The travel industry in the United States is at an all-time high with an expected revenue of 18 billion dollars to be generated by 2020. The profit-to-revenue estimate was at 6% in the 2000s have now exceeded 12%. This in part due to the rise in remote-working, positive millennial attitudes for travel, increased global connectivity, accessibility of social media as well as a multitude go global factors that have helped maintain a healthy growth in the travel sector despite struggling global economies.
An extremely renowned Us-based travel agency Carlson Wagonlit Travel generated a business of 22.4 billion dollars in 2016. Moreover, the industry giants like Expedia Inc and the Priceline Group topped the list with 72 billion US dollars and 68.1 billion dollars sales generated respectively. Expedia Inc which is a parent company to Trivago, Travelocity and Orbitz have been leading the industry for many years and the revenue reached to almost 9 billion US dollars in 2016. Same is the case with the Priceline Group. Though it stood second in the list, the revenue generated by the company in 2016 was almost 2 billion US dollars more than the previous records.
TNA Travels Pvt. Ltd. is a well-established travel agency that caters to the growing niche of millennial couples looking to travel alongside other couples. The Business Development Head at TNA Travels came to us with a request to help them evaluate their marketing and operational processes in order to help their clients to enjoy a comfortable and hassle-free booking experience while they explored different tour packages with TNA. Since their primary concern was based on customer experience, we crafted specific goals to analyze their needs.
Christopher Lewis, the Business Development manager at TNA travels sat down with us for an in-depth analysis of challenges faced by the company that hindered the general booking process and as a result, the company’s overall growth. We learned that since TNA was immensely dedicated to providing tours just for couples – they faced a unique challenge – their target customer needed both privacy as well as appropriate company of other couples to travel with. In light of this paradoxical need, we realized that the biggest questions the company had to answer were:
- How do you generate traffic and market to a unique customer base that wanted privacy, yet also companionship of other couples?
- A few of the couples always asked for diversified experience during the tour. How could TNA Travels appeal better to this sub-group?
The answer to these questions gave us the primary goals for TNA to hinge its marketing campaign around. TNA badly needed:
The primary need identified was the lack of marketing to the particular niche population they were targeting. Currently, they were casting a broad net to reach everyone from elderly couples to singles to families – and wasting a lot of marketing funds. Though TNA was mostly a local player, a quick survey revealed that most local couples were not even aware of the niche service TNA was providing.
Satisfied customer base
We also did user reviews for existing customers and found that although TNA was getting a lot of useful feedback, nothing was being done to implement changes to address these customer concerns and critique. The primary mandate behind successfully establishing oneself in the service industry is to evolve based on customer feedback. TNA’s customers were expressing ample feedback, but nothing was being done to understand the root cause of their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the tour. Ignoring this critical feedback was a dire mistake as it had also led to negative publicity for TNA in the past.
Based on the above analysis and goal-identification, Gainbuzz executives sat down with Christopher, the business development head at TNA and we collaboratively identified their primary challenges:
One of the biggest challenges faced in the business development was to analyze the competition that has been already raised by companies like Expedia, Priceline, Thomas Cook, Cox and King that already provided a few tours in TNA’s niche. Some of these travel giants had huge customer satisfaction departments that were able to respond quickly to customer feedback.
The other issue was to try and figure out strategies to spread the positive word among target customers about the very existence of TNA’s niche services. Their current target base was too broad – over half of their target audience was also irrelevant as mentioned above. Most of their marketing dollars were being wasted!
There was no concrete feedback mechanism in place. Other than the small, decade-old questionnaire at the end of the tour, there was no proper medium where a customer could express his/her satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their tour experience. TNA Travels badly needed a way for customers to provide specific and critical feedback, not just a generalized rating of the overall experience.
TNA also needed to prioritize and address whether they wanted to cater to a few customers’ requests in this early stage of re-branding and try to facilitate a mixed bag of experiences in a single tour that not every customer would want to pay for. We need a solution to address this gap in customer expectation.
Because TNA’s customer experience issues were so complex, there was no cookie-cutter solution we could have applied to improve their traffic and their overall customer experience. We came up with key solutions to address each of their challenges comprehensively:
TNA was too small to compete with the likes of Expedia and Thomas cook. We needed a unique way to appeal to couples who wanted a personalized boutique experience. The ideal way of establishing XYZ in the market would have been to focus on its niche proposition – which also ended up becoming TNA’s USP for appealing to their target audience – something their giant competitors would never be able to provide.
Gainbuzz staff helped Christopher craft an event marketing campaign in which we organized a romantic dinner for couples who were travel enthusiasts. We narrowed down our target population to local couples who were already part of travel groups, had liked or followed specific travel-based bloggers and travel pages. At the event, Gainbuzz helped organize a collaboration for a lucky draw with a local advertiser who was able to give away two flight tickets for a domestic airline in exchange for publicity and a billboard display for that airline. TNA also pitched in with their own prize – One couple who were able to get the most friends to likes to the TNA Facebook page would win a free 2D-3N trip to a local destination. This combination of online and offline marketing worked wonders for TNA’s web traffic and presence.
Gamification of the feedback mechanism
Although TNA’s website was relatively up-to-date with cutting-edge photography, graphics and had the right information for potential customers, we needed a way for customers to stick around at the website and provide feedback if possible – so other customers could also see that TNA was highly sensitive to customer feedback – and turn back the previous perception of TNA as a travel agency that did not care about customer feedback.
Gainbuzz helped TNA add a dynamic page that categorized tours into adventurous, romantic, adventure-romantic or completely customized according to the clients’ requirements. We added another animated “game” page where potential or even previous customers could go on a simulated “trip” and added prompts within the game for them to share their preferences at every stage for meals, activities and other aspects of the trip.
On the game page, we also had an interactive feedback form in which we customized the content to reflect TNA’s sensitivity to customer critique. We used this form to collect data, analyze it. Then, our operations team used this data to come up with inferences to work upon. A detailed, yet, an apt feedback form, focusing on aspects like the type of tour, satisfaction with the group they were placed in, satisfaction with the food and other particulars, the feedback on the tour operator, & the feedback on the overall experience helped TNA craft a concrete strategy for improving subsequent tours.
Optimising the marketing budget
The feedback activities were great, but until we could share with TNA customers all the wonderful changes we were making, local couples would never know about the great offerings TNA provided. We helped TNA optimise their marketing budget by narrowing down their target base to only relevant couples. We used a combination of newspaper ads, Magazine features as well as event marketing and collaboration to meet our offline marketing goals. For digital marketing, we showcased TNA’s feedback and change stories on local travel blogs and articles in order to catch the eye of potential customers. This, along with the website changes, gamification of feedback and properly targeted paid social marketing, as well as search-engine marketing, created a comprehensive approach to tackle TNA’s complex customer marketing problems.
Attacking the issue both online as well as offline helped TNA quickly gain the attention of its intended audience. The event marketing was a great success as it leads to a great number of people sharing the TNA website and Facebook pages with their circle of friends and family. We saw an increase in the traffic immediately after the event. Below are some of the changes to a customer experience we noticed when we conducted Post-implementation surveys:
- Customers reported feeling more satisfied and “heard” by the staff and Travel agency
- The gamification of the feedback mechanism, the introduction of the feedback Page and the simulation game also created an unprecedented level of engagement that as shown even the larger competitors
- Creating niche verticals like adventure trips, romantic trips, cultural enrichment trips meant that although the base experience remained the same, local tie-ups with vendors, restaurants and adventure companies at the tour destination increased revenue as well as customer satisfaction and most customers came away with the feeling of having had an enriching experience without too much extra effort on the part of the agency
“Gainbuzz has helped TNA Travels steer in the right direction and capture a niche travel market that historically, not many travel agencies have been able to capture. Establishing ourselves as a boutique agency rather than a direct competitor to some of the largest travel companies was an especially brilliant move as we were able to surprisingly tap into a large base of already primed customers looking for something that other large travel companies could not provide.”
Christopher Lewis, Business Development head, TNA Travel