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Web 2.0 is changing the way audiences interact with travel brands. User generated content [UGC] and social network sites such as Flickr, Youtube, and Yahoo Trip Planner are reshaping audience expectations and experiences. The authority figure is no longer the travel agent or the media - it is now the audience. Welcome to Travel 2.0.
In the Travel 2.0 era, the power is shifting.
In a Travel 2.0 environment, travel brands now need to meet and match their online audiences expectations and requirements with appropriate, engaging, entertaining, and targeted experiences.
As the online travel market matures and transforms, audiences are no longer content just to shop for price or read destination information written by marketers. Now more sophisticated online users are looking to connect and share with other travelers and with the content itself.
The Sheraton’s customer travel blog example can be seen as a forerunner in the travel 2.0 online landscape. User generated content in the shape of travel stories is displayed on their website. (Link: Sheraton, http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/index.html)
An Experience, not a room search.
To meet audience expectations you need to build an experience based upon what they want. Guests are no longer happy to just search for rooms, they want to connect and be connected. Technology is the enabling platform which helps to create this connection and create a rich, dynamic brand experience for your audience.
Loyalty is moving beyond simply branding a card and throwing some enticements or entitlements together. Web 2.0 is not only changing the way consumers communicate but also the way brands communicate.
This article will present a web 2.0 toolkit for building better, deeper loyalty with your customers, based upon 5 new business tools:
2. Rich Media
3. Social Networks
4. Email Marketing
5. Loyalty Monitoring
Tool 01: Blogs
Some of the very best practices for building loyalty with consumers are through richer communication. Blogs are a front-line tool for instant reach for brand-to-consumer communications. Tools like Blogs present a shift in the service paradigm from purely tactical technologies (call deflection, improving agent productivity) to accommodate more strategic engagements (targeted customer experiences coupled with increased wallet share).
This shift in focus repositions the lens squarely back onto the consumer as a strategy to build more valuable, deeper brand relationships. With this paradigm shift, comes the necessity of a sharper focus upon loyalty: What it consists of and how it can be shaped.
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Blogs offer some critical loyalty benefits in both pre- and post-sales brand communications.
Key Blog Benefits:
▪ Direct and instant customer communications for promotions, products, service feedback etc
▪ Communicate with brand advocates [those who recommend] and detractors [those who actively discourage].
▪ Provide platform for self-help beyond basic FAQ’s to reduce call center and support requests
▪ Improve brand to customer communication touchpoints
(Link: Avis, http://www.wetryharder.co.uk/)
Tools 02: Rich Media
Webinars, podcasts, and interactive content, all which offer deeper emotional experiences for website audiences beyond simply clicking and scrolling. Both online and offline rich media offers valuable market advantage by improving customer experiences with your brand and deepening loyalty.
Rich media achieves deepened loyalty through extending your brand’s core offering by making your brand more relevant, exciting, and accessible. Destination information is becoming less about purely information more about how you interact with the information.
Rich media enables your brand to convey your experience without compromising the purchase path. Ensure you have a clear purchase path mapped between experience and point of purchase, with timely call to actions.
Key Rich Media Benefits:
▪ Deepen emotional experience between brand and consumer
▪ Extend the experience beyond your existing content with deepened functionality
▪ Convey experience without compromising purchase path
Tool 03: Social Networks
Brand social networks or brand communities are the logical extension for any business wanting to extend and grow within a business 2.0 world. Developing a strategy and framework for a social network will greatly benefit those brands that can move quickly with first to market advantages.
Social networks are the gel that should pull your brand community together. Many brands already posses the most important item for building a social network, a consumer database, but lack the glue to bring life to the brand community. Consider social networks as not only a strategy for online community but importantly a strategy for creating stronger, deeper brand relationships provoking deeper brand loyalty and deeper wallet share.
Key Social Network Benefits:
▪ Take advantage of consumer’s natural desire to cluster
▪ Maximise existing consumer databases
▪ Deepen brand loyalty and wallet share
▪ Strengthen brand social network framework
Tool 04: Email Marketing
Email marketing is a decisive tool for building brand loyalty. Direct, effective, and regular communication between brand and consumer is essential if long-term relationships are to be built. Email marketing delivers highly focused messages to your audience which allows continual, deeper communications. The communications can be monthly newsletters, promotions, or brand chatter.
Of course a solid strategy must underpin all brand email marketing communications to ensure integrity, relevance, and wallet share is maintained. Included in this mix is a keen set of metrics to chart the effectiveness of each communication and of general brand messages as a function to measure brand loyalty and brand sentiment.
▪ Direct and instant customer communications for promotions, products, service feedback etc
▪ Metrics and reporting for communications measurement and analysis
▪ Improve brand to customer communication touchpoints
▪ Increase cross channel and repeat sales
Tool 05: Loyalty Monitoring
The rise of blogs, social networks, and review sites have all given customers the opportunity to become an author and to start talking online about brands. Online channels enable consumers to make public their views, feedback, and comments about your brand, your brands products and services, and your competition.
An important component of loyalty is measuring sentiment. Metrics from online content construct part of the picture, but word of mouth and consumer generated content now generate an ever increasing share of brand-related content. Meeting and understanding consumers in their own space is a bottom-up focused methodology critical for monitoring brand and communication effectiveness.
Loyalty monitoring focuses upon monitoring and measuring the UGC channels and networks to gather intelligence about what is being said about a brand and their competitors. This intelligence is then compiled, analysed, and reported.
Online loyalty monitoring is relatively new and the methodological approach is relatively simple enough: Source and track data; Clean and segment the data; Attach weight to data; Measure sentiment; Analyse measurements. Obviously the central issues revolve around strategy and execution.
▪ Measure monthly sentiment.
▪ Direct and instant customer response measurement for promotions, products, service feedback etc
▪ Listen to brand promoters [those who recommend] and detractors [customers who actively discourage].
▪ Identify upstream and downstream sites contributing researchers, brand influencers, and buyers
Social networks, Blogs, rich media, and email marketing are all tools that will help to build your brand loyalty beyond enticements for upgrades and special offer promotions. When deployed successfully, they can all offer a clear strategic brand benefit to not only build loyalty, but also establish further competitive differentiation, and to mine online browsing for additional revenue.
Loyalty strategies create, add, and keep value within the brand network. Well crafted loyalty strategies can offer valuable experiences, services, and benefits to consumers that money can’t buy. Loyalty programs can increase cross channel and repeat sales, improve knowledge and understanding of your brand community, Improve direct consumer communication, and strengthen a brands’ social network framework.
If building brand loyalty is on your business agenda, then brand social networks are the logical extension for any business wanting to extend and grow within a business 2.0 world. Developing a strategy and framework for a branded social network will greatly benefit those brands that can move quickly with first to market advantages.
Haynes T. (2007) Building loyalty with Web 2.0. EHLITE, Issue 18 (September 2007) 28 – 29.
Mr. Haynes is a pioneer in digital branding, marketing, and execution having been active in the sector for the past 9 years.
As the Chief Digital Officer for SinoTech Group, a leading Chinese digital marketing company, Mr. Haynes is responsible for developing the Group’s digital business and takes lead in client strategy.
Mr. Haynes has provided digital expertise and services to businesses in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Formally trained to Masters honors level as a Sociologist at the University of Auckland, NZ. Mr. Haynes' research field was Internet culture, virtual communities, technology & society, and critical theory.