The web and its various services have changed the consumer buying process. It seems that certain behavioral changes in consumers that at first were observed in early adopters, have now reached the masses.
In the World Travel Market 2010 Industry Report, findings show that 36% of all British holiday-makers used Social Media to plan their summer vacation in 2010. And over half of them indicated that they will use Social Media when planning for next year’s holidays.
The report also shows that the travel industry itself is taking action. Around 40% of those working in tourism see Social Media as a great way to reach their target audience in the coming 5 years. About 20% indicated that Social Media is the absolute best way to do that.
I remember that Patrik von Bergen from Streamson consultancy always broadly exclaimed to have a “black belt in sales”, as he put it. But one day, a couple of years ago, a dejected-looking Patrik approached me and confessed: “everything I’ve learned doesn’t work anymore. I used to be the best at sales, now I’m a novice again.” We talked about the Web 2.0 concept, about the new consumers, and their new purchasing behavior.
A short time later, we met again, but this time he was more enthusiastic, stronger, and with more confidence than ever before. He had created Von Bergen’s 5 Laws of Sales 2.0.
Patrik states that the process of understanding a problem and finding a solution rarely starts at the sales process itself. He encourages companies and their salespeople to stop trying to control the buyer decision process, but rather start supporting it. Patrik believes that a salesperson’s ownership and control of information, which they used to their advantage before, was relinquished. Nowadays, a buyer searches the Net to find information on all possible solutions to their problems, including those solutions offered by your competitors. Here, Google was a major catalyst of that paradigm shift.
In 1997, with a few colleagues from Spray, I wanted to create a place for travelers to find and book their holidays easily on the web, always at the lowest rates possible. That doesn’t sound out of the ordinary today, but at the time it was sensational. The German company Travel Information Software Systems created the platform for the booking engine and Mrjet.com was born.
And did it take off and become successful? Absolutely NOT!
After half a year of active and ambitious marketing, we had not sold a single trip (apart from all the holidays our old colleagues at Spray bought to support our launch). However, after a few years of struggling, it finally blossomed. And the paradigm shift in the travel industry finally happened: people were buying their holidays online. After that, innovation after innovation has changed the industry. Today, the buyer decision process is exactly how Patrik described it, with the addition that the consumer’s own relevant network is continually growing in importance for the final buying decision.
Of the 36% that use Social Media when planning a summer holiday, 58% indicated that they have changed their booking after being influenced to do so through their social networks. A total of 74% of women used TripAdvisor, the world’s largest social network for travel advice, where a huge community travelers can post, comment, and share tips and ideas.
In the World Travel Market report, Paul Richer, Senior Partner at Genesys, a travel technology consultancy, concludes: “Social Media is getting serious. In 2011, you need to be finding opportunities to promote your brand in this new arena.”
Keep in mind though, it’s not just the travel industry that has to find new opportunities. No industry can buck this trend!