When it comes to purchasing holidays, customers have become seasoned quality and value hunters. And it’s not all about the price, they are anticipating excellence in terms of experience.
They have been empowered by accessing a plethora of review, evaluation and opinion platforms exposing the truth behind staged photos and glossy brochures. In fact, 92% of UK customers now say that reviews are essential when booking a holiday (Source).
As such, the traditional photoshopped, glossy images of empty swimming pools and laughing couples with glasses of wine at sunset really don’t pack as much of a punch as they used to. Instead, customers are searching for photos taken last week, showing the real view of the occupied swimming pool and the actual scenery beyond the beach.
So what does this tell us? Customer don’t trust Brand Generated Content (BGC). Clearly travel brands need to showcase authenticity throughout the researching and purchasing journey to build trust and convert.
Brand Generated Content (BGC) vs User Generated Content (UGC)
Much of the decision-making process now takes place through online channels; the sales funnel is no longer linear. Customers can become visible to your brand at any stage, through any channel and, just as easily, they can pop off again.
Whilst they hunt for potential destinations, customers are reading reviews, watching videos and looking for images. In between viewing social proof and User Generated Content (UGC), they are scrutinising holiday booking websites, getting distracted then starting all over again.
How should you deal with these flighty customers? By becoming a sticky Content Honeypot of course.
We’ve previously discussed Content Honeypots in terms of websites, but the theory works for all brand owned customer touch points; showcasing the right types of content, at the right time and in the right place attracts, holds attention and influences behaviour.
How UGC Can Drive The Customer’s Journey
You can harness the social proof and UGC customers are already pursuing to facilitate engagement and influence opportunities across all your marketing activities; from emails to social media.
76% of people booked their holiday online in 2016 (Source), which means a lot of traffic passes through your website. Despite providing customers with a plethora of BGC, you’ve probably noticed them leaving without making a purchase. It’s most likely that they’ve left to seek out more information and social proof, and have been Search Snatched by a competitor.
You may have encountered the challenge of keeping your website up to date with fresh content that customers will trust. By blending UGC with your BGC, you are able to offer customers reliable proof of quality and honesty without them having to leave your website.
And with reassuring purchase validation right next to an action button/CTA, the customer is going to feel much more ready to commit.
Consider creating content hubs showcasing beautiful and positive destination and accommodation UGC on destination pages and hotel pages.
When STA Travel incorporated UGC into its Australia Destination page using StoryStream’s technology, they noticed a 72% increase in sessions and increased dwell time on the goal webpage by 115%.
Emails are a very cost effective form of communication, but have you noticed a dip in open rates or a fall in click through rates? It could be that the customer simply doesn’t find your content interesting.
We’ve gone into the details of humdrum emails before, but to summarise; if the content is boring, impersonal, untargeted or overbearing, it’s a bad email.
We understand that when it comes to your role, constantly preparing engaging and relevant email content can be exhausting and time consuming. Lucky for you, UGC is a never-ending resource, offering enticing reasons to read and click.
An email displaying a customer’s peers in a situation they want to be in is a lot more compelling than a brand content piece about the top ten reasons why they should visit country XYZ.
Use email to humanise and soften your sales pitch in emails. Rather than telling customers that Hotel XYZ is fronted by a sweep of white sand, show them.
And don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of UGC. Photos might work well for one campaign, while testimonials may work better for another.
The results speak for themselves. Teletext Holidays increased email engagement by 200% when they started using UGC in their email campaigns.
Whilst online bookings are the most popular way of arranging a holiday, high-street bookings have been on the rise, particularly with affluent customers and young families (Source). This doesn’t mean that their purchasing journey is any less influenced by UGC.
In fact, due to the high probability that they have already carried out online research and/or are researching on their mobile phone whilst visiting, the in-store experience should feel consistent with the one you’ve provided online.
A streamlined approach to connecting experiences is to display UGC on your digital screens rather than using the same corporate DVD on constant loop.
When Thomas Cook used StoryStream to showcase UGC on its in-store digital displays, they noticed a rise in customer reassurance and booking confidence.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have become fantastic podiums for brands to establish close relationships with customers and vice-versa. On top of this, they offer marketers incredibly effective targeting capabilities and conversion tracking.
Seeing social media as a platform for sharing UGC rather than just its source can help you solve the challenge of creating relevant, high-quality content that doesn’t feel at odds with the rest of the social network feed.
Swapping BGC for creative UGC assets in regular posts and social adverts helps beat brand messaging fatigue and boosts click through rates.
Our client KLM does a fantastic job at repurposing emotive images that really highlight the customer-oriented brand vision.
A Note Of Caution
If you’re interesting in tapping into the power of UGC, bear in mind that you will always need the permission of the creator. If you’re unsure about how to exercise appropriate rights management, we have created a handy blog which you can find here.
If these examples have made you think about how you can use your brands UGC to build trust, engage customers and ultimately sell holidays, get in touch with one of our UGC experts today to find out how to make it a reality.