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Marketing Guide to the 5 Stages of the Customer Booking Journey

by TRW Marketing Services
Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Understanding How Customers’ Plan, Research & Book their Holidays

  • 83% of people are now booking their holidays on line without human interaction
  • On average 3.5 holidays are taken per year (millennials 4.2 holidays per year)
  • Typically 38 websites are visited, researched before committing to booking a holiday
  • Web experience, not price drives early travel & holiday planning

Adapt your Marketing Accordingly to the Customer Journey

It has become increasingly important to understand the whole customer journey and how they book to ensure your business is prepared as much as it can be. The journey includes the researching and planning of their holiday through to the actual booking, the actual holiday experience and beyond. As nearly all the initial research is now being conducted online, owners and holiday operators are now having to adapt their marketing accordingly to the changing expectations of consumers.

Consumers have a wealth of information available to them at their fingertips. They will spend considerable amount of time and effort investigating ideas, prices, reviews, before arriving at their decision and then booking their holiday.  

Stand Out from Your Competitors

To ensure that your business is considered during the booking process, you have to make sure you stand out from the competition. You need to have a good online presence, but do not stop there as your business needs to engage, resonate and bring your holidays to life in front of their eyes. This can be done with great imagery, informative content and relevant advice. By not doing this you will lose the potential customer from your website very quickly as they seek what they want elsewhere.

Windrush Lake - Cotswold Water Park

No two customer journeys will be the same but generally the process can be broken down into 5 key stages.

The 5 Key Stages of the Customer Journey when Booking a Holiday Cottage

  1. Dreaming & Inspiration
  2. Planning & Researching
  3. Booking & Paying
  4. Experiencing & Enjoying
  5. Sharing & Reviewing

Stage 1 – Dreaming & Inspiration

What initiates that first thought of a holiday, is it a dream or an inspiration? Nowadays it can be from being inspired by evocative travel stories, stunning photos and great content on social media, an advert on television or chatting about holidays with friends which galvanises thoughts of getting away. Once the holiday seed is planted, it will germinate quickly and grow into a forest of dreams and ideas. The time to start planning is now.

Marketing Actions: The key for businesses is to make sure they are in front of potential guests at this very early ‘dreaming’ stage. This can be done by encouraging existing customers and followers to share their holiday experience online with friends and family whilst they were staying with you. Showcase and inspire with great photos of your property and location.

Enticement with a friends and family discount could well encourage them to share their memories and pictures.  

Stage 2 – Planning & Researching

“Typically 38 websites are visited, researched before committing to booking a holiday”

This is often a lengthy process whilst people spend time, researching and getting ideas about what they are after. This can include investigating the area and suitable holiday cottage options that may be available. Potential guests will look for property facilities, location, great places to visit, things to do, local facilities and even find out answers to questions they had not even thought to ask.

Marketing Actions: Does your website, local listings, advertising and social media sites provide this information and answer these key questions. Can you help potential visitors visualise what it would be like to visit your area and stay at your holiday cottages or lodges. Create a ‘Top 10 Great Things to do When Staying in (Location)’.

Make sure you are optimised as best you can for the search engines for your area so customers can find you.

Stage 3 – Booking & Paying

Potential guests have now created a shortlist and narrowed down their criteria and are in the mood to book. They are excited, they are keen to book in your area and your property would be ideal for them, they want to book now. They do not want to be frustrated with not being able to book online or find what they are after.

Marketing Actions: Make sure your property, brand name and website can be found easily on Google for what potential guests are looking for. Can they navigate to your online booking system, making it easy to book and ideally take their payment. If you prefer to speak to your potential guests first then offer an availability chart with a simple enquiry form and a telephone number to call is vital. Guests will want to hear back as soon as possible or they may well have book elsewhere whilst they wonder when you will respond.

Stage 4 – Experiencing & Enjoying

So they have booked with you and looking forward to staying at your holiday cottage in your beautiful location. They have received their booking confirmation, travel details and guest information and they are full of anticipation, expectation and excitement. It is time for them to experience the delights of a holiday with you.

It was even better than we expected, “The owners were lovely and even put out some local fresh eggs and a bottle of wine in the fridge, there were even doggy treats for our two springers.”  Give your guests a great time to remember and they will tell all.

Marketing Action: It is all about the customer service, the welcome and creating a wonderful experience and resulting in happy customers. If they leave with a smile on their face they will share their experience with all their friends. It is those little things that will make a difference and create long lasting memories.  

Stage 5 – Sharing & Reviewing

Your guests have left with a legacy of happy memories. Now it is time to make the most of that sense of well-being and positive feeling towards your business. People are now sharing their experiences on various social media such as Instagram and Facebook and this can help others be inspired to book their holidays with you.  

Marketing Actions: Whilst the glow of their holiday is fresh in their minds, thank your guests for staying at your cottage. At the same time send out a friendly request to review their stay with you. Ideally use a well-known review company that can help you automate all of this for you.

Feel free to ask there is anything that they loved, their highlights and also is there anything that you could have done better. Ask them to share any of their photos with you that you could post on line with their approval on Instagram, Facebook, photo gallery, for example. This is all great content for your social media sites which may encourage people to consider you whilst they are at the dreaming and inspiration stage.

Many people are happy to book accommodation and holidays based on recommendations from friends, colleagues and family give them further encouragement to do so such as ‘Friends & Family Discount’ which they can share to their network.

Waterside Holidays - The Booking Journey

Address Your Potential Customers at Every Stage

Ideally you will want to address and target your potential customers at every stage for the customer journey to ensure that your name stands proud from your competition. Be realistic however and evaluate where you are now, what are doing well and what could be improved. It is useful to check your Google Analytics to see what traffic your website is getting, where the traffic is coming from, how well you are engaging and for what key search terms.

Make a Plan, Set Realistic Targets, Then Do It

Decide what needs to be done, make a list or simple marketing plan and set realistic timescales. Break it all down into small chunks, target the easy and low cost options first. Then set about putting into place the actions to achieve the longer term actions. If you were to target any booking stages of the customer journey as most important initially, then your marketing actions should address the research, planning and booking phases first.

Most importantly of all is making a start, good luck.

Handy Industry Stats: (Source of Statistics – Expedia)

  • 70% of travellers’ research travel on their smartphone.
  • 82% of all travel bookings in 2018 were made online via a mobile app or website, without human interaction.
  • 90% of people do all their holiday research online, whereas only 80% of people book online.
  • 90% of travellers say they are influenced by reviews online, it’s clear that TripAdvisor still leads the way.
  • 80% of customers who get asked to leave a review will do so.
  • 63% prefer to read reviews, view pictures and book online all on the same website.

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