Optimizing Your Way Through a Crisis: How Travel and Hospitality Brands Can Lessen the Impact of Coronavirus on Booking Rates, Online Revenue
New predictions on the impact the coronavirus is having on the global travel and hospitality industry are being announced almost hourly these days. And, clearly, most of the news is not good. CNN reported today that the airline industry stands to lose $113 billion in sales due to the virus, with the hotel industry and other travel sectors also bracing for rough 2020 as a result.
During times of downturn, traveler anxiety, or high alert, it’s more important than ever for travel and hospitality brands to make sure their customer experience is optimized at every touchpoint with users. While you may not eliminate entirely the negative impact on booking rates, by testing and optimizing key points in the user journey that speak directly to their needs and concerns in real time, you’re more likely to mitigate loss and build crucial brand trust that will keep those users coming back to your brand even after the storm passes.
In short, a crisis brings more than challenges and problems to solve. We also have a vital opportunity to prove to travel users that we understand their concerns and are able to meet them as they evolve.
In times of crisis, Conversion Rate Optimization and testing can help your brand to create things like confidence, trust, reassurance, and loyalty, for your users, at a time when they need it most of all.
During a crisis management situation, CRO helps to:
Transparency is key for addressing your users’ fears and concerns. Travelers may be anxious, frustrated, or even scared, and this is certainly not the time to confuse them or create any friction in their journey on your site. Be clear and direct about your brand’s crisis messaging, and make this easily accessible to your users. Azamara Club Cruises, like most other cruise lines, immediately serves users its policy around the coronavirus on the homepage:
Cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and other travel sites should also test experiences related to the crisis messaging and cancellation or refund policies to see where in the booking journey users need this reassurance the most. Should you include the policy on all pages? Only the homepage or checkout page? At other moments in the booking or cancellation journey? Don’t play the guessing game. By testing, you can find out exactly where your users need this transparency messaging and where it will be most effective at encouraging them to continue booking with you.
By accelerating your testing and experimentation efforts now, you’ll be able to quickly determine the type of information around the situation and your brand’s response to it that users need in order to continue booking with you both during and after the crisis.
Give Users Peace of Mind
Travel brands have the important responsibility of reassuring their users around their most pressing and urgent concerns, questions, or fears. In times of crisis, an optimized customer experience requires testing crisis messaging and experiences that speak directly to users’ anxieties as the news cycle unfolds.
This week British Airways did a good job at this when they released their new flexible change policy on new flight bookings called “Book With Confidence.”
International travel brands are following suit. Air Europa is working to create peace of mind and ease booking anxiety with their “book today, fly anytime” promise, which also includes no charges for reservation changes.
The important thing for travel brands to remember here is that, rather than assuming or guessing what users will respond to or need to hear (or when in their user journey they need to hear it), by testing and optimizing in real-time, you can serve experiences and crisis messaging that you know resonates with their needs and concerns, making it more likely for them to engage with your brand in the short and long term.
Build Short- and Long-Term Trust in Your Brand
One of the most important things to establish with users during times of uncertainty is trust. An optimized website that is continuously being validated through testing and experimentation creates customer experiences that speak directly to users behaviors, needs, concerns, questions, or fears. It’s a booking journey that users can count on, and this type of trust is VITAL during a time when they may be feeling high anxiety or reluctance to book. By testing crisis messaging, along with other offers like promotions, cancellations and refunds, or key elements in the booking funnel, you are literally “listening” to what your users need in order to restore their trust and confidence in the booking process and in your brand.
Let them tell you what they need to hear and when they need to hear it to feel better about booking. Testing helps you do this.
Encourage Loyalty, Even After the Crisis is Over
Users remember how you “treat” them across your digital channels during times of uncertainty. If their customer experience is optimized to respond to their concerns and needs in the moment and at every stage in the funnel, they will remember that your brand was there for them when they needed it the most or when they were at their most vulnerable.
The trust that they establish with your brand during this time will translate to long-term brand loyalty, and they’ll return to book with your site during better times because they’ll know they can count on your brand to serve them what they need, in good times or bad.
- On 5th March 2020