As head of marketing at one of the UK’s fastest-growing travel agents, Oliver Gunning’s remit covers a wide multitude of different channels, from paid search to assist Your Golf Travel’s acquisition efforts, overseeing high-quality, engaging content that draws consumers in higher up the funnel, and TV adverts, all managed in-house from their Farringdon offices. The brand’s tailor-made products allow keen golfers to take their hobby to the next level with bespoke package breaks.
“Your Golf Travel has expanded hugely since I joined, I’m the fifth employee and we now have over 200.” Says Gunning. “This growth has enabled us to get a real hands-on experience in growing the kind of marketing efforts that we do, and taking on the huge amount of different channels that have developed and grown.” Your Golf Travel offers a wide variety of products and offers holidays to over 3,500 destinations across the globe, selling golf experiences to over 250,000 travellers annually. Consumers looking for every kind of golfing holiday, from low-cost domestic breaks to once-in-a-lifetime experiences like The US Masters, can be found the perfect experience by Your Golf Travel’s dedicated team of consultants.
Ahead of his presentation at the Figaro Digital Travel & Leisure Conference on 28 March, we chatted to Gunning about the current digital transformation at the business, the focus on customer journey mapping, and the power of personalisation.
The fast growth that you’ve experienced had led to the redevelopment of your site, so what were the main motivations in that decision?
“We wanted to be able to provide more information for our customers, so we changed the content strategy to enable us to do more and to answer more questions that a customer might have during the exploring and buying process. We started by categorising our users and making sure that we could appeal to someone who is considering a casual golf trip, all the way through to an experienced golfer who knows exactly what they want. We need to cater for them in making sure that the content that we provide is suitable for them. We placed a large focus on mobile which is tied to the device trend that we and every online entity is currently experiencing. We focus very much on making the user experience on mobile as easy as possible, with a combination of analytics and feedback tools to prove concepts.”
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered by being such a disruptive force in such a niche industry?
“One of the potential issues is that we’ve got quite a lot of moving parts. Generally within travel, that might just involve a hotel, or a hotel and a flight, but we have several more elements that are involved in the transaction, so to make them all work seamlessly is tricky. We’re bringing more and more venues online with their inventory which, whilst it has been a slow process, is improving customer experience.
“One thing that’s particularly important for us is understanding that our customer target, even though a growing segment of those people are going to be the younger demographic, is in general somewhat older, so it’s not necessarily as easy to reach as other audiences; hence why we still engage with traditional print media as well as building out relationships with industry partners.”
You have quite a narrow, intimate customer base- how does that affect the creative side of what you’re doing? How do you involve the customer in those decisions?
“In the office most of the people who work here are very keen golfers. We have an in-depth, personal understanding of the product. It’s easy for us to go off on a tangent and speak at a higher level. But I think it’s much more important to spell out exactly what you’re doing in terms of your product offering, because for our consumer base, buying anything online can sometimes be a confusing and complicated process. I think the key is to go into more detail than is necessary to really help with that buying decision. It doesn’t matter if they transact with you now or in the future, you’ve just got to provide them with the best answers possible.
“The other thing is just to really think about the fact that our customers- because of the wide variety of our products- have different expectations. We do a lot of personalisation, which will be based on a number of different factors, not only things like purchase history or where they live, but also their ability as a golfer. Some people will be very keen to play a certain type of golf course, and we can take that information into account.
“We also get clients involved in the user testing. The worst thing that we can do is create something that we think is fantastic, but realise that it might be too complicated, and can potentially start alienating consumers by not making the process as simple as it could be.”
Do you think that paring down and simplifying the customer journey has a positive influence on customer loyalty?
“Creating products that are tailored for your customers is key, and in terms of loyalty, one thing we’re proud of is that our golf consultants have fantastic relationships with our clients. We’re in a fortunate position- we’re not selling double glazing or something- we’re selling something that people love. If you are really interested in golf, there’s a potential for your working day to be broken up by someone wanting to talk to you about your next golf holiday. Our golf consultants are all experts in their field, they’ve travelled to all the destinations that we sell, and they would have actually found out all those small things that make a holiday great. We’ve invested a lot in our customer service, so that’s an area where we deal with our retention programme. It is easy to focus on acquisition, which is obviously important, but rewarding loyal customers is really vital to us.
“Client service and convenience is what every company would strive for, and we’re obviously doing something right, because our levels of growth are so fruitful. The proof of the success of any of this is how your customer interacts, so getting them involved in that process as early as possible is what’s key to making it successful.”
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