The commercial landscape is changing, and every industry has to keep up. The internet has changed how holidaymakers go about booking flights, finding hotels and picking vacations.
The challenges that the travel industry face in the digital economy are unique. Logistical challenges like the impact on margins that flying a half-full plan or operating a sparsely populated hotel make agile operations hard in an industry with inherently high overhead costs. Combined with a wealth of competition and dependence on seasonal demand, finding avenues of differentiation is important for success.
Now, more than ever, players in the travel industry need to make special efforts to target and motivate prospective customers. Coupon marketing can be an invaluable and highly effective tool in helping to inspire trust and loyalty in an increasingly competitive and tumultuous industry.
In this article we are going to go over creative coupon marketing strategies that work in the travel industry -- letting you drive growth and outpace the competition.
There was a time when the personalisation of coupon codes was considered a fun and pleasant novelty. As we enter the 2020s, however, most customers consider it a necessity. They don’t want the kinds of codes that are available to any old Tom, Dick or Harry. They want unique and exclusive codes that are tailored to their needs and their past interactions with your brand.
Unless you can offer them this, the sad truth is that almost 80% of customers simply won’t be interested… no matter how generous your offers may be.
Get creative with coupon codes!
The good news is that this allows you an opportunity to get creative and have some fun with promotional offers which will build value in your brand for customers. Look at your CRM and identify opportunities to offer promotions that will excite your customers. Think about places they’ve travelled to repeatedly or the kinds of hotels in which they trend to book. Look at whether they usually travel for business or pleasure.
Think about personal dates of importance like their birthday or their wedding anniversary. People often travel on dates that are significant to them and you can give them a welcome discount right when they need it the most.
Just make sure that you’re transparent in the customer data you collect and make sure they know that it’s only ever collected to help improve their customer experience.
If customers feel that you know a little bit too much about them, it might come across more as creepy than valuable to them.
2. Create brand loyalty
The rise of online tour operators has opened up the floodgates to a deluge of competition. And whatever the nature of your business, if you operate in the travel space it’s more than likely that you welcome an opportunity to distance yourself from your competitors and encourage brand loyalty in your customers.
What better way to do this than by rewarding the people who invest in you at the expense of all the other brands out there?
The more you know about your customers based on their previous purchases and the information they surrender to you, the easier it is to deliver targeted and hyper-relevant offers at the right time for maximum impact.
This can turn a casual customer into a loyal customer and a loyal customer into a brand evangelist. These evangelists can serve as micro-influencers, bringing the attention of their friends, family and colleagues to your brand.
Promotional codes can even be used to gamify this process and encourage more referrals from happy customers. Look no further than the Uber model for a great example of this. The ride-sharing giant has long offered personalised discounts to loyal customers who refer others to their service, while allowing newly referred customers enticing discounts of their own.
3. Create a sense of urgency
It can be really frustrating when you go to the effort of creating a unique and appealing campaign only to find that customers don’t use the unique discount codes that you’ve created just for them. This is usually not because they aren’t interested in the offers (far from it) but because they believe that they have all the time in the world to claim them… or to see what your competitors have to offer.
Use some scarcity marketing tactics to get them off the fence!
Create time limits so that users are more motivated to use their promotional codes. Let them know that discounts have limited availability and that other loyal customers are also scrambling to redeem their own similar codes.
All of this increases the value inherent in your promotions and motivates customers to make instant decisions, ensuring loyalty even in a highly competitive market.
4. Social proof and social influencers
How much do you trust the word of the brands you use? Even when it comes to brands you like, when it comes to what they’re saying about themselves they’re always likely to take it with a pinch of salt. The odds are that you’d rather hear from other customers just like you to find out what their experiences have been.
Do you know what makes your customers different to you in this regard?
As such, brands in the travel industry should think about how they can demonstrate their ability to keep real, genuine customers happy. User ratings and reviews are an obvious example of social proof in action, as are live viewing updates (which can also be considered a form of scarcity marketing in action). Certification by trusted third parties and regulatory bodies are also great forms of social proof to which customers respond positively.
In the social media age, however, social influencers (such as travel bloggers, vloggers and other content creators) are an essential tool that you’ll need to leverage to earn the trust of your target audience, especially if you’re targeting the younger traveller. 40% of millennial consumers feel that their favourite social influencers understand them better than their own friends, making this a potentially more lucrative tool than peer recommendation.
A great way to get influencers on-side is to give them their very own unique promo code that gives their fans an exclusive discount with your brand. Usually, the influencer receives a small percentage of all sales made through their unique codes. It’s a great way to introduce your brand to a new audience while leveraging the endorsement of a well known and trusted figure.
5. Target cart abandonment
As we mentioned previously, shopping cart abandonment is a massive issue in the travel agency, with abandonment rates eclipsing even the global cross-industry average of 75.6%. Indeed, the total 82% abandonment rate of most travel related shopping carts results in an estimated $18 billion of missed revenue across the industry.
Again, this is because with the wealth of competition out there, travellers know that they are in the driving seat and have all the time in the world to scour the internet for competing offers.
Unique promotional codes cab leverage scarcity marketing tactics to make your customers realise that the best offer is the one on screen right here, right now.
Try using limited time offers which will go away within a specific time frame, sporadic offers which pop up on screen while customers are umming and ahhing about whether to book or diminishing discounts which get less generous the more time the customer takes. These might start out at a generous 20% then reduce to 10% after 10 minutes and 5% after a further 10 minutes.
The same software that allows you to create unique promotional coupons will also have a suite of analytics features that allows you to AB test different codes to see which strategy is most effective in targeting cart abandonment.
6. Be seasonally strategic
Seasonal slumps are often regarded as the bane of the travel industry. However, when properly timed and carefully deployed, the right coupons can smooth out the spikes that historically occur in order to allow travel brands to maximise their use of infrastructure- ensuring that planes are fully booked and hotels have a minimum of empty rooms.
Use appealing promotional codes to target locations that don’t get the love amongst travellers that they should or apply promotional codes to your least commonly used flights or travel routes in order to ensure that as many seats are booked as possible and waste is mitigated.
7. Get creative with bundles
One unique opportunity for the travel industry that isn’t shared by other industries is the opportunity to create unique bundles that add tremendous value to customers.
When people travel, especially overseas, they tend to want and need a lot of things. They need a plane or ferry to their destination, they need a transfer from the airport, they need hotel accommodation, they need dining and drinks and they’re more than likely going to need to rent a car to get around or to go on some organised tours.
When you have the tools to create unique coupon codes, the possibilities for creating fun and appealing bundles is potentially limitless. You can offer customers unique bundles based on their previous purchases which offer aggregate discounts across the things they use the most. The more they rely on you for, the more generous you can afford to be.
Alternatively, rather than pushing customers to make a bundle purchase, you can offer discounts on a number of things that they can then choose to use whenever they like, even if it’s after they’ve arrived at their destination.
You’ll find that travellers appreciate this kind of flexibility and it may just prove the deciding factor in securing their loyalty.
Target your strategy with single-use codes and analytics
When you invest in the right software tools to create unique, single-use promotional coupons you have the means to address several historic pain points of the travel industry at the same time. And because the codes are unique and can only be used once, you’ll never need to worry about what you’ll do if they leak.
You can create the kind of unique and personalised offerings that fickle travellers love. You can experiment with combinations of offers and bundles. You can track results and get proactive with AB testing.
In short, you can give your valued customers more of what they want.
And because the process is fully automated, you can even produce coupon codes in large volumes without administrative hassle!