Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance (George Westerman, MIT)
Whilst the travel industry was one of the first adopters of e-commerce and remains one of the web’s largest e-commerce sectors, individual travel companies – particularly tour operators and DMCs – have been relatively slow to go digital. We still see many companies using request forms on their websites rather than live booking/quotation tools; we still see a lot of companies with websites that have hardly changed in years; and we still see a lot of companies failing to market their business effectively online, still devoting most of their marketing budgets to pressing the flesh at trade shows rather than on SEO, PPC or content marketing.
COVID-19 is proving something of a reckoner for many travel businesses and those that survive will need to rethink how they work, and digital transformation is going to be increasingly important, especially with fewer travellers to go around and trade shows & networking events simply not happening in 2020.
To help you get started, we’ve chosen our seven essential tools for travel businesses who are planning to go digital in the near future – and with few to no actual customers to deal with at the moment, now is the perfect time to effect those changes you’ve been putting off for so long.
Website CMS: Squarespace
The old web design model, where you paid several thousand dollars to a web designer to build you a website, then repeated the process a few years later, is virtually dead. Your website should now be the domain of your marketing team, rather than being guarded by techie gatekeepers, and there are now a number of CMS systems around that enable non-techies not just to maintain and update websites, but even build them from scratch.
Whilst WordPress is the best-known and most powerful website CMS, it can still be tricky for newbies, especially in the setup and design process, and so for most companies we’d recommend Squarespace. It’s a genuine drag & drop/WYSIWYG solution that comes with a selection of stylish templates to get you started, & also comes with all the features you’ll need such as blog, analytics, SEO, social media sharing and more. I’ve personally built websites with various tools but Squarespace is by far the easiest and most straightforward. And with business packages starting at $18 per month including domain & hosting, it’s certainly cheaper than paying someone else to do it for you.
Business Management: Google G Suite
To set up employee emails, calendars, roles, documents and communication tools all in one place, nothing is easier than G Suite. In minutes you can set up your team’s email accounts, document libraries, calendars and more, without any complicated email setup processes. G Suite is basically a cloud-based business in a box and an increasing number of companies, from small startups to multinationals like Colgate-Palmolive and Nielsen, are using it to make running their organisation a lot easier. Starts from just $6 per user per month, or for $12 you can get unlimited cloud storage.
Collaboration & Communication: Slack
As your organisation grows, keeping tabs on internal communication can be increasingly difficult, and let’s face it email is no longer the solution. Slack is a very simple, user-friendly communication tool that allows you to create different channels based on user groups or subjects (eg Management, Marketing, 2020 Conference etc) and ensure that all conversations are recorded, searchable and easy to follow. Slack’s simplicity is a delight to use and it’s no wonder it’s gone from zero to 10m users in a little over five years.
And best of all, Slack is FREE for small teams (up to 10,000 messages), with the small business version coming in at $8 per user per month.
Graphic Design & Presentation: Canva
As with web design, the old model of paying top dollar to graphic design & branding companies is dying out, particularly for cash-strapped startups and SMEs. Founded in 2012, Canva democratises the graphic design process and makes it easy for non-designers to create professional-looking presentations, social media images, infographics, ebooks, brochures, flyers, business cards, logos and more.
I began using Canva when I founded my first startup back in 2015 and now I simply can’t imagine life without it – it’s as essential to me as email or Facebook. Canva comes in a feature-packed free version, which you’ll probably find meets most of your needs, or a paid version at $12 per month. It’s well worth it.
Digital Marketing & CRM: Hubspot
Hubspot does so many things that it’s almost easier to list what it doesn’t do. But whatever your digital marketing requirements, Hubspot can almost certainly handle them, including CRM, email marketing, marketing automation, forms & CTAs, social media & PPC scheduling, landing pages, chatbots and even a website CMS. Hubspot is built around the concept of inbound marketing and will transform the way you market to your customers, with its reimagining of the traditional funnel concept into the more retention-focused flywheel.
There are various versions of Hubspot available and the price of the more powerful versions means they’re primarily for larger companies, but smaller companies can get started with a very useful free version, whilst an even more useful starter version comes in at a mere $50 per month.
Analytics: Google Analytics
The great thing about going digital is that it makes analysing your business a lot easier, and you’ll soon get used to the plan-build-measure-optimise cycle. And there’s no better tool for analysing your website and digital marketing performance than Google Analytics. It’s easy to set up – just add a tracking code in your website CMS – and easy to use, with a range of metrics including web traffic, traffic sources & referrals, campaigns, goals, bounce rate, page views and more. And you can also pick your essential metrics and turn them into a weekly or daily report and get it sent to your inbox. And best of all, it’s completely free.
Please allow us to blow our own trumpet for a moment – it is our blog after all. We’ve not forgotten that your core business is selling your travel products and our job is to make it easier for you and help you to sell more. Travel agents can get access to a huge global marketplace of accommodation, transportation, cruises, tours & activities and more to quickly put together itineraries and quotes for their clients, without requiring any in-depth destination knowledge; whilst DMCs can make their inventory available to their B2B clients via eRoam, expanding their reach and also enabling instant online quoting and booking – no more waiting a day or two to get a quote out to an agent.
If you’re already using a back office tour operations system, eRoam sits neatly on top providing a user-friendly front end, and if you’re not, we’ve partnered with TravelOperations to provide a best-in-class back office solution built on Microsoft Dynamics and fully integrated with eRoam. Check out our pricing page to see which package is right for you, and contact us if you’d like to arrange a demo.
Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight but it is becoming inevitable and essential rather than merely desirable. And you may never have a better opportunity than now to transform your company!