioral data.
Bottomline, the online travel game has changed dramatically and the new Travel CMO must keep up or be left behind.
Here are three major trends affecting travel marketing and CMOs across the industry in 2016:
1. The rise of the on-demand economy.
We see this increasing impact every day, specifically in the major markets where companies such as Airbnb are providing alternative accommodations to traditional hotels. It’s changing the industry and consumers’ expectations.Marketers should know the competition and how it’s affecting specific segments of your target market. For example, not every target hotel guest is a potential Airbnb guest. Some hotels are looking at Airbnb as a distribution channel for particular room types for particular consumer demographics. CMOs need to know all the possibilities here.
2. Evolution of the consumer journey.
Travel CMOs need to adapt and keep pace with changes. In the past, the consumer shopping journey was linear. From research, to travel, to experience. But today, there are steps in between and the process comes full circle. It starts with inspiration and research – which has many influencers, followed by travel and experience, then review. The process has changed in many ways and CMOs need to adjust strategies to accommodate the new environment:
- It’s a cycle, where consumers/shoppers have many influences through social media and review websites.
- The number of consumer touch points have increased with social, brand loyalty programs, OTAs, flash sale sites, discount travel sites, etc.
- It’s easier to compare and shop than ever before across metasearch sites and brands, with consumers looking at 7-20 sites before booking.
- Shopping is an increasingly fragmented path including desktop, smartphone and tablet.
- Consumers are not only shopping more and but also waiting longer to book using last minute booking tools that provide travel deal notifications.
3. Every consumer is a potential evangelist or a critic. *
Every touch point with your guest/potential guest is a potential post on social media or review site. CMOS must make sure offline and online presence is prepared to respond appropriately to consumers.
- Train all onsite staff, including call center, housekeeping and wait staff, to always be “on.”
- Ensure you have consistent, but genuine and honest, online engagement best practices.
- Monitor your mentions and always respond.
- Make it easy for your guests to say nice things about you – provide opportunities after booking, after the stay, after upgrades, etc.
- Know the power of your best guests’ networks and take advantage of their reach by encouraging them to share their stay using incentives such as a free drink.
As they navigate through all these changes, Travel CMOs will have to leverage big data in order to understand online consumers better.
According to Forbes and its marketing top trends that will define 2016, next year will be the year for tools like nSight that incorporate analytics into marketing decisions.
What makes some analytic tools better than others?
Yesterday’s marketing was based on data from historic metrics while marketing in 2016 will be based on forward-looking consumer behavior.
How are consumers shopping?
Where are consumers shopping?
Who is shopping?
When do consumers want to travel?
These are the forward-looking questions that 2016 big data will address.
Forward-looking insight is predictive, not responsive. It will help Travel CMOs increase their chances of capturing active shoppers.
Forward-looking insight has greater consumer relevance. It will help Travel CMOs increase their ability to relate to shoppers and establish online connections that lead to engagement and bookings.
In 2016, Travel CMOs will face a continually changing environment of more choices for consumers and more options for distribution and marketing. The most successful marketers will leverage the best data available to understand consumer intent, competitor position and the impact of all these new factors on their consumer demand forecast.
* Deloitte, Travel Consumer 2015.