3 Traveller Insights to Keep in Mind when Building a Destination Website
Published on February 3, 2019
Destination websites have come a long way over the last couple of years.
It wasn't long ago that destination websites were an online version of their region's printed guides. But these days, a lot of DMOs are pushing the envelope with regard to improving website user experience by spending time profiling their customers using real data, which helps them to understand and pre-empt their customers needs when it comes to researching holidays online.
So, the aim of this article is to share with you 3 modern day traveller insights, and use case studies to demonstrate best practice website marketing principles that are being used to engage with travellers.
In pulling together this article, I looked at 50+ Australian and International destination websites, trying to find examples of sites that were showcasing tools and content structures, so hopefully I've found some that will provide some inspiration for you as you continue to evolve your destination website... so here goes!
1. Travellers are visual decision makers
If you're anything like me, when it comes to planning holidays, the first thing you look for is real examples of what experiences a destination offers. There are a couple of ways destinations can put their best foot forward on their website to capture those looking for visual inspiration.
Make your product listings visually inspiring
Most destination websites will have product listings, which is ok, but our challenge for you is to try and supercharge them with user generated images and video.
If your destination website uses the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse database to populate operator listings, then why not encourage your operators to load up their best user generated images from their visitors (not stale corporate style images) and share a great video (which you can do now!) to try and increase engagement and conversions on their listings.
SouthAustralia.com have customised the layout of their ATDW product listings to include videos that have been up uploaded by operators, check out Adelaide Zoo's listing.
Integrate + Supercharge the Instagram Feed on your Website
Most newly developed destination websites feature a curated instagram feed on their website, sharing the beautiful and inspiring images from visitors. This is one of the most effective ways to keep the content on your website fresh and relevant in terms of engaging travellers.
But, what if you could link those inspiring images with your product listings?
Well it can be done, and is a great way to guide your websites users to convert, rather than just inspiring them with a pretty picture.
VisitPhoenix.com bolsters a curated Instagram feed to not only share user generated images on their 'Restaurants' homepage, but they also create a seamless user experience by linking those images to the product listings on their website.
CrowdRiff was used on VisitPhoenix.com's website, and are a great place to start with regard to integrating your Instagram feed on your website, and the beauty is that they work specifically to travel and tourism brands.
Curator.io is another social media aggregator tool that some Australian Destination Websites are using, including Corowa Region, and Destination Gold Coast and Gladstone Region use Stackla for their curated instagram feeds.
Avoid Corporate Images
Before Instagram, DMOs would spend thousands on photoshoots to bolster their image library (the last one I project managed was only in 2010!) and it was these staged images that would be used as hero images on destination websites.
In this day and age, travellers know the difference between images that are natural and real, and something that is forced or staged. That's why it's so important to select your hero photography really carefully, and ensure that the experiences you feature on your site are accessible for your ideal customers, not exclusive to just a few customers.
Use Live Content
During the research, pre-travel and in-destination stage of a travellers purchase journey, they are looking for content that will help them to plan their trip, or their day in destination.
So where possible, extend the visual experience on your site by integrating features and content on your site to get your traveller's closer to the action.
For example, you could set up a live camera at a public location (like a beach) that people might like to see any time, day or night so viewers can drop in to see sunrises, sunsets and anything in between. Check out visitsunshinecoast.com's surfcam courtesy of Swellnet >
Also, using hyper-lapse content is a great way for website users to get a feel for the day/night weather and activity at a public location.
I absolutely love this timelapse shared on ABC News' Facebook Page of Kangaroos, Emus, Goats (and a couple other random faces), taking full advantage of a farmers water trough on a 47 degree day.
3. Travellers are expecting personalised information
With 83% of customers expecting relevant information to be recommended to them based on their personal preferences, personalisation of content is no longer the exception, it's the rule.
With limited holiday time and budgets and so much information available online, when people are planning travel, they have a fear of missing out on having the very best experience, for them.
People planning travel experiences are willingly sharing information (personal and potential travel related) with DMOs to be able to customise the information they get back, in order to make the right decision.
There are numerous ways that DMOs can provide customers the ability to customise their content, whilst maintaining customer privacy and security.
Mother Nature has a Big Impact on Travel
We inherently choose destinations and timings of travel based on the weather - warm summer days perfect for sunbathing and swimming along Western Australia's south coast, or a recent fall of snow ideal for a day of skiing at Mt Buller.
Infact, Mount Buller have numerous live webcams on their site, showing various locations - which is great for people planning to visit, or those who have woken up in the destination.
Similarly, VisitCanberra dedicates a page on their site to share the current weather for the day, and upcoming week's forecast.
To be sure your website users are able to find the information they may be looking for, you can ask them to identify who they are and what they are looking for to narrow down their search.
Check out Limerick's website... they have a custom form on their home page which allows people to pinpoint who they are and what information they are after. This almost provides an instant shortcut for those looking for specific information, and eliminates maybe 1 or two unnecessary steps in them being able to find the info they are after.
Highlighting Seasonal Content
What if you could share content on your website that was relevant for people based on what season they are planning on travelling?
VisitTelluride's website give their users the option to customise their website based on the season they are planning on travelling. This is not only perfect for personalisation, but a great way to show them what the destination looks like in the different seasons.
Sometimes popups can be a bit distracting (and you do have to be careful about using them, not to annoy users), but Mornington Peninsula's website has a handy little popup in the right hand corner which offers users a direct link to view curated information and inspiration about what visitors can do in summer, which is perfect for those people planning their trip right now (it's summer in Australia now) or who are in destination.
Sharing Content based on User's Location
These days, websites can be developed to dynamically serve content based on a users IP address.
What this means is, if you are visiting a Australian destination website from America, you could assume that this person is in the research phase of their purchase journey, and therefore, they are likely to be visiting soon.
Similarly, if someone is accessing an destination website from within the destination (or nearby location) then we can assume that they visiting now looking for more specific in-destination information.
Regardless of the situation, we can create now different landing pages based on someone's location to help our users navigate our site better, and hopefully find the most relevant information possible.
Skift shares great insights on how Washington, D.C.’s tourism board, automatically targets its New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles markets, by serving customised content for these markets on their Washington.org website, to inspire them to use some summer vacation time on a trip to D.C.
DMOs can also serve content based on location is by creating websites that offer the content in various languages. Apart from Google Translate (which isn't the most reliable way to translate websites), DMOs could invest in full website installations for various markets. Check out Neil Patels comprehensive article on Increasing Conversions with Geo-Targeting >
Tropical North Queensland's new website (launched 2018) has been developed for their english speaking audiences, as well as their major inbound market, Japan.
In the top navigation users can identify what site they'd like to use, and whilst it's a manual option, it absolutely serves a great way to deliver personalised content for their key audiences.
Categorise Content by Traveller's Emotions + Feelings
Typically DMOs categorise content by the types of experiences that the destination offers. This approach is a traditional and pragmatic way of delivering destination information to consumers, but it is basically guessing that your website visitors know that they want a 'food' experience, or a 'wine' experience.
If a DMO's role is to inspire people to visit their destination, shouldn't they be playing into their ideal customer's emotions, and ask questions like - what do they want feel whilst on holiday? How can the destination meet their emotional needs?
Travel Oregon is a great example of a destination website that categorises their content based on what their traveller wants to feel whilst they are on holiday. Clicking on the 'Feeling' tiles leads the user to specific stories, or more experience options.
Depending on your budget, there are a couple of options to really ramp up your personalisation, but it takes a bit more of a sophisticated solution.
Miamiandbeaches.com have recently updated their website (August 2018) and on the homepage they ask their web users to identify what type of holiday they are after using a sliding scale for certain experiences and feelings, which will then display relevant events, stories, offers and things to do based on those preferences. Website visitors can then create an account on the site to get their personalised itinerary results.
3. Travellers want a unique experience in your destination
Today's traveller wants to experience a destination differently to everyone else. They already know the hotspots, and can go on Google Maps street view to see the sights. So try and make it as easy for the user to find the hidden treasures of your destination.
Destination Gold Coast have their 'Local Loves' section upfront on their home page, sharing insights from the locals. This is the type of information people are after, especially if it can be written by locals.
Victoria's High Country have made a very deliberate decision to have a simple navigation based on user's niche interests. Which effectively delivers a page of relevant content and user pathways for people based on those interests.
Hopefully that article has provided some inspiration...
At the end of the day, there are many options to create a customer centric website, for both big and small budgets.
So when preparing a website brief, ensure you are really clear about your Ideal Customer's needs, and from there, work with your web developer to ensure the user experience on your site allows your customers to find and engage with the content they need to make the ultimate conversion - that is, visiting your beautiful part of the world!
Any other websites we should see?
If you know of, or manage a really customer centric destination website, that has implemented some new thinking and new tech to engage website visitors, then let me know in the comments, as I'm always looking for new case studies to share!