A common question for destination management organizations (DMOs) is: "how can we optimize our marketing to serve our target audience and help them become regular visitors?"
The answer: with personalized marketing!
This report is based on Adrian Müller’s Bachelor thesis, “Web-based marketing for Alpine Swiss destinations. Status quo, success factors and recommendations”. Müller’s research is focused on a qualitative survey of experts in eleven Alpine Swiss DMOs and two mountain lifts, and we think you'll find his insights relevant too.
Firstly, Müller explains that DMOs are focused primarily on overnight stays and guest arrivals, and a DMO website tends to be visited for information and for booking accommodation. But this means that your DMO will not stay top-of-mind for your customer.
A holistic approach is key for each destination – it’s about uniting as many members of the destination network as you can on one platform: the DMO website. This means uniting accommodation services and tour and activity providers among other partners.
In this report, we'll summarize Müller's research-backed recommendations and factors for success that your destination can replicate and put to use.
1. Optimize the customer experience
Customer satisfaction and loyalty are key factors for success when it comes to engaging customers in your region and encouraging them to become regular guests. To guarantee both, it’s crucial to focus on direct contact points with the guest, for instance the local tourist office, but also to influence the entire customer journey.
For a DMO, it can be challenging to keep up with the increasing development of communication media – from phone, to web, to email, to social media, to WhatsApp. But if your DMO knows how to handle these channels, you're heading in the right direction to collect qualitative customer data.
2. Remember all stages of the customer journey
The customer journey includes every contact point that a guest has with the DMO, both offline and online: from the inspiration stage, to decision making, to purchase/booking, and then follow up and evaluation.
When creating an individual customer experience, it's important to have deep knowledge of all customer touch points, whether online or offline. This understanding allows a DMO to identify a guest's needs and desires and develop and sell personalized services to them.
By collecting customer data and knowledge of their desires and needs, a DMO can develop individualized marketing actions and offers that are specific to a target group.
3. Collect data on your guest
Customer data is a requirement for a successful web-based marketing strategy, as it enables your DMO to learn about your guests' goals and needs. But how can you access this data in a way that respects each person's privacy? Here are some ways...
- Website: A DMO website can be one of the first customer touch points, especially for people in the inspiration stage, decision-making stage, or those researching local activities. To provide better customer experience and also collect some data, have you considered integrating a live chat tool to communicate with your customer in real-time?
- Analytic tools: Use an analytic tool, such as Google Analytics, to get more data. This could include which country your user is from, which pages they visited, and how long they spent on your website.
- Destination management systems: Some DMOs use DM systems to process accommodation bookings. But do you want to sell local tours and activities as well as overnight stays? If so, consider an online booking system with an API - just as TrekkSoft offers.
- Mobile apps: To get information such as a guest’s location, your DMO could also have a mobile app that collects GPS data in some way (that the user is aware of!)
- CRM (customer relation management) systems: A CRM maps all customer-orientated processes, all the way from marketing to sales, and most DMOs are using a CRM either for B2B or B2C relations.
- Destination card systems: With a destination card, you can offer discounts on-site for different attractions like city tours, bus tours, mountain lifts or thermal baths. You can then collect insightful data on which attractions are most appealing to guests.
- Free Wi-Fi: Offer free Wi-Fi and let guests use their own smartphone or tablet in-destination: something which many guests now demand. And because most free Wi-Fi systems involve a registration form, a DMO can collect marketing relevant data too.
The more exact the data is, the better. As a DMO you should take into account: personal data (name, address, etc.), description data (characteristics), potential data (e.g. online shop statistics), communication data (data of communication and campaigns) and booking data.
Some DMOs work with personas, or profiles of a typical person in a target group. A persona describes the guest and gives further insights into their trip to your destination – when, how, and why! Personas are a useful and valuable tool for personalization and individualization of marketing, but they can also involve a workload that not every DMO is willing to commit to.
Remember: when working with personal data, it's important to stay on top of the legal background and keep your customer aware of what you're collecting. Always think about privacy terms!
4. Start selling activities and additional offers on your DMO website
Destination management organizations are often focused on overnight stays, not on offering guests local tours and activities. However...
"With very few exceptions, a guest does not visit a destination to eat and sleep there, but to participate in local activities“ (Beritelli, P., & Reinhold, 2014, S. 3).
Although many DMO websites limit themselves to providing information and increasing awareness of their region, it is crucial to have a holistic approach. This should involve local activities and offers that can be booked by both guests and locals on the DMO’s website.
On your DMO website, display a wide range of members of your destination network, be they accommodation services, tour and activity providers, restuarants, or more diverse partners. This will offer your guest a broad range of choices that they can ideally book directly with your online booking solution.
By using TrekkSoft booking and management software, DMOs can become marketplaces and accept bookings for all types of local activities - from stand-up paddleboarding to city tours and overnight packages - on their own website.
If you want to become a marketplace and build up a strong network of local providers, you can read how the DMOs Fjord Norway and Visit Cornwall are working with us. You can also see how TrekkSoft enables DMOs to succeed at experience-driven marketing.
5. Provide a one-stop shop experience
For a unique and memorable customer experience, it's important that your website visitors can directly find what they are looking for. Guests visit a website to find information right away - such as what to do, what to buy or book - and they don't want to waste any time. They want a one-stop shop solution.
The more bookable offers on a DMO website, the better the customer experience is. After all, the customer can save time instead of cycling through other websites and platforms.
Another benefit of enabling bookings on your DMO website is the potential of extra revenue for your DMO. Make sure that the best your destination has to offer is accessible and bookable on your website - and don't just focus on accommodation bookings - and you'll be in the top tier of successful DMOs. This is especially the case if you focus on your website visitors as individuals.
How can you address your customers individually?
6. Create individualized marketing actions
It's possible to adjust your marketing to the individual needs of customers, especially considering new web technologies. To do so, it's important to remember to coordinate your individualized marketing goals with your data collection and business intelligence goals. Business intelligence describes the process of collecting and transforming data to get further information about a target group.
Here are some strategies to help you address your customers individually:
- Email marketing: Many DMOs already use guest databases (CRM systems) and send a regular newsletter to follow up a guest's visit. However, while newsletters play a significant role in ensuring regular contact with guests, they need to bring an added value, such as relevant information for the recipient. The DMO's challenge is to assign each guest to the correct customer segment, which they can do through data analysis. Also, DMOs can allow visitors to select the topics they wish to hear about when signing up for the newsletter.
- Customer targeting: DMOs can choose to set cookies when someone visits their website or other promotional material. This enables a visitor to then be presented with specific advertising after they leave the website.
- The DMO should recognize which webpages a visitor spends most time on. If they spend more time on the hiking page, the content they receive should be adjusted to hiking in general. You could invite the visitor to one of your next hiking events, or show them a link to a hiking blog post.
- Mobile apps can use location-based services, meaning that with an active internet connection guests can demand information that is tailored to their current location. It's possible to send relevant information to the customer directly (push), or allow the customer to decide whether they want to trigger an action (pull).
- Target group-specific product development: With access to this data, it becomes much easier for you to develop target group-specific offers and activities and promote them to the right audience.
Finally, human resources are an important factor in the successful realization of a DMO's web-based marketing. You need a strong team provided with proper training and education, and a clear structure that defines who is responsible for your unified online marketing vision.
With these factors in mind - and with a special emphasis on personalized marketing - your customer will become a regular visitor to your DMO website!
Talk with us and find out how leading DMOs are reaching their targets by partnering with TrekkSoft
Written by Franziska Klein
Franziska studied tourism and geography and loves to travel mainly across Europe to discover beautiful hiking spots.