Getting customers to notice and engage with your brand in today’s crowded travel market is a real challenge, especially with the vast array of multichannel and varied options now available through which to book and manage holidays.

As such, travel brands and large travel agency groups focus a great deal of energy delivering marketing campaigns to increase their customer base.  They set out strategies employing a range of marketing techniques, from press ads and online advertising to email and direct campaigns, all intended to attract and convert enquirers to bookers.

However in the drive to grow sales through customer acquisition, it’s tempting to downplay the importance of customer retention. Valued existing customers are the lifeblood of any business and it’s essential they are nurtured and developed alongside with any acquisition strategy. For many, a brand or agency’s new customers often originally belonged to someone else – unless perhaps they are new entrants to a growing market such as cruising.

So when you aren’t getting people to switch from their existing brand to yours, you should remember that your customers are also a potential target for others and take action accordingly. Tactics to maintain your customer base and promote loyalty and advocacy, as seen through positive comments on online forums or friend referrals are a must. Unless you make this a priority, a competitor may well get there first and offer your customers some brand-switching incentives of their own – and once they go, they’re even more costly to win back.

In the sales environment, staff skill levels and staff attitudes are critical, as well of course as how the agency’s store or website is presented, in order to optimise the conversion to purchase rates. Driving engagement - ultimately footfall (store visits), or finger fall (web visits) can be achieved by focusing on service-led communications, from ‘Countdown to your Holiday’ emails or packs full of top tips and helpful information, to ‘Welcome Home’ messages that round off a hopefully memorable holiday experience. 

Also, offering customers holiday recommendations based on previous bookings and searches is a good way of tailoring and personalising direct marketing communications, while delivering tangible results for the business.  Finally, if you do have a sale or special offers available, ensure you offer at least the same offers, if not more, or at least earlier, to your existing database, rather than just targeting new customers.

The 80/20 rule has never been more true.  It costs significantly more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.  Taking the time to understand your customers, on a one to one basis, or using propensity modelling or behavioural analysis across an entire database to confidently predict their needs and wants, whether that’s focusing on a value proposition or suggesting a new destination, the opportunity is there to create a tailored, unique experience for your customers.

Targeted, timely up-selling and cross-selling while putting the customer’s needs at the heart of the process, is key to keeping retention rates high. As many brands have found out to their peril, there is a real danger that when you lose loyal customers, you may find them replaced with a more fickle, price-sensitive client base.



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