A new year, a new hope. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone and to be honest, I think you will share our opinion when we say that we actually have enough of talking about all the bad things that have happened. It is time to look into the future, make plans, adjust strategies, overcome your marketing and sales challenges in 2021 and work towards achieving your revenue, profit and career goals.
But what lies ahead of us when it comes to marketing for luxury travel? Is everything going back to the way it was in 2020 or before? Will analogue and in-person selling keep working, or has the pandemic and forced acceleration of our digital lives changed global consumer behavior patterns forever?
Digital is here to stay
We believe that digital is here to stay. At best, we will see the trends that started before the pandemic continue: increased usage of smart devices, more connectivity, machine learning, AI, data-driven decision making, and buyers’ journeys that happen mostly online. Even older demographics that traditionally have rejected these modern technologies had to adopt at least some of them in their daily lives just to stay relevant (Zoom meetings, for example). The future we are looking at is connected but remote, intimate but private. Comfort is a big part of luxury, so the additional comfort level these technologies can provide will likely be a strong motivator for future demographics to keep using and adopting them.
This is a point where we often encounter disbelief amongst potential clients when we do a discovery session together due to the fact that in their mind traditionally a certain set of tools has worked in the past to sell luxury travel services but things seem to have changed somehow in the last couple years but they cannot put their finger on it.
Business is about growth, expansion, and profitability at its core. This means that consistent investment in sales and marketing performance is crucial to staying competitive not only at the moment but also in the long run when markets and consumers change. We believe that 2021 will be a year where a lot of traditional brands will pivot even stronger towards digital. Most likely, we will also see the advent of new concepts, technologies, and platform features we haven’t considered before in digital and luxury marketing.
So being successful in luxury marketing in 2021 will most likely mean embracing a mindset of constant learning and openness to innovation. While traditional tools will not phase out tomorrow, now is still the best time to start investing and advancing your capabilities for generating business and closing deals for the future. The list of opportunities is endless. Let’s mention some examples where we continue to discover growth opportunities with our clients. Do any of these questions ring a bell?
Is your marketing sophisticated enough?
How about better segmentation and personalization of your marketing automation through smart data management and analytics? Wouldn’t you like to introduce more persuasion, psychology, and neuromarketing concepts into your content creation and branding strategy? What about testing new programmatic advertising tools while introducing chat-flows, website personalization, and CRO methodologies into your website-journey? Smart, data-driven marketers who care about creativity, psychology, and art as much as about data, ROI, and execution will see great results and continue to thrive in this modern environment.
With vaccines being approved, rolled out, and distributed, even the most pessimistic voices are already talking about a relaxation of restrictions in April/May. This provides ample opportunities for savvy hospitality, aviation, yachting, and travel marketers to drive awareness, generate leads, fill pipelines now for spring, summer or fall. The brands that are willing to take a small risk and advertise now before everything is completely open again will be the ones that come out with a positive return on the other side of this pandemic. In case you are wondering whether you are ready for this coming year, there is an easy and simple way to foolproof your current strategy against future disruptions by answering these five questions:
- Have you or your marketing people done a course, seminar, read a book or participated in a workshop in regards to digital or luxury marketing in the last 3 months?
- Are you generating more than 40% of your total leads, direct bookings, and deals online?
- Do you follow at least 3 publications that cover developments in Martech, SaaS, and/or machine learning and AI?
- Have you spent time and energy in the last 6 months to unify, consolidate, and analyze your business data?
- Do you have a paid advertising strategy that is diversified, measured, and optimized when it comes to channels, personas, ads, content, and follow-up?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the clock is ticking for your business. It may sound harsh, and I’m sure some of our readers will be in disbelief (for now, at least) but the pandemic has shown that unforeseen events can cause massive accelerations in the adoption curve of modern technology among global populations.
I also can imagine that some luxury brand marketers are speaking up and saying things like: “But David, we still need great images, videos, and events to sell to ultra-high-net-worth individuals? How can we sell jets and yachts without showing off the beauty of our products?” And I totally agree with you. There will always be a place and necessity for brand marketing in luxury travel, but the method of distributing that branded content and measuring the return from it is fundamentally changing. Brand marketers need to adopt a more outcome-driven mindset and work in conjunction with data-driven direct marketers to maximize their brands potential.
Will the industry recover?
This brings me to my final summary and a hopeful statement about the future of the travel industry in general. Innovation is necessary but sometimes painful. The luxury travel industry will rise out of the ashes like a phoenix and marketers and salespeople will be at the forefront when it is time to ramp up advertising and outreach to HNWI consumers again. But we cannot turn back the clock.
And why should we? Life is about solving problems and embracing new challenges. Adopting digital, working with the right partners, and being open-minded about doing business in a different way are essential new approaches to be successful in the world of tomorrow. And tomorrow is already here.