When we talk about conversion tools, most people think about making the sale. While this is the ultimate goal, most website visitors are not ready to purchase. That’s why it’s important to include devices that help them move from one stage of the purchase cycle to the next, all the way from initial contact through purchase to advocacy.
RSS feeds & social bookmarking tools
Early stage prospects are inherently shy. They have recently become aware that the travel brand exists and, at best, are mildly interested in what it has to offer. The last thing they want to do is give up their email address so they start receiving spam. They may, however, be inclined to have an anonymous online relationship with the brand. By offering RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools, they have the ability to subscribe to the content, bookmark a page from the website for future reference, and share it with others they may be planning to travel with. Those who hate email solicitations have a way to have a pleasant relationship with the brand, too.
Capturing email addresses
As prospective customers become more actively involved in travel planning and are contemplating offerings, they are more apt to identify themselves by sharing their email address - particularly if there's something of value offered to them in return. While it's tempting to make offers like “enter to win,” remember why they’ve come to the site - for inspiration and information. What could be more inspirational and informative to a traveler than emailing a concierge directly (we’re not talking about site pal - that’s simply too forward for most people) who can answer their personal questions and offer them local knowledge that they can’t find anywhere else? When they ask their question, email address can be captured and permission to add them to your email list can be requested. Better yet, the entire email discussion can be turned into a web page that other visitors can find via Google or your website search function.
Another thing to consider offering in return for email addresses is a downloadable (city / area / resort) guide. Email, RSS feed or SMS news and event alerts that the prospect can customize by interest and date range are also great things to offer. In all cases, it's essential to allow the user to manage his/her own communications preferences and that they have the ability to unsubscribe at any time.
Closing the sale
Finally, we reach the moment when the traveler is ready to commit. This is where your booking/reservations/ticketing system comes in. First, if you don't have one, its time to ante up (a growing percentage of your prospects will demand to book online, particularly the younger ones). Second, it should be easy to use. There’s nothing worse than entering a page of purchase information only to have it cleared when one field wasn’t filled out correctly. Except maybe showing up at your destination only to find that by purchasing online, in advance, it takes three times longer to check in than when you wait to pay upon arrival.
After the sale
One last thing: we recommend offering the ability for customers to post comments throughout the site. If you’re worried about negative comments, its possible to hold posts until they can be reviewed by a moderator. When you receive a negative comment, its possible to fix the problem to the customer’s satisfaction, then post their complaint and the resolution online. Where else but on a website will you have the opportunity to rebound in a way that everyone can see, now and in the future?