Counteract turbulence ahead, says Paul Marsden, consumer psychologist at SYZYGY
Brexit is everywhere. It’s there when you turn on the radio, open a paper or browse Twitter. It was also the topic of a recent Travel Weekly business breakfast where a panel featuring Celebrity Cruises, Jet2Travel, Miles Morgan Travel, Natwest and Icelolly.com discussed the impact of Brexit on their brands and the outlook for UK travel. However, rather than the B word dominating conversation, it actually took a back seat in favour of another term – “uncertainty”.
This is a sentiment that extends beyond business and into the daily lives of consumers. With a plan of action yet to be agreed on, people are questioning the security and validity of their travel plans beyond March 29th. Uncertainty rules.
Uncertainty is reflected in traveller behaviour. Although holiday booking remains steady, Google search terms for package holidays are down 20% in the UK. Additionally, YouGov revealed that consumers are delaying purchasing a holiday until the political situation is clearer. Consumer confidence is down. Consumer trust is down to a greater degree. None of this is helped by the media scaremongering with phrases such as “Passport Chaos” headlining stories about invalid passports post-Brexit. We live, as they say, in a VUCCA world – volatile, uncertain, chaotic, complex and ambiguous.
In order to reassure uncertain customers in an uncertain climate, travel brands should update how they communicate with them online. The digital sphere can feel removed from the real world, but by using more visual content and by harnessing voice technology, brands can build trust and offer certainty.
Love our panelists this morning. Really honest, candid and feisty! Thanks @MMTMan @JoRzyCruise Alan Cross from @jet2tweets and @rsinger79 . Fantastic session! #twbizbreakfast pic.twitter.com/eaenfbSmfF
— Lucy Huxley (@Lucy_Huxley) March 19, 2019
Travel itself is inherently visual and the rise of Instagram culture has made this truer than ever. So much so that 40% of millennials now say they look for “Instagrammable” holiday destinations, with ‘made for Instagram’ moments. As a twist on an old saying might go “If a coconut falls on a beach and no one was there to Instagram it, did it happen?” The point is that video and images offer uncertainty-busting proof for cautious consumers. So travel brands should embrace visual culture with a website refresh that is more visually engaging, with more powerful imagery, more interactive maps and more authentic stories in video format.
Extend this to your social channels as well. Travel brands should curate and develop compelling Instagram visuals and stories to impact users’ travel decisions. Bring user generated content into the equation as well. Travellers are increasingly distrustful of manicured corporate imagery and copy. Instead they look at Buzzfeed guides, TripAdvisor reviews, and travellers’ Instagram photos. Use these ready-made marketing tools made for a visual culture.
Voice technology is another way to help build trust and confidence with consumers. By allowing people to have a conversation with your website either directly or via one of the SAGA (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant) voice assistants, you show you care. Voice humanises the digital experience – it is intuitive, natural and personal. The rapid rise in voice-search and the popularly of smart speakers reveal consumer demand for voice technology. Google statistics show that 20% of mobile searches are now voice initiated. ComScore predicts this will rise to 50% by 2020. In a voice-first world, websites will not only need to be upgraded to understand and respond to speech queries, but also adopt a more conversational language and human tone of voice.
The overall message I want to leave you with is ‘trust or bust’. In Brexit Britain, consumers remain uncertain, anxious and cautious. They need reassurance from a trusted travel partner in a world where FOMO (fear of missing out) risks morphing into FOGO (fear of going out).