Why your website plays a crucial role
Your website plays a crucial role in your business’ digital marketing strategy. Not only is it one of the first points of contact potential bookers will have with your brand, it’s also one of the only online assets you have ownership and control over. Contrary to social networks and OTAs, you don’t share your website visitors’ attention with ads or recommendations of competitor products, which gives you more control of the booking journey.
With that said, simply having a website online is not necessarily enough to generate leads and revenue. In the article, I share five tips on how to create a competitive website experience in 2022.
In this article
1. Make a strong first impression, speak to your target audiences
A mistake many tour operators make when investing in website marketing is to assume that they have their audience’s full, undivided attention as they carefully browse the content across their pages, from company profiles to detailed itineraries. In reality, that simply isn’t true. In fact, a study by Littledata shows that the average pages per session for travel websites in January 2022, was 2.4. Simply put, you have a small window to make a strong first impression in order to inspire your visitors and build their trust. If you can achieve this, they will stick around for longer.
Keep in mind that to achieve this, you need to analyse your website data to understand which pages your visitors enter through.
Tips to make a strong first impression
- Add a video banner to your page’s hero section (this is the first content a visitor will see on your page) to communicate a as much information as possible in a short timeframe.
- Add your elevator pitch. This is a short statement explaining what you offer and why you are unique from other tour operators. A good example of a short elevator pitch would be “Responsible multi-day adventure tours in Southern Africa”. This makes a much stronger first impression than a generic welcome message.
- Show off reviews or awards.
- Ensure that your navigation is intuitive, encouraging visitors to easily progress deeper into your website’s content and products.
- Consider using a pop-up message or notification bar to grab your visitors’ attention and communicate important information early on in their session, or as they are about to leave your website.
2. Create a mobile-first experience
By now, it’s likely that your website is mobile-friendly, or that you are planning to have a mobile-friendly website developed. While that is a great start, you need to consider the performance of your content beyond just a responsive layout or template. Indicators such as how fast your website loads on mobile devices, or how simple your website is to navigate on a small screen have a direct impact on whether visitors will turn in leads.
With a rise in domestic and regional marketing, another factor to consider is the type of mobile devices being used by your website visitors. For example, 41% of new mobile devices sold in East Africa in Q4 of 2021 were feature phones, as opposed to smartphones. While these devices offer Internet access and the ability to browse websites, they are less capable of loading large media and interactive features. This would require a mindful approach to how your website is built.
In 2021 over 55% of all page views across Springnest websites came from mobile devices, and we expect that number to keep growing rapidly.
Tips to create a mobile friendly experience
- Browse your own website from mobile devices. This sounds obvious, but the easiest way to identify where you can improve is to use your website like customers do. Go through the process of finding products and making an enquiry, and list the features and functionality that you found challenging to use. Ask your staff or a friend to do the same.
- Run a website speed test.
- Explore recommendations for mobile improvements in Google Search Console.
3. Embrace Instant messaging or live chat
Compared to lengthy email threads, live chat offers your visitors a quick and personalised way to get answers about your business and tour products while browsing your website. The goal is not necessarily to process complete bookings through a chat application, but rather to create a helpful lifeline for visitors when they need it the most. Your potential bookers have dozens of questions and considerations while they are researching tours, so offering the option to quickly get advice or to rule out uncertainties can be the difference between an enquiry or a lost lead.
It’s important to acknowledge platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and others, have made real time conversations with brands the norm for consumers, rather than a luxury. With the rise of chatbots and other intelligent ways to automate conversions and advice it’s becoming increasingly manageable for smaller tour operators to embrace live chat.
Tips to get started with live chat
- Determine whether you are ready for it. Installing live chat to your website is the easy part; integrating it into your business communications and sales strategy is likely going to take some work. Important questions to ask yourself include Who in my team will respond to chat conversations? How will we ensure that chat conversations are captured and shared? What should happen when we are not online or available?
- Choose the right tool. Facebook Messenger is a practical option if you do not have the capacity to learn how to use a new application, while tools like Olark or Zendesk Chat will offer more functionality. A Whatsapp button is a great start too, though keep in mind that it will direct the visitor away from your website into Whatsapp’s application, rather than offering a on-site chat experience.
4. Bring your social media content to your website
If you are using Instagram to share updates and content with your audience on a regular basis, why not add your feed to your website for maximum exposure? Having your Instagram posts appear on your site will also create the impression of an active and relevant business and serve as an easy way to keep your website up to date with exciting visual content.
How to add Instagram to your website
- First things first, make sure that you have a reliable strategy for keeping your Instagram feed updated.
- Choose and install an Instagram widget or plugin. Depending on the content management system you use, there will be different options available, ranging from free to premium options (you will need to authenticate your Instagram account in order to activate your widget).
5. Budget for innovation
Lastly, you need to ensure that your website will remain competitive as new trends and technical requirements emerge. Technology evolves at a rapid pace, if you do not budget for constant innovation you could soon find yourself with an irrelevant website, or an unexpected and costly redevelopment project. As search engines, mobile technology, and design standards change, you will need to set aside a budget for updates and consultation.
Tips to budget for innovation
- First, you might need to change your perspective. Think of your website as an ongoing tactic rather than a once-off project. Much like social media marketing, email campaigns, or paid advertising, your website should be a dynamic part of your digital market strategy. Treat your budget in the same way.
- Invest in a good content management system. The more you can easily update and change yourself, the less you will spend on development and maintenance.
- Have a conversation with your web master or supplier. Discuss potential features and functionality you are considering and agree on associated costs and responsibilities upfront.
- When budgeting for a new website, consider keeping up to 20% of the project budget aside for innovation.
One step at a time
Like any other marketing channel, your website should evolve and grow with your brand and business strategy. There is no such thing as a perfect website, nor should your website ever be considered “finished”. Seek out opportunities to tweak and improve your content and functionality for better results. Be open to change and innovation.