May 3, 2013

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To create a successful online experience requires relevant content that engages the user and motivates them to act on or share that content. An effective content strategy that includes streamlined rich media distribution to multiple channels can significantly impact bottom line results. EyeForTravel’s Ritesh Gupta investigates.

Prioritizing content in formats such as text, images, videos and so on across many channels is a vital in any e-commerce strategy. Research indicates that a travel shopper generally looks at 20 websites over multiple sessions. Consumers are seeking engaging and informative content that resonates with their needs and values.

In the end, the goal is to convert lookers to bookers. A good content strategy does more than drive results; it will help influence the consumer’s perception of the brand and increase trust in the product.

As an expert in this arena, Henry Woodman, president, IcePortal says, in addition to understanding the core values that contribute to target audience’s decision making, any website design and content strategy needs to maximize the chances that the content, and ultimately the site, will be found.

“Knowing the audience will help marketers develop engaging content tailored to that group,” he says. “A well-crafted content strategy should work in a similar way to any sales methodology that guides a consumer down the sales funnel to a booking. All along those multiple touch points, consumers should see the same fresh, accurate, compelling and engaging content.”

According to Woodman, travel companies need to create, optimize and continually update content, making the site navigation clean and simple so users don’t have to think. Ideally, the website would have a variety of landing pages that are personalized for specified targets, e.g, campaigns, offers, etc.

And, of course, travel companies cannot ignore the user experience on multiple devices  desktop, mobile and tablet. “Mobile search is expected to exceed desktop search in 2015,” says Woodman. “It is a multi-screen world and website designers may consider incorporating responsive design elements into the new website or creation of a mobile-friendly site.”

The role of rich media

“From a consumer’s perspective, it helps to have engaging rich media elements that resonate with them,” says Woodman. Generally, rich media is considered as digital media that users can interact with. Clicking on a video or 360o virtual tour, for example, would be considered rich media. A photo gallery would also belong in this category as the users interact with the images by clicking the next or previous image or to enlarge it.

The role rich media plays in the marketing efforts of a hotel property or destination is becoming much more important as today’s travel consumers are more heavily influenced by videos, virtual tours, and high-quality imagery. Advances in technology have made it easy for travel companies to create high-quality rich media that is easily distributed and shared.

Finalizing formats

A few short years ago, Flash was the dominant player for streaming video. That has changed, thanks in large part to Apple who would not support Flash for its new iPhone.

“As technology evolves, we can expect new formats to populate the web landscape,” says Woodman. “A greater consideration would be to ensure content displays properly on multiple devices. It is not a one-size-fits-all world, and web designers need to create fast-loading visuals (regardless of the connection speed) that fit various screen sizes and resolutions.”

High-value video

As connection speeds get faster, and file-compression technologies get better, video streaming is becoming ubiquitous. “Quality video is a great way to introduce or strengthen a brand. I stress quality, because I’ve seen videos or even slideshows that may actually harm the brand more than they help it,” explains Woodman.

The speed bump for travel marketers considering video is the price component.

“Creating good videos can be a bit expensive, but can easily exceed any ROI objective,” says Woodman. “Video is one of the most effective ways to promote and sell travel. As part of any content strategy, marketers should ensure that videos can be easily found – that means they should include a strong video SEO component, and be distributed to as many channels as possible.”

Conceptually, the approach is simple: Deliver a relevant rich media to the right user at the right time and on the right device.

Doing it right, however, is the challenge. The travel marketer needs to define the target audience, and understand their needs and wants, in order to create one or more types of rich media that is easy to find and resonates and informs that target group.

The web has created a customer-centric platform that empowers consumers like never before and there is a definite need to maintain content continuity across all channels. Content strategy, more than any factor, is vital as it has direct impact on a travelers’ buying decision.

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