Joel Davis of Mighty Social on how to flourish in post-digital era
This may seem like a surprising statement to make, but digital transformation has had its day.
This is not to say digital is old or over, on the contrary; as digital transformation has shaped everything all the way through to people’s expectations, the travel sector now faces a world of renewed expectations and core digital technologies are going to be more critical than ever.
However, the very term ‘digital transformation’ itself has now given way to a new era as travel organisations reach what can only be described as ‘digital saturation’.
As we move collectively into this post-digital era, the digital capabilities and advantages that were once seen as differentiators are now available to every organisation in travel.
Marketers and advertisers now have the tools to understand their customers with a new depth of granularity and they have more channels than ever to reach them too.
This means that the time for pilots and experimentation is over. Marketers now have to usher in the new strategies that will allow them to set their travel brands apart from their competitors. The playing field may have levelled out but now comes the really exciting stuff!
In effect the last decade has been a steep learning curve. Now that marketers have mastered many game-changing tools they need to learn how best to shape the world around consumers down to picking the right moments to offer their products and services.
Let’s start with these digitally mature consumers, after all they have been on a parallel path with travel brands, incorporating new technologies at an increasingly rapid rate.
It took twelve years for mobile phones to reach 50 million users and the internet took just seven years to get to the same point. If we look at purely digital technologies, the rates take off: Facebook reached 50 million users in four years; WeChat, one year, and that almost forgotten augmented-reality gaming app, Pokémon GO, gained the same traction in nineteen days.
People are increasingly knowledgeable about technology itself and how travel organisations use it which means they are becoming selective and demanding of what they adopt.
We are shifting beyond hyper-personalisation to an era where each individual customer has their own reality and every moment will soon represent an opportunity for marketers to play a role in shaping it.
This may sound like quantum physics to some, yet the truth is that technology is creating a world of intensely customised and on-demand experiences. Which is why travel marketers should view each opportunity as if it’s an individual market—a momentary market.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to harness this.
Keep it human
One of the first things to remember is that consumers may be digitally mature, but this does not mean they have lost any human traits such as a desire for new experiences through to a thirst for authentic, innovative and thought-provoking content.
If anything, now that marketers have refined the art of reaching their target audiences, they have even more responsibility to bear when it comes to what they serve them.
Unique opportunities for unique customers
The technology-driven interactions we now take for granted have created an expanding technology identity for every consumer.
This should be viewed as a living foundation of knowledge to gain an accurate understanding of the next generation of consumers. This pivots marketing towards developing rich, individualised, experience-based relationships as travel marketers meet consumer’s needs at the speed of now.
Successful travel brands are already demonstrating the value of fluid consumer touchpoints that evolve and grow alongside this new breed of data-driven consumer who is constantly in flux.
Their path to purchase is no longer characterised by a few big, well-orchestrated moments. What we are seeing instead are numerous small interactions that coalesce to determine success. These micro-moments are fast becoming more important than the cumulative effect of an elaborate marketing plan.
The consequence of our all being hyper-connected is that when the whim grabs us we can research whatever we want whenever and wherever we want to. This dynamic triggers five experiential factors, which are:
Increasingly the blended channel is the only channel as customers use any and all touch points to learn, discover, research and ultimately make their travel purchase. It’s no longer about online or bricks and mortar, but a well-integrated “one brand, many channels” strategy
Travel products and experiences that are uniquely crafted to each individual customer have become the antidote to increasingly less effective mass strategies
Context is becoming king. `Geo-location technology can be employed to get much closer to CRM’s Holy Grail: the right offer to the right customer at the right time. But it goes beyond that. Consumer behaviour is fundamentally changing because of what mobile uniquely allows them to do. The way consumers use smart devices creates the afore-mentioned micro-moments, which offers travel marketers the perfect opportunities to continually refine their messages.
Ours is a connection economy, and consumers are now turning to their networks for inspiration, information and validation – just think about the power of the Influencer.
With an abundance of choice and marketing messages, the only way to break through the crowd is to push to higher levels of relevance and impact. Good enough rarely is any more. Value propositions must rise above a sea of sameness, and we must deliver a story that demands to be told.
An interesting effect of all this technology is that having fostered the illusion that most needs can be met, no matter how personal or customised, organisations now need to meet these expectations.
Travel marketers have to turn that illusion into reality. That means understanding people at a holistic level and recognising that their outlooks and needs may well change at a moment’s notice.
In the post-digital world, every moment will represent a potential new market of one. It’s where demand is communicated instantly, and gratification is expected immediately. What’s more, both are constantly changing, creating an infinite and never-ending stream of opportunities to be met.
Of course, realistically, the world is not yet at the point of everything being instantaneous. But post-digital travel brands are already playing a different game.
Whilst those organisations that may not have quite reached digital maturity are still looking for a competitive edge, be it innovation or increased personalisation, post-digital travel brands on the other hand, are looking for much more. They are poised to overtake the competition by changing the way the market itself works. From one market to many custom markets— on-demand, in the moment.
Travel marketers may feel like they are repositioning themselves as the curators of reality, however this shift brings with it a new requirement, which is to responsibly pick which opportunities to target.
Delivering for specific and constantly changing moments creates challenging additional questions for organisations that are used to one market of many. No one said it would get easier, moving beyond digital will require its own set of transformational strategies. But the journey will be worth it!