We all know that reviews, recommendations and ratings can be highly influential on buying behaviour.
And, in a market as experiential as travel, consumers often look to others for inspiration and advice before booking.
Social proof can help to legitimise your brand and gain consumer trust and confidence.
But what exactly is social proof, and how can you use it to increase the bookings of your tour operator?
Read on to find out.
What is social proof?
Social proof is a term that was coined by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: Science and Practice.
Wikipedia defines social proof as “a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation.”
Humans are social creatures; whether consciously or subconsciously, we are heavily influenced by the choices of people around us.
To put it simply, in situations where we are unsure of what to do, we are likely to follow the behaviour of others.
According to Optimizely, within a marketing context, social proof is the evidence that other people have found value in a company’s product or service. Whether it’s reading reviews or asking friends or family for recommendations, consumers value the opinions of others.
How can social proof boost travel bookings?
Within travel marketing, social proof is a very powerful tool. The tourism market is both highly competitive and highly experiential, and for consumers it can be overwhelming to choose between the vast array of tours and trips on offer.
And, as we discussed in 5 ways to boost your online travel booking conversion rates, one of the biggest challenges facing online travel brands is high cart abandonment. Today’s consumer is highly independent, and is likely to check various sources and shop around before making a purchase. Booking a trip can be a complex emotional and financial decision, and customers need to have confidence in a company in order to complete a booking with them.
This is even more important in our current climate. Although consumers are eager to travel, brands need to find ways to gain back consumer trust.
This is where social proof comes in.
Social proof helps to legitimise your brand, build trust and confidence and offer reassurance, ultimately increasing bookings and conversion rates.
Many factors come into play when booking travel, and travellers often look at the overall experience on offer rather than deals or promotions.
Social proof can back up the claims you make in other aspects of your marketing strategy by showing authentic customer experiences. More on tour operator marketing here.
Types of social proof
There are various types of social proof that can be used to legitimise your brand and boost bookings.
Some examples of social proof include:
- Reviews, testimonials & ratings
- User-generated content
- Certifications & awards
- Word of mouth
Social proof can come from previous or current customers, celebrities and influencers, certifications, experts and other influential parties such as media outlets and industry organisations.
How to use social proof in our Tour Operator?
Social proof can be used in many different ways. Here are just some of the ways that travel brands can utilise it:
- Reviews, testimonials and ratings
Reviews and testimonials are some of the most influential factors when it comes to customer decision making. 79% of consumers report trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family, and 94% of consumers report that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
Reviews are reliable and unbiased, providing an authentic view of both the positive and negative aspects of customers’ experiences.
For travel brands, it is a good idea to compile, summarise and display customer reviews from trusted websites such as TripAdvisor, Google and Trustpilot on your own website, highlighting key points and insights.
Reviews and ratings are also an excellent way to show potential customers a quick snapshot of your offerings and help them to compare. Users of Nezasa’s TripBuilder software can benefit from a partnership with TrustYou, with verified hotel ratings being displayed throughout the accommodation search.
- Live booking and visitor numbers
Travel brands can use pop-ups, widgets or notifications to let shoppers know live booking and website visitor numbers as well as to show limited spots or when tour packages are almost sold out.
For example, notifications such as ‘just booked’ or ‘only 1 spot left’ create FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and a sense of urgency and scarcity, increasing the likelihood of customers who are browsing to make their booking there and then.
- User-generated content
Social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools for travel companies. User-generated content such as photos and videos from your customers can be curated and reposted on your brand’s account.
Research has shown that 55% of travellers like social media pages related to trips they are planning, and 86% of consumers stated that they became interested in a destination after seeing user-generated content on social media platforms.
Another way to use social proof is through endorsements by celebrities, influencers or experts. 37% of consumers trust social media influencers over companies themselves, and through using credible sources such as industry experts brands can convey authority.
This can create the so-called ‘halo effect’, which Forbes explains as “the idea that if there is someone a consumer likes, even if it is one aspect of this person, a consumer may unconsciously base assumptions on their other attributes and/or the reliability of the products they use even if unrelated.”
- Certifications and awards
Travel is a heavily regulated market, and being an accredited member of industry organisations or associations can go a long way when showing potential customers your credibility. Be sure to promote these affiliations on your website by displaying logos, as well as displaying certifications such as awards and media mentions.
How not to use social proof
The power of social proof is its authenticity. Although social proof is a marketing tactic, it is important to ensure that it is genuine and doesn’t come across as forced.
Consumers value transparency, and can see through fake reviews or testimonials. Be sure to only include real social proof in order to truly gain and retain the trust of your customers.
When it comes to reviews, one of the worst things a brand can do is to ignore negative comments. Let’s face it, no one is perfect. However great your tours are, there will always be some negative experiences. The key to turning this around is by responding to and taking these reviews into consideration, which in itself can build trust.
Another mistake when it comes to social proof is assuming that customers will leave reviews or post content about your tours without being asked. Actively encourage and incentivise this in order to make customers feel like their opinions are valued.
Examples of social proof in the Travel Industry
Some great examples of social proof from users of Nezasa’s Tripbuilder software:
Smeraldo Tours communicating their number of happy customers.
Kuoni showcasing their numerous awards from renowned travel companies.
Viamonda displaying their Trustpilot rating.
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