Product development

Sales & marketing

The 5 Stages Of Successfully Navigating The Online Customer Journey

5 min read

Your customer’s journey with you starts well before the action of booking. This article shows you one way to apply the commonly used five-stage model for leisure travel into your online activities. Knowing your customer’s online journey – their complete experience with your business – enables you to establish your presence at every travel moment.

The five online customer journey stages are:

  1. Dreaming
  2. Planning
  3. Booking
  4. Experiencing
  5. Remembering


customer journey

Stage 1 Dreaming: inspire to travel

Whether a traveller is considering an adventure into the mountains, a relaxing retreat by a lake, or a culture trip into a Nordic city, it all starts with a dream. Before doing any actual planning, the traveller is already thinking and visualising their next destination. At this stage influence and inspiration can hit at any moment, and come from anywhere. That’s why getting your story in front of your audience is so important. 

Here are a few ways that you can use to inspire your audience in the dreaming stage of the travel journey:

  • promote your business on social media, showcase inspiring photographs
  • give PPC advertising a try 
  • write compelling SEO-optimized copy
  • build an online partner network
  • generate word of mouth advertising by building local partnerships
  • sell your product through leading Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

Stage 2 Planning: engage with your business

At this stage travellers have decided on the destination they want to visit. This is when they start to plan for accommodations, transportation and activities. They will be comparing options before finalising their decision. 

Yes, many will fall back on Google or generic platforms while searching for their best options. With so many large players dominating the travel space, it may appear impossible for your business to become recognised online. However, this way of thinking will not take you far. 

As a local, you occupy a completely unique space in the travel industry. This will be the key to success for your business as you implement the following strategies:

  • have a visually appealing website
  • focus on long-tail keywords 
  • curate someone’s authentic experience in the form of a lead generation tool
  • align dreaming and planning through engaging website content
  • offer the type of product your target persona desires
  • invest in PPC advertising
  • create Q&A on your website to minimise barriers to booking.

Stage 3 Booking: drive to take action

This is the stage when people are ready to book. Simplifying the user’s booking process should be your highest priority at this stage. Many choose to put their credit card information online rather than speak with someone over the phone, let alone get involved in an email exchange with lengthy delays. As this trend continues, it’s imperative to implement an easy booking process. 

An easy booking process entails:

  • clearly displayed prices
  • buttons to advertise/encourage bookings
  • an intuitive reservation system
  • confirmation email to each guest.

Being transparent is a must when it comes to pricing, amenities, guest experiences, and confirmation emails. Online travel agencies and their ability to advertise the lowest price guarantee may have complicated matters, but there are ways to avoid these giants, should you wish to do so. Since low prices and convenience appeal to many travellers, OTAs often hide additional fees. One way to benefit from this market is to advertise that on your site. Use phrasing like “lowest price guaranteed when booking directly”. There are many travellers today who also want to support small businesses directly without middlemen. 

Stage 4 Experiencing: build loyalty

The experience stage in the travel customer journey is your time to shine in making memories. Focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences and take pride in providing exceptional customer service to every guest.

At this stage you could consider items such as free add-ons, such as vouchers, discounts and other visitor servicing items. You can feature activities, attractions and places. Paid search is an excellent tool for visitor servicing alongside local ads as a majority of leisure travellers decide on their activities only after arriving at their destination. 

The experiencing stage is where you build the foundations of customer loyalty. If a customer has a great time, they will recommend you to their friends and family. This is the stage to create true fans, who in turn create invaluable word-of-mouth referrals. One of the best ways to complement the travel customer experience is to provide something memorable, such as:

  • vouchers and discount codes to use or share
  • curated itineraries to share
  • a travel guide filled with your local recommendations.

What you provide to customers and how they experience your product, will directly impact the way they remember their time. Happy guests are happy to help you. Build guest advocacy by encouraging guests to share their photos on social media, tag your company, and follow you. Happy customers may also become repeat visitors. 

Stage 5 Remembering: reviews and retention

Capturing guest reviews from those who have had a positive experience is key to maintaining both a 5-star presence online and a successful business. Let customers know that reviews contribute a lot to your business’s success. Just don’t bribe them or ask for reviews excessively at the expense of their experience.

Once a person has visited you, you should have their data and contact information. You need to set an automated email that requests reviews from your customers a few days after their visit. That’s when their memories are fresh and they are still in the “right” mood. Be also prepared for and responsive to negative feedback, too. 

You also might want to create some form of re-engagement to further keep your happy customers involved in your business. Here we have listed a few tips on how to help customers remember you:

  • implement an effective automated email marketing strategy
  • set up guest lifestyle campaigns in your marketing efforts
  • try to obtain as many 5-star reviews as you can
  • craft engaging social media posts.

Why is it important to know your travel customer journey

Your travel business needs to connect with your audience by being present, relevant, and helpful. Be the answer to their questions, be the one who makes their dreams come true.

Knowing your travel customer’s online journey enables you to act on every travel moment in a way that leads to more bookings and better return on investment.


Authored By

Sirje Nikulainen
+ posts

Sirje is an adventurer who loves exploring Nordic wilderness, new business opportunities and emerging technologies. She regularly collaborates with Atelier Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency in Helsinki.


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