4 behaviours of successful travel brands

We have the luxury of working with some great brands, although to be fair, the travel industry as a whole is full of talented (and nice) people. It’s no coincidence that 3Sixty pledged to invest all of our time in creating digital solutions exclusively for the travel and tourism sector.

Through our day to day partnerships, we have acknowledged some of the behaviours that we think help them become amazing. There are of course many behaviours that lead to awesomeness, but here are our top 4.

1. Focus on your user needs

Brands that put customers first really do succeed. Speaking to customers can be scary, opening yourself up to a whole lot of feedback, issues and actions…on top of an already hefty to do list. However, it’s also invaluable. From a digital point of view, we like to run surveys, user testing/guerrilla testing and focus groups. We spend time in the data and we love a good spreadsheet as much as the next person, but this only paints some of the picture, speaking to your users provides often remarkable insight. Don’t forget to speak to your call centre too, the teams feedback here is vital. They speak to the happy, the indifferent and the frustrated user, all of whom can provide little nuggets of gold. Each and every-time we user test, we learn something unexpected.

Once you’ve committed to putting your users first, they might just put you first too. Our aim is providing a frictionless digital experience, providing informative and inspirational content, personalised to user needs (where it adds value), alongside a great user experience regardless of device or their stage in the buying cycle. If you nail this, prospects will look forward to engaging with your brand digitally and are much more likely to convert.

2. Recruit the right team, and let them thrive

It sounds obvious, but it isn’t always employed (a serendipitous pun). Good people need good work, they thrive at a brand they believe in, working on exciting projects with the conditions to flourish. If they don’t, they will soon move on. There’s often a need to bring in someone quickly, but don’t rush it and settle for average, aim for great employees. Netflix famously focus on recruiting the exceptional, and compared to an average professional, they believe the exceptional employee can add 10 X the value. So yes, you may need to wait an extra 3 months to get this person in, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Once you have your team in place, give them space to make an impact. Controlling managers quash creativity. Super high workloads make teams focus on the reactive day to day — going through the motions, rather than the proactive game changers. These are the things that will drive your business to greatness.

The same goes for your agency partners. Choose partners who actually behave like partners, those who give a shit and who are good at what they do. Just like your employees, provide them the conditions to thrive…time, budget and remit. Try setting them a challenge rather than giving them a solution to implement.

Great people = great work. It’s a simple equation.

3. Be brave and innovate.

Lack of innovation is killing the sector. By the nature of the content, travel websites should be inspiring. People love looking at pretty pictures of potential holidays, it’s a part of the process. In fact, the average traveller is now looking at 38 websites before booking. Many travel brands websites are in truth; pretty boring–extremely functional and all follow the same pattern — where do you want to go? when do you want to go? how many people are going?…the page loads…then the user is served with 1000’s of similar looking results. Where is the inspiration? Say hello to ‘paralysis of choice’!

So don’t be afraid to be a little different, give yourself some standout, whether that is an inspiration tool, a quirky design style, or genuinely fascinating content. Just don’t be like everyone else. When there are 38 travel websites that typically get browsed pre-purchase, what’s going to make you stand out? If you can’t answer that, you might be one of the 37 brands that don’t get the sale!

4. Provide a vision that EVERYONE is working towards.

People get bogged down in the detail, it’s easy to do. Spending so much time and effort making micro decisions that really don’t matter. As a consequence, they don’t spend not enough time looking at how to drive the business forward. The above 3 behaviours are really a subset of this; putting users first, having an exceptional team and innovating — all help drive businesses forward. At the end of each day, it’s important to be ever so slightly closer to making your company vision a reality.

It’s vital that this vision is understood by employees and partners. And secondly, that it’s placed at the forefront of future thinking. If this vision is to grow direct sales, focus your energy on making that a reality. Use this vision as a tool to help prioritise actions, investment, and a way to assess performance. As an agency, there is nothing more compelling than having a clear understanding on the overall objective–a target to aim for. When you have clear KPI’s and an understanding of the digital commercials, it will change your way of thinking. Rather than seeing something as a cost, you might see that it provides additional value. There is a big difference between a cost and an investment.

We try to focus our up front efforts on understanding where our brand partners are now, and where they want to get to. This helps us think about how we can utilise digital to support this ambition. Each project starts with a holistic view of what we are trying to achieve, where the challenge is and what opportunities exists. We love being accountable, partly because it makes us better at what we do, and also because it gives us case studies we’re all proud of for the right reasons, performance. So if your vision is to boost website revenues by 20% — take the time to appreciate the levers (increasing average order value, drive more traffic, improve website conversion), then make sure that this is known and focused on at every level, inside and outside your organisation.

3Sixty — where travel brands go digital.

Digital Agency of the Year, Travel Marketing Awards 2018.