Life has changed dramatically over the last few weeks—especially for destination marketers and hoteliers. Government regulations, coupled with traveler fear and anxiety, have brought the industry to a standstill. Many of our customers have questioned when and how to promote their brands during this time, and how to strike the right tone in this uncharted territory.
Personalization strategies can help answer some of those questions and ease a bit of the burden that many destination marketers feel. Below are a few tips to implement personalization strategies on your destination website during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Prevent Information Overload.
The most important thing to do in this time of crisis is to remain a beacon of reliable, timely and accurate information for your website visitors. But the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of information to communicate—some more relevant for certain groups of travelers than others. Use personalization to weed through the headlines and push essential information to different groups of travelers based on their location. For example, publish a fly-in or a banner with information about shelter-in-place orders, curfews and essential business functions to visitors within your destination. For anyone outside your destination, swap the banner copy with information about hotel closures and quarantine restrictions for travelers coming into the state.
2. Help Your Local Community.
Many destination marketing organizations have created website pages dedicated to spreading information about local restaurants that remain open for takeout and delivery. It’s a great start, as according to Longwoods US Traveler Sentiment Study, 50% of travelers are interested in content about food delivery and takeout options, and 49% of travelers are looking for ways to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19. Take that effort a step further by using personalization tools to promote that page immediately to all website visitors within your destination. Visit Maryland uses a fly-in to promote their local restaurant page—which is triggered to appear only for website visitors accessing the site from within the state of Maryland.
3. Provide Ongoing Inspiration.
Website visitors located outside your destination present a whole new opportunity entirely. This is a great time to encourage exploration from home—with videos, virtual experiences or even by promoting your destination guide or magazine. Use personalization to track which inspirational material visitors have already engaged with and ensure that you’re showing them something fresh and new upon each visit. Visit St. Pete Clearwater, for example, has implemented this strategy on their homepage. Website visitors are first encouraged to order the VSPC destination guide for at-home exploration. Once they’ve completed the action of ordering a guide, a new message about virtual experiences and videos appears. The destination is opening the door for repeat engagement with this simple and effective personalization technique.
4. Find New Segments of Visitors.
It’s time to get creative about your available assets. Perhaps your destination is rich in historical sites. Unearth webcams and video tours of battlegrounds or museums and promote those assets to new audiences that need that type of content at this moment in time—like families who are struggling to educate children at home. Alternatively, you may have a group of local gyms offering virtual workouts, or local chefs promoting recipes for fans to cook at home. Think about how you can bring your destination to people at home and use personalization to segment new audiences by topics of known interest (family travel, culinary, etc.), and deliver that content directly to them.
5. Test the Waters.
Eventually, people will travel again. Experts across the spectrum predict that local and drive market travel will be first to rebound once the COVID-19 crisis slows. Use personalization tactics to mine data and gauge travel sentiment among website visitors located in different target markets. Serve up surveys on site and A/B test your messaging for specific segments of visitors. Then, evaluate CTRs across those segments to see which markets are willing to engage, and which need a bit more time.During this difficult time, our partners at Bound are offering a free emergency response tool for destinations, allowing users to publish personalized messages to certain subsets of visitors with easy-to-use templates. For more information, click here.