Back in September we were delighted to partner with ABTA to run a one day virtual event focusing on digital marketing for the travel industry.

A number of experts were invited to share their knowledge and experience across a number of topics including consumer habits and online behaviour, the fundamentals of organic and paid search, planning campaigns, tracking, measurement, ROI, email marketing and social media. And yes, the day was jam packed full of advice, and gave attendees a huge amount to consider!

This article focuses on the consumer habits and online behaviour insights from the day. Further articles tackle the other topics raised.

The first speaker of the day was Stuart Baker, Business Director for Travel & Leisure at GWI.

Stuart offered a fascinating overview of current consumer habits and online behaviour, with a huge amount of valuable insights for anyone working in the industry to be aware of in the current climate, especially when planning their future strategy. He advised that 49% of holiday makers in the UK are now researching and planning their 2022 holiday with an additional 18% having already decided their destination (they just haven’t booked it yet).

The top 10 channels consumers are using to research destinations

Consumer habits 1 image

Considering online versus offline media in a pandemic

With the ongoing presence of Covid-19 around the world, and consumers generally spending more time at home, it’s also interesting to look at the impact this has had on usage of online and offline media.

The key finding here is that the pandemic edged online media ahead of offline. This is a salient point (and potential opportunity) for the travel industry who generally remain active across both mediums due to the hugely varied target audiences and products (think Cunard transatlantic cruise market versus long ‘weekender’ breaks in Ibiza).

Whatever your product and audience, it’s worth reflecting on your channel strategy, rather than assume your audience are consuming your marcomms in the same way that they always have.

Consumer habits 1a image

"This chart shows two meaningful trends. First, the percentage who are heavy users of either online or offline media has shifted in favour of the former. Having been roughly equal in 2019, the gap is now widening. You can also notice the bump for all types of media in Q2 2020, a time when half the global population was under some kind of lockdown restrictions. While the peak in sheer time spent died down in subsequent waves, the balance has shifted in online media’s favour."

Stuart Baker

Business Director for Travel & Leisure at GWI

Key social media facts from GWI

  • Facebook remains the world’s most popular social network, with over two-thirds of all internet users visiting it on a weekly basis
  • Breaking down platform engagement by generation also reveals more nuance. While a high proportion of Gen Z’s still use Facebook on a weekly basis, it falls significantly behind Instagram in popularity
  • A quick glance at Gen Z's motivations for using social media explains this. It's caused by them straying from the standard by ranking content consumption and trending topics above news stories
  • To optimise the success in the use of social media, make sure to understand the distinct stamp of each of the platforms. Familiarising yourself with these key facts will help shape your choice of platform, tone of voice and content
Consumer habits 2 image

Other social media facts to consider

  • Holidaymakers engage with social media 1.86 times more than average and is the start of the journey for most travel brand discovery and research
  • Influencers still have a strong hold on consumers, particularly younger generations. But remember, followers of influencers want to see more raw, authentic and realistic content. Don't get caught out by overly filtered, glitzy, obviously fake content, it won't offer any credibility or make your brand attractive to the market
  • Stories’ ability to enhance brand-consumer relationships and drive meaningful conversations will only strengthen. Create inspiring, topical, and ongoing narratives for maximum engagement
  • 2021 could quite possibly have been the year of YouTube with 74% of internet users outside China watching on a monthly basis, putting it above other popular TV, film, and video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Shorts, its TikTok-like functionality, already gets 3.5 billion views each day
  • YouTube is working to enhance its ecommerce capabilities by enabling creators to tag the products showcased in their videos. This move will facilitate broader opportunities for shopping within the app and expand its use cases
  • Close to half of consumers typically find out about new brands or products via social media ads, recommendations, or updates on brands’ pages – up from 32% in 2017
  • Travel brands should invest in niche networks alongside the main players. Q&A sites, forums, and messaging apps are all common research spots. Industry will dictate the right channel to some degree; travel enthusiasts favour Q&A and consumer review sites when seeking information
  • Podcasts continue to engage consumers with lifestyle genres, including travel, particularly attracting those aged +35yrs (average listening time of 37 minutes per podcast). The fastest growth in popularity is seen amongst +55yrs, increasing over 11% since Q1 2020
Consumer habits 4 image

Key digital audience behaviour insights

  1. The gap between online and offline media is widening
  2. Initial lockdown spikes in people using social sites to connect are still trending as people adjust to new work life balances
  3. Social media usage during widespread lockdowns has now fallen and stabilized, but still well above pre-pandemic usage
  4. Facebook remains the world’s most popular social network, but Instagram is catching up
  5. Influencers retain a strong hold on consumers, but there’s demand for unfiltered, authentic content
  6. Entertaining and inspirational content is the key to profitable social engagement and commerce
  7. TV effectiveness is falling, but perceptions remain positive
  8. The curious case of podcasts – high engagement but only with the right content
  9. Choosing the right content and right channel is vital. Over +55yrs are some of the most engaged consumers

If you'd like to speak to the team about any aspect of digital travel marketing, get in touch now!

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Claire Ralston

Marketing & Events Manager

Claire is responsible for our own marketing, from arranging our sold out events like Attention and 20:20 digital debates, to keeping our subscribers informed via the monthly ...