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Why travel brands shouldn’t be afraid of loosening their brand control

Written by Cat | 11-Oct-2016 10:57:00

Review sites such as TripAdvisor and Feefo have now secured themselves an important role in the shopping basket of travel consumers. Consulting reviews and other user generated content (UGC) is now a key part of the purchase journey for many users. I, for one, won’t make a single booking until I’ve checked out what previous guests have to say.

Trip Advisor alone reaches 350 million unique visitors a month and sees 200 new contributions added every minute. Online reviews harness user generated content (UGC) as a powerful marketing tool, but some brands are still a little anxious about putting the consumer in the driving seat. It might seem scary stepping away from the helm, but here’s why travel brands should loosen their brand control and embrace UGC.

It’s all about trust

Unsurprisingly consumers are more likely to trust content from their peers, than content from brands. According to the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 81% of people feel that personal recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising. Second only to this is the opinion of other consumers online (58%).

According to the survey, peer recommendations and reviews are more important to consumers than all brand-created content, including emails, TV ads and company websites. While this might feel like bad news for your marketing department, UGC presents a huge opportunity to help tell your brand’s story. Rather than view it with trepidation, consider it as a creative collaboration with those who live and breathe your product.

Positive reviews are just as important as price

When it comes to making a decision over accommodation, price is the most important factor, but it’s closely followed by online ratings and reviews according to TripAdvisor’s 2016 TripBarometer Travel Trend report. This reveals that consumers aren’t just after a low price, but great value too. The report also concluded that Millennials are more likely to pay attention to reviews than Generation X and Baby Boomers, suggesting that the value of UGC will continue to grow.

Looking with intent

Reviews are consulted at a crucial part of the purchase journey. By the time a user is searching for reviews they are intending to make a purchase. They have already made the important decision to visit your location, but reviews can help make sure you are in their list of considered destinations.

At this point the user will review products with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. With solid reviews under your belt you can help secure a ‘yes’ vote for your hotel or attraction, increasing your chances of a conversion.

There’s no such thing as a bad review

Hear me out on this one. The beauty of UGC is the honesty, so you have to prepare yourself for a few interesting ones, but, if you’re confident, there’s nothing to worry about.

Most consumers are savvy enough to work out when a negative reviewer isn’t trustworthy, discounting their opinion from the mix – but what they will review is how you respond to them.

Nothing says ‘poor customer service’ like an overly defensive reply. The right thing to do is recognise the issue, demonstrate your ability to problem solve and sign off with a wish to see them again. Too often problems go unsolved because a consumer fails to raise the issue with the establishment at the time, leaving owners disgruntled as they have to defend an issue they could have easily fixed, but knew nothing about. An easy solution to this is a demonstration of how you would have dealt with the issue, bracketed with a few pleasantries. To go the extra mile, suggest that the consumer makes a return visit so that you can demonstrate to them, and anyone else reading, that you’re confident it won’t happen again. Investing in great online customer service answering queries or reviews consistently and personally is not an investment you will regret.

Sometimes negative reviews can be helpful. Your reviewer may point out that your establishment is ‘not child friendly’ or that there are ‘lots of steps to climb’. While this traveller may not have had a great time, his/her comments will save anyone else from the same experience, which in turn saves you from any complaints in the future.

How to embrace User-Generated-Content

If you haven’t already, show customer reviews on your website, or register yourself on a site like TripAdvisor. Once people start talking, share what they have to say with your social following. Testimonials are a great way to get people interested in your product. Through social media you can also reach out to regular contributors and build up a team of advocates, creating future opportunities to tell your brand’s story. This also means that you can retain some control, while your advocates go out there and do what they do best.

Reviews aren’t the only way to embrace user content in your marketing strategy. We all know that images are more powerful than words, but they’re even more so when they come from your customers. We’ve already discussed the issue of trust and this extends to photography too. Consumers expect brands to take high quality photographs of their offering but they’re not oblivious to photo editing. If your UGC matches your marketing assets then consumers are more likely to believe you are what you say you are. After all, your customers are more than likely already sharing pictures of your product – you just need to tap into the conversation.

Today’s holidays are all about bragging rights and no doubt your personal social profiles are littered with your friends vacation-snaps. Your challenge as a brand is inspire customers to show their own interpretation of your product. Simple ways to do this are:

  • Promote a hashtag
  • Ask guests to check in
  • Incentivise!!

With the correct Social Listening in place you can tap into vast sources of content, and as the content aggregator you can retain brand control by choosing what gets shared.

Safety in numbers

But if you’re still not convinced by the potential financial gains, the SEO benefits and the free content creation, you don’t need to take our word for it…

According to TripAdvisor, more than 90% of all travel businesses feel online reviews are important to the future of their business and online reputation management remains the top area for investment in 2016, and a key priority for the future of their business. So what are you waiting for?

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