The fun of going on a holiday already starts when browsing the web, looking for great deals. It usually costs quite a bit of time because of the unfamiliarity with the destination. Suppliers understand that. They anticipate on this by providing information about attractive destinations, convenient transportation and affordable accommodations. These are the ingredients to generate and increase the desire (to book a holiday). But how do they entice consumers online? How do they remove the uncertainties? And what role can ‘Cialdini’s weapons of influence’ play?
Cialdini’s 6 Secrets
Cialdini is a professor of psychology at the Arizona State University. His research focuses on influencing and persuading consumers.
The six secrets of "Principles of Persuasion" (POPs) are:
2. Commitment and consistency
3. Social confirmation
How can we use these secrets to seduce an online consumer to book a trip?
With this principle Cialdini refers to a cultural rule that people like to return a favour. If someone has done you a favour, you're more inclined to help this person the next time. This is an extremely powerful mechanism that even applies to unsolicited favours and is a stimulus for unequal exchange.
But how can the travel industry use this behaviour?
Those who want to travel, need information about the often still unknown destination. Traditionally this information is freely available in newsletters, brochures and in travel guides. With the introduction of social media, there are many more online features added.
Here at Europe Lives for example, we offer our (potential) customers a free e-Book about the 2012 Public Holidays in Europe. This helps them with their holiday planning.
There are also many free apps for smart phones and tablets to guide you while on your destination. In the App Store, in the category "travel" you can find popular apps like Google Earth and WiFi finder (useful to avoid sky-high roaming charges).
The popular free app from Booking.com also fulfills the need for information about one’s destination. You’ll get a quick overview of a large number of hotels you can book through Booking.com. The review site Tripadvisor has an app that offers (based on your location) many accommodation and restaurant reviews in your area. The ‘return a favour‘ principle stimulates people to also write a review.
One of the best Airport apps, GateGuru keeps you informed about the actual departure and arrival times. But the app also provides information about other facilities and offers about many airports worldwide. The free provision of useful information, lowers the threshold to use these facilities and offers.
2. Commitment and consistency
When we change our behavior for a reason that is not influenced by external pressure, according to Cialdini, we do so with conviction and with long-term loyalty. This is an interesting fact for marketers. This principle explains that this behavior is not only linked to a first activity, but will also have an impact on similar activities. In order to utilize this mechanism, it is important to get an initial commitment, before a following step-by-step commitment to grow with consumers.
One example is to have consumers ‘like’ a company’s Facebook Page. Through a Facebook page are many ways to engage with consumers. E.g: you can have them sign up for a newsletter, leave feedback on images or videos or have them participate in contests. On KLM’s Facebook page, you can daydream about the many beautiful destinations in the iFly magazine and under the heading ‘bright Ideas’ fans can leave their opinion and ideas.
Companies can also create commitment by using a loyalty program. Estonian Air has a unique feature in its loyalty program, by not only awarding points for flying, but also when you promote the airline. In this way you not only bind your consumers to you, but you also turn them into ambassadors. And that brings us to Caldini’s third secret …
3. Social Proof
The popularity of social media confirms that consumers value other’s opinions. The phase in the decision making process plays a role. Those who are uncertain, according to Cialdini, are looking for more confirmation before making a decision. Before booking a trip, there are many unknown factors. This explains the popularity of the review sites. More than half of all consumers first check out online reviews, blogs and other consumer information before they book their trip.
In addition, people tend to value the advice of like minded. For this reason, review sites like Tripadvisor and Zoover have built applications like “Cities I've visited”, where the reviews of your Facebook friends become visible.
An ING analysis shows that the travel industry’s advisory role is increasingly taken over by consumers themselves. On many different Tripadvisor forums, consumers are informed by other consumers who share their experiences with them. The most active forums are those with destination information. The questions are numerous and are mostly answered quickly by other consumers.
People prefer to say ‘yes’ to people they know and for whom they feel sympathy. One of the characteristics that influences sympathy is physical attractiveness. What people find physically attractive varies by person. That is one of the reasons that the Dutch tour operator 'Elizawashere' doesn’t show virtual Eliza on its site. However, her legs are just visible. This allows everyone to form their own fantasy.
Brands can also create sympathy by associating brand features with a particular person. In Jung's archetype model , that is based on four drives, Disney is perceived as 'innocent', with the innocent and optimistic feelings.
For a very long time, the travel agent and tour operator were seen as the authority in travel. According to Cialdini, authority is linked to the following aspects of trust in people:
- being an expert
- being independent
- not act in self interest, but standing up for consumers
- being higher in the hierarchy (rank, title, status, clothing, income, education, etc.).
Today, consumers have more confidence in the independence of other consumers than in the travel advisor. The question is, whether this confidence is justified. It is for example not always clear who wrote the reviews. What are the intentions and backgrounds of the authors? Individual companies have an interest in promoting positive reviews and to avoid the negative reviews. There are also reports of hoteliers that reward positive guest reviews. 'Foul play' is of course unavoidable: there may be fictitious or false negative reviews posted, to put a competitor in the wrong place.
But as previously mentioned, the rise of reviews is unstoppable. And information put forward by consumers also increases position in Google’s rankings. The only way to welcome consumer’s opinions, is to offer good quality, so the company can be transparent.
Cialdini’s last secret is related to scarcity. People attach more value to things that are hard to get, like a limited number of available seats or a temporary offer. A time limit also creates action. Think of Groupon’s clock, indicating how much time is left until the offer expires.
Communities like ‘Jetsetter’ or ‘Travel Membership Club’, with specific deals for members also speak to the imagination. The exclusivity principle applies here. Consumers will only have access to the offer when they sign up as members of the community.
Cialdini's "secrets" will help companies to seduce consumers to book a trip with them. It is important to stimulate consumers right from the start of their 'Customer Journey' so that they will share their experiences with other consumers.
Furthermore, it is important to build a long-term customer relationship. The 6 ‘weapons of influence’ can be used as follows:
- Initially offer (almost) free inspiration and useful services (reciprocity)
- By interacting with the consumer, build step-by-step commitment
- Offer customers incentives, for them to become an ambassador (social proof)
- Gain authority through transparency
Generate the feeling of scarcity by giving people the idea that they belong to a select group or can take advantage of a limited service.
All these points will contribute to optimize the Customer Journey, and thus to an almost irresistible temptation for consumers.
Author: Dirk Terpstra, co-owner Europe Lives Travel Ltd.
Source: The science of persuasion, by Cialdini, R. B. (2001)