How to attract Indian travelers digitally?
A country with more than 500 million active internet users and the fastest developing economy is a huge market for many. Even the travel and tourism industry is spreading its expanse. Nowadays, majority of Indian travellers rely heavily on digital channels to research about their trips. But the major flaw in the process is that most of them drop the idea when it comes to booking online.
Starting from booking flights to hotel bookings to planning modes of transport for within city rides, anything and everything can be planned and researched. Also, it can be made by each individual based on their different demands and budget. With the improvement in the Indian economy and standard of living, Indians are willing to spend more on travel.
It is estimated that by 2021, domestic and international travellers are expected to spend around $136 billion by the end of the year. The increase from previous years is huge. This is a huge opportunity for travel brands to capitalize on this. However, many digital channels can influence this decision by categorising the stages of the travel journey.
The five stages of a travel journey are:
The first stage of travel begins when a traveller starts thinking about the trip. Usually, the place and need for travel are decided at this stage. Options are also taken.
The second stage wherein the actual planning starts for the trip
This is the third stage wherein things are being finalised. The reservations for transportation and/or accommodation are made.
This is the real-time experience that a traveller goes through. They explore different places and activities. This stage also involves sight-seeing.
This is the stage where the traveller experience shares his/her experience and feedback after the trip with their friends and family.
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Digital medium plays a crucial role in each of these stages. It starts with gathering information and ends with sharing information and experience. Offline channels are still in use but their usage is diminishing with a wider spread of the internet. 2 out of every 5 travellers make their arrangements offline. Indian travellers make decisions based on varying needs and motivations.
Some serious shifts needed so that businesses can reach larger an audience with customized messaging and the right mix of spending across channels. The following shifts can help acquire new customers and retain existing ones:
1) Improvise the booking and payment experience
Most of the drops take place between the research and booking phases. And the main reason for that is the lack of trust in payment systems.This can be taken care of by partnering with leading mobile wallet vendors to make online payments much easier. Also, providing travellers with customizable payment options with the flexibility to book without making upfront payments or sharing credit card details could make a huge difference.
2) Faster address of customer perception issues
A myth which perpetuates since very long is that online channels are mainly geared toward the higher-spending frequent flyers and experience-oriented travellers. On the other hand, budget-conscious customers tend to be more dissatisfied with online channels. However, using proactive measures like giving extra advantage in case of large group bookings or providing a dedicated group travel consultant to guide the customer through the booking process can help break the myth to a huge extent.
3) Learning new techniques to acquire new customers
More than 130 million active Internet users in India research about travel online but have never transacted. So the scope of the growth is huge. To sort this, brands should learn a lot from how consumer tech companies penetrate mass segments or how they provide access to the underserved ones.
4) Find new innovative and economical ways
More than 70% of leisure travel in India takes place by bus and rail but there are very limited bundling options. So, there is an opportunity for companies to offer packages that include a combination of different travelling modes like rail travel and hotel or bus travel and hotel. This sort of bundling acts like a customer retention strategy.
5) Leveraging digital technologies to boost engagement
Businesses must adopt digital technologies to boost engagement and move from one-time engagement to on-going relationships. This includes ensuring that customers get offers based on consumer insights. Such an approach will enable brands to respond dynamically and in real-time to the Indian traveller, through every phase of the customer journey.
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