Reviews as social proof: how travel brands can build trust
Booking a trip away can be quite a big deal for consumers. Travel vendors have to confront more than just the competition, there’s also competing priorities in consumers’ lives. Limited vacation days. Commitments work or school, scheduling difficulties and seasonal limitations (while there are great mountains to visit in summer, if they want to go skiing…). Combine all this, and there’s a slim window for consumers to get their adventure, r&r, or quality family time in, and this is a challenge for vendors.
Fortunately, there are some tactics to cut through the noise.
I discussed how there’s a big demographic difference between different travel buyers in my previous blog about. But, according to our recent survey of over 1,000 consumers in the US and UK, it turns out that the vast majority of all travel consumers have one big thing in common.
Over 75% of all travel consumers rate reviews from other customers as somewhat or very helpful.
It’s easy to see why. Reviews fall squarely within the social proof principle (one of Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion), which states that people trust things which are popular or endorsed. For an expensive, infrequent purchase like a vacation (66% of travellers take two or fewer trips per year), it’s easy to see why it is so important for travel consumers to make the best decision possible.
This gets even more interesting when we break down the differences between different types of travel consumers to uncover the nuances of the groups that find reviews most helpful.
Reviews are most popular with three groups, under 35s (48% of them say reviews are very helpful), last minute bookers (47%) and families (46%).
Common sense tells us that these groups have added pressures when it comes to booking a trip. Younger travel consumers may be students, strapped for cash, or young families short on time and cash, and therefore have fewer vacations and so everything needs to be perfect. Last-minute bookers, regardless of the reasons why they book last minute, by definition lack the time to do independent research, so reviews can validate and de-risk impulse decisions. And when it comes to families, as well as cost and time pressures (and school semesters defining when you can and can’t go away) there are more people on the trip. That’s more happy people on a great trip, but a bad one leads to a load of unhappy campers.
These three groups are also the ones most likely to return to the site where they made their booking and leave a review. 65% of under 35s, 70% of families and 70% of last minute bookers agree or strongly agree that they are likely to leave a review. This may create a virtuous circle, of like recommending to like.
Similarly to reviews, recommendations can also reassure travel consumers about their bookings, especially when the recommendations are given context, like whether they are being shown because they are highly rated, popular or recently booked. Unsurprisingly the groups most likely to say recommendations are helpful are also under 35s (at 26%), families (at 31%) and last minute bookers (38%).
So, while travel brands should be aware that the demographic shift between younger and older travel consumers persists, they aren’t the only group to focus on. Families and last minute bookers are two more interesting customer segments with particular needs and interests, ones who—like under 35s— respond well to some of the key tools in a personalization arsenal.
For more insights into findings of our consumer survey, and how to create and execute a successful personalization strategy, read our Personalization in Travel Guidebook.