By Kelly Ellis,
Global Traveler Engagement Practice Lead
All the effort you put into building your travel program won’t be effective if travelers aren’t using it.
You must understand that business travelers today are like other consumers – they have choices, and if you don’t reach them with the marketing tactics they’re used to seeing elsewhere, then they’ll start looking outside your program. And in today’s digital age there are limitless choices.
Unlike 20 years ago, your travelers aren’t going to their TMC – everybody’s used to searching and finding things for themselves online. As a travel manager, that means you have to take proactive steps to get travelers’ attention and communicate with them on your travel policy before they go outside and book on their own. Here’s how to get started.
Understand your travelers
To send the right message at the right time, travel managers must first understand travelers’ current concerns and know what’s driving their decisions today. For example, travelers may book out of policy because they:
- Don’t know about your program or understand its value to them
- Aren’t familiar with the tools you want them to use
- Find using your tools difficult or time consuming
- Have been influenced by external messages about health and wellness, sustainability, and the environment
Plus, since the pandemic, traveler behavior has changed. And even your road warriors may not be traveling as frequently and may need more updates on program changes.
Define your program goals and business priorities
While understanding your travelers, it’s essential to figure out your program priorities. Is your company thinking more about sustainability now? Have supplier loyalty and policy compliance become big issues?
Once you know your unique goals and priorities, identify any gaps between your goals and your travelers’ behavior. This is where you can implement digital marketing strategies that influence your travelers’ to align with your goals. Today, digital marketers use data-driven messaging to drive results and create a great customer experience. That, in turn, leads to consumers making the purchase decisions the company wants.
Outside of our travel industry, a company that is excellent at the digital consumer experience is Starbucks. Consumers can do everything within the app, from getting information and selecting products, to pre-ordering and redeeming incentives and special offers. That’s the kind of seamless experience you’re aiming for with your travelers.
Understand the customer journey
Developing the right message isn’t enough to drive behavior change in your travelers. Delivering your message at the right time in an engaging way is just as important. Just as digital marketers do, travel managers need to understand the journey of their customers: business travelers. This can be broken down into five stages: awareness, findability, consideration, conversion, and advocacy.
- Awareness: What you’ll do at this stage is build out your brand identity and establish a foundation for trusted communication. This will enable you to reach travelers with the right messages at the right time and have them take notice and act.
- Findability: Findability is about having discoverable information in the places where your traveler is looking for it: the booking tool, the mobile app, the SharePoint site, and so on. It’s about figuring out those internal digital touchpoints that allow you to reach them with the timely and accurate messaging.
- Consideration: Consideration is about developing messages in the right tone to nudge travelers in the right direction. For example, you might want them to choose one airline carrier over another, or consider the environment, or think about how their choices help the business as a whole.
- Conversion: Conversion is about the follow-through – getting travelers to take the desired action or make the behavioral change by getting messages to them at the right time. Part of this is highlighting “what’s in it for me” to really drive the benefits home.
- Advocacy: The final step is thinking about how your satisfied travelers can become advocates for you. This can mean travel managers reaching out to successful business travelers or long-term travelers for help on getting the word out and nudging others to follow policy and book within the program.
Once you understand the customer journey, you can begin to create an experience in your travel program that bridges the gap between your program priorities and traveler behavior.
One great example of these strategies in action is with Advito’s client, global fintech firm, Finastra. Finastra wanted to create a virtual collaboration infrastructure to reduce internal travel, ensure business continuity, increase employee productivity, and drive program savings. With the help of Advito, the company achieved a 4 million kg reduction in carbon emissions and a $3.7 million reduction in travel spend. Learn more about the strategies they implemented in the full case study here.
The bottom line is that while we’re still looking at audiences, channels and timing for traveler engagement strategies, the execution of those strategies is now heavily focused on the digital experience. It’s what your travelers expect and therefore what you have to deliver. The key is to figure out how to develop messages that encourage the behaviors the organization wants, and where in the purchasing journey to place those messages for maximum effectiveness.