TUI, Virgin Holidays & The Customer Journey

Marketing Week’s Editor, Russell Parsons, recently moderated a webinar discussion with the marketing leaders at the helm of two of the world’s biggest travel brands: Virgin Holidays & TUI.

With ‘Customer Journey’ being the headline theme, the points raised interestingly reflected a presentation Hattrick delivered at a Content Marketing Association (CMA) event. As part of this session we questioned to what extent the traditional marketing funnel is fit for purpose. Exploring alternative frameworks that take a more customer-centric position.

Here we showcase what we believe to be a more intuitive way of thinking about the online and offline interactions that contribute to a customer’s brand experience – drawing on the insight shared by the travel giants:

In what felt like a very open and honest discussion, the Marketing Week webinar highlighted that irrespective of whether organisations are big, small, B2B or B2C, we’re all facing similar challenges in ‘joining the dots’ to deliver truly customer-first communications strategies.

There are many (cultural, structural and philosophical) reasons brands are wrangling with this premise of putting the customer ‘front and centre’. But having a useful suite of tools to help plot and understand the customer journey is an essential starting point.

Note the emphasis on useful. For us marketers can be very guilty of over-engineering. Dreaming up proprietary models that make us look clever. Putting frameworks in place for framework’s sake. When at the end of the day we just need something that tunes us into the problem or challenge we’re trying to solve and, above all, helps us to find focus.

So, with that argument in mind, should we not just stick to our old friend the reassuringly familiar marketing funnel?

There has been much debate over how functional the existing (AIDA)marketing model is in the digital world. While we’re not in the camp that believes this approach to be completely dead, it does have its limitations. Clearly its linear structure doesn’t reflect the fact that no two journeys are alike. People dip in and out, switch channels, devices and apps along the way. They don’t want to be dictated to. They want to choose their own path but do require assistance at every step. In other words, they don’t want to think or work too hard to get what they need at a particular moment in time.

Cue Google’s See-Think-Do-Care framework. An intuitive tool we have stolen with pride. In some respects it over simplifies the B2B buyer journey but using this tool encourages a different (more empathetic) way of thinking that is so crucial to being more customer-centric.

You see, what matters with this approach is not where you are in the funnel but what your intent is – what you are trying to achieve and why? Who is engaging and what do they seek? Your level of intent and the appropriate response is determined by the signals you share (digital or otherwise).

By flipping the much maligned funnel on its side and overlaying it with Google’s more human interpretation you instantly give it renewed relevance – resulting in a more dynamic, more useful tool for meaningful content planning.

The challenge then, of course, is knowing where to start in producing the plethora of content you would need to wholly serve every touch point along the customer journey. Online, offline and that blurry world of omnichannel overlap. There is simply not enough time, budget or resources to output the volume of content you will inevitably ‘map’ out.

When the customer journey’s all mapped out – where next?

As TUI’s Brand & Content Director, Toby Horry, rationalises you have to start with what will make the biggest difference to the biggest number of people. Then tackle the next layer, and the next layer and so on. Virgin Holidays’ Spokesperson, Chris Insall, agreed noting that, while every customer journey is different, there will be common traits between audience groups with the same frustrations, obstacles and, even, moments of delight. Identifying those initiatives that will have the widest impact is logical. Not forgetting, he says, to look inwards as well as outwards. Internal pain points can very often be big, overlooked stumbling blocks. Resolve these issues and the customer experience could be enhanced by proxy. 

Guided by questions from listeners, Editor & moderator Russell Parsons also pressed the participants on the challenge and opportunities presented by ‘big data’. The problem, they say, is a lot of it is virtually useless. As long as it’s sat in siloed (often legacy) systems it can’t deliver any actionable insight. It’s when organisations bring all that data together, along every touch point of the customer journey, that brands  can obtain the fuller picture they need to be truly customer-centric. And, rather than mindlessly sifting through reams of data without context, Horry advises a smarter approach is to establish a set of hypotheses and then extract the relevant data to support or challenge these assumptions. While technology may be efficiently used to ‘mine’ the data for headlining themes, it takes an analytical mind to arrive at any meaningful conclusions. Leading Parsons to conclude, with the good news, that there’s still very much a place for humans. A viewpoint we set out in our own presentation. Because without human insight there is no context. We may be able to establish what’s occurring, but we don’t know why. And if we don’t know why, then how can we really understand? 

It’s only when we understand that we can confidently take prospects on a journey to customer status and beyond.

Interested to learn more about Hattrick’s approach? Get in touch.


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