Are travel and tourism websites the last frontier in personalization? 

March 30, 2017  |  Rachel Whitt

Travel & Tourism

As a destination marketing organization (DMO) or someone who is more broadly engaged in the travel and tourism space, you know how important understanding your audience is to achieving key metrics like intent to travel, increased visitation or duration in destination. And because of that, you probably have some form of audience profiles. Whether it’s a formal quantitative study, qualitative personas or hybrid of both, you’re almost certainly using information about who is visiting your destination to inform your marketing efforts.

Depending on the channels you’re employing to reach current and potential visitors, these insights may be driving anything from media placements to email lists to social media targeting. But how are you using that data to inform your website? I mean really using it to speak the right language to the right audiences at the right times to drive engagement? If that question caused you to pause, you’re not alone.

While that sentiment is entirely commonplace, it’s not necessarily good for business. Consider this: your website can be the first consumer touchpoint for your potential visitor and continue to be relevant all the way from the initial dreaming phase through in-market visitation.

So, what’s the hold up?

Sure, you can add a call-to-action that captures the attention of a young family with two kids from an urban area looking for outdoor adventure. But that very same content will also be seen by an older couple looking to experience fine dining and culture. As a result, most destination websites are organized in a fairly standard fashion, by leading with general buckets like Activities and Accommodations and folding more tailored content tucked neatly underneath.

Now picture those same two audiences through a new lens. The family with young kids is on your site looking for hiking trails at the same time your empty nesters are browsing for wine festivals. What do they see?

In this reimagined website environment, the young family will prominently see the best places to camp with kids, while the older couple will be greeted with the newest 4-star restaurant opening.

Can’t we just do that?

Up until very recently, there wasn’t much that could be done to truly apply audience data to a website experience. In the last year or so, a whole host of third party tools have popped up that claim to be able to tailor your website experience to the individual needs of your site visitors. But what do they really do?

Digging deeper, none are quite living up to their promise or hype. At their best, these tools are aimed at straightforward conversions, never getting beyond an “if you like this, you might also like this” model.

Truth be told, while the promise of true personalization against audience insights is thrilling to marketers, it’s a concept that is experiencing some serious growing pains. Sure, it is possible to use cookie data and browsing behavior as a recommendation engine or to track someone coming from an email to your site against a CRM database. But no one provider is truly tapping multiple data sources and creating profiles of visitors in a comprehensive and actionable way. With so much data out there, a true personalization strategy demands more touchpoints as well as the content to meet those demands.

Don’t forget to feed the machine

Just about everyone has jumped on the content bandwagon, but quantity rarely corresponds to quality. The overall dearth of good content is just as responsible for the slow adoption of website personalization as the technology behind it. Without a solid content strategy, the mechanism for delivery becomes moot.

While all of this is still in its infancy, there is no question that this level of anticipatory content delivery is where things are headed. And there is truly no better place for this re-imaged site experience than the travel and tourism space.

Patience isn’t always the answer

Knowing what’s coming has advantages and BVK has never been an agency of me-toos.  We abide by the model that quality content drives quality experiences. We have been working with several of our existing clients to reimagine true personalization of the customer journey on the web and are currently exploring our own data aggregation models.

We truly can’t wait for what’s next. Seriously, we can’t wait. So instead, we’re helping to shape it.

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is a Creative Strategist at BVK

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