Don’t Send Customers Packing, Start Anticipating Wanderlust

Don’t Send Customers Packing, Start Anticipating Wanderlust

by Jennifer Rignani , Columnist, February 14, 2018

People have high expectations of the customer experience. To say UX and content must be attuned to our every whim is an understatement. So why do so many brands get it wrong? Well, they’re not anticipating the needs of the consumer.

Take, for example, mainstream travel sites. These brands are responsible for delivering a great experience that builds excitement before you even leave home. Often, however, they are only able to satisfy the most basic consumer requests options for flights, hotels or rental cars, filtered through a lens applied by the user.

It’s all triggered, though, by entering a destination. What these brands don’t understand, is sometimes people don’t know (or care) where they go; they just want to go somewhere. Try telling any of the major players this, and they’ll dump you out of their required fields as fast as you can say sunscreen. Trivago, Airbnb and Orbitz, to name a few, require a destination to get the interaction started.

Many of these brands are marketing well but competition is rising. For example, Airbnb’s response to untoward discourse was brilliant when the company swiftly began promoting rentals in African countries. Trip Advisorrecommends places for the undecided. It has crisp thumbnails organized by the type of trip. In the dead of winter, it has the sheer nerve to promote “Where to See Glaciers.” This comes closer to the idea of catering to customers who aren’t sure in which airport they want to land.

Traditional online travel companies certainly have the marketing down. Travelocity’s wandering gnome is akin to a rock star with a robust social media presence and merch. But even he won’t let people look for a trip without a destination. Sites like Hipmunk and Home Away aim for visually engaging design. But still.

Most of these sites have an antiquated search bar in the middle of the homepage commanding us to enter a destination (usually somewhere with lots of candy or slot machines) before they’ll look for deals. But, if travel sites would get off of their Boolean high horses, we could all get somewhere other than Orlando. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could type in: “Somewhere warm” or “Somewhere far away from my mother-in-law” and suggestions popped up?

Just as I was about to go off and recruit an algorithmically inclined genius to help me invent a travel site that caters to wanderlust, I found some off-the-beaten path sites doing it already. Skyscanner’s “Everywhere Search” does exactly that by letting the engine explore the world for those without a specific destination in mind. Adioso allows the traveler to look “Anywhere” and promises “Flight search. Reinvented for humans.”

Whereforactivates a trip search based on budget. Google, of all people, has a utilitarian site that caters to serendipity, too. Plus, some of these groups remarket and provide relevant offers to users. While these engines may not always have much of marketing budget, they could disrupt the industry by … wait for it … catering completely to the customer.

Travel is uniquely personal and as with other consumer trends, increasingly spontaneous. Sites who marry UX and marketing to the serendipity and adventure of modern travelers will capture a whole new customer segment people ready to pay to getaway anywhere. The lesser-known sites that accommodate this will soon catch up to their more powerful peers.

And if that doesn’t prompt them to change with the times, maybe current travel site leaders should take a cue from the old Aerosmith song and harness the notion that “life is a journey, not a destination.” Search Marketing Daily