I took the photo of the parking meter a few years ago in the capital city of Slovenia, called Ljubljana. Ljubljana has been on what I call a “killing spree” for the last 5 years or so as far as tourism goes. There’s been huge investments in the city centre, strong marketing efforts and the general perception of Ljubljana as a green, exciting and safe city. All the efforts put in are finally starting to pay off. A few years ago, I was visiting a conference in the city centre and parked nearby – while trying to pay I realized that if I was a tourist I could’ve been stuck with the meter in question for quite a while. Why?
The parking meter syndrome
All the instructions on that parking meter were in Slovenian language, in different typographies, some with images and others without. Let’s have a closer look at few:
- if the meter doesn’t take your ticket, press the Cancel button,
- the meter doesn’t accept 20 € banknotes, 50 cent, 20 cent, 10 cent and 5 cent coins,
- payment via mobile phone isn’t possible,
- parking is at your own risk,
- and my personal favourite – parking ticket must not be wet.
If the owner of that parking lot had any knowledge of user experience (or even just some common sense), he or she could easily simplify the information and help towards a better experience for locals and foreigners. That’s why I like icons and pictograms so much as they say a lot without saying anything. I had a similar experience last year while visiting Prague – I parked in a Park & Ride parking lot on the outskirts of Prague and the parking meter instructions were in Czech. The person working there had no English knowledge whatsoever and the whole situation was very uncomfortable, to say the least. Being a tourist, I wanted to have the nicest experience possible during my trip/stay. Lucky for us, some young locals who spoke English came by and helped us.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to use the meter above, even if you don’t understand a word. My point is that in the modern era we should be obsessed with the experience(s) we are creating for our guests and it usually starts with trivial things like this. 5-star hotel with all the posh and glamour and then you would see a (temporary, but still) white A4 notice about something, possibly written in colourful Comic Sans. Truly impressive. And this pattern usually doesn’t stop there. The bar of the user experience is constantly rising.
The lazy tourist
People in general have the capability to process a limited amount of information in any given moment. I would say that this “rule” applies from real life situations to digital world (for example websites) – too much information and we feel out of control. Our response is to try to get “things under control” or, if that’s not possible, we leave because that’s what evolution taught us to do. I think that same can be said for tourists – while we are on vacation we don’t want to deal with stressful situations at all. Youngsters nowadays can surely process more information, but in general the world around is trying to simplify life, mostly thanks to the advancement in technology. As a business owner in tourism, we should keep that in mind – and it usually just involves simple things which add up to the whole experience. Let me give you two quick examples of how we feel and perceive information.
Why the lazy tourist?
Because being a tourist became a lot easier in the last decade. Cheaper flights, accommodation listings (Online Travel Agents, for example Booking.com), (free) GPS navigation, smartphones, social networks with sharing of experiences anytime and anywhere… Even the Google recently stepped into the “tourism” game with services like Google Flights and direct hotel bookings via their search / maps / etc. services. Their focus is primarily on the killing mobile experience – find a destination via flight prices directly on the map, compare and find the best price for a flight, find the best hotel possible and the cherry on top – travel itinerary based on the data Google has about you (that is, if you’re OK with that). And all that wrapped in a nice and simple user experience. I will not go deeper in discussion about privacy in these kind of services, but the point is if we want to be competitive, we need to embrace similar approaches.
OK, so let’s do our work the best we can, but that’s all just theory
Let’s have a look at a couple of practical advices that you can try with your visitors/guests and see if you’ll benefit from results. As an individual or a small business, you can implement and test ideas below much quicker than bigger brands and competition.
- Mobile / responsive website
It’s a must in the modern world. Focus on information that’s really valuable to your guests/customer (where you are, contact information, what to do during your stay, what is the mobile user interested in). Also, try to limit the clutter of the desktop version. Make a change to the user interface or other elements of the website, then measure on a big enough scale of visitors, analyse the results, and repeat. Use Google Analytics.
The type of information (what, how, where) you are providing to various groups of people including; people browsing for their next trip, past customers and people in that location. It is important to get listed on websites (Google My Business is a must) and provide additional information in FAQs. We like to address any questions promptly and clearly before our arrival.
- The content
Make your visitor’s / guest’s lives easier by providing them with good content. That doesn’t necessarily mean SEO-good content, but focus on the user – be unique, creative and give the information that your guests find useful. If this means recommending a good nearby restaurant even if it’s not your own or ideas for trips that others will benefit from, it is always important to have variety. You best know your surroundings and we, as modern tourists, hate to browse for information on too many places (that’s why Booking.com, Tripadvisor.com and similar sites are so popular – they gather information, filter it and help you make a decision). Try to write about what people are looking for in your location and attract new visitors.The truth is we will probably find it anyway, but if it saves us some time and energy browsing, we will appreciate it a lot. Good tools to use – Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io, SemRush.com…
- Social networks
Think about what you are/will be doing on your social networks. Where will you inspire, connect, find new customers, answer questions, what content will you post…? Write achievable goals for each network and try to accomplish them. Test and measure what resonates with your social media population. Be innovative and creative, there are plenty of tools out there to help you out – Facebook is offering new features almost every month. Have you tried 360 photos, videos, canvas, Facebook Live, all the advertising features? To be a part of the conversation use Hootsuite, which is one of my favourites (search for keywords that relate to your destination, brand, activities etc.). If you’re looking for something more professional, try Falcon.io which I’ve stumbled upon just recently. Don’t overdo it, it’s better to have 1.000 fans that engage and “buy” from you than 10.000 of fans that have no interest in the product.
- Targeting in advertising
Advertising in the digital world can be very effective – set the targets, test and measure across various channels. There are numerous options to do that – you can hire a professional, an agency or try to do it yourself. If you do the latter, I recommend that you do some testing first and also, try to get the general idea of what you are trying to achieve. Will you use Facebook ads to boost sales, recognition of the brand, get new fans or gather new leads? How about Google AdWords – want to connect to new markets, increase bookings / conversions…? Be sure to target audiences that are interested in what you have to offer and try to be as time / content / context relevant to the user as you can be.
- Photos and design
Do less if you don’t have the resources, but do it properly. Take / buy good photos and focus on the design, which are the reflection of your brand / property across the digital world. Try to be consistent everywhere – online before, during and after the visit, and also offline during the stay. Produce video content worth sharing – inspiring photos, high quality promotional videos, 360 videos of what you can experience during your stay and virtual reality are hot topics nowadays.
Who’s doing it properly?
There are a lot of brands that are killing it out there, so instead I will rather focus on some innovative campaigns I’ve seen over the years:
Boost of young people for a boring museum, years before Pokemon GO.
Ibiza hotels enables guests to live share their experiences via RFID wristbands
Visit Dubai in 360 promotional video. Here you are.
Heineken departure roulette, awesome stuff.
For more examples feel free to contact me and I’ll happily provide them for you. The key thing to take away from my (first) LinkedIn article is that you must always keep your clients and their experience in mind and be smart about the energy and money you are investing in digital channels. Ask yourself how you’ll benefit from it and what are you ultimately trying to achieve. Make sure you remember these tools are here to attract new customers while helping you achieve your goals.