User generated content (UGC) is generally regarded as the most authentic and influential content by consumers and for the travel industry, its influence is growing.

These findings are backed up by two reports published in 2017 and 2019 by our newest partner, Stackla.   The 2017 report surveyed 2000 consumers across the US, UK and Australia and revealed that an average of 42% of consumers were influenced by consumer generated content when planning travel.  A subsequent report in 2019 surveying 1590 consumers and 150 B2C marketers in the USA, UK and Australia, reveals that this number has increased to 60% and interestingly, the influence of professional brand images has reduced from 23% in 2017 to 19% in 2019.  Additionally, the persuasion of celebrity or influencer content has reduced from 10% to 2%, with 38% of people saying that influencers never impact on their travel purchasing decisions.  This all proves that the influence of brand and influencer content is declining while the impact of user-generated content continues to grow.  

It’s interesting to look at the stages of the travel cycle to identify which types of content are influencing travellers’ decisions.  At the first interest stage, 86% of consumers are influenced by photos posted by friends, family or peers.  At the research stage when visitors are browsing travel, hospitality and destination sites, again user-generated visuals are coming out on top at 59%, compared with 55% for professional images from a destination site.  As far as driving bookings is concerned, the trend continues, with just over half (52%) of the consumers included in the study saying that they’ve made plans to visit a specific destination based on an image or video from friends, family members or peers.  More importantly, they’re not just influenced by this content but they’re perpetuating the cycle by creating their own authentic content to inspire others.  

By looking at both the consumer and marketer sides of the content equation, Stackla’s 2019 survey uncovers the gaps in perception that exist between what consumers want and what marketers believe they’re providing.  At the same time, marketers are struggling to keep up with increasing content demands and are ultimately not delivering experiences that are authentic, relevant or personalized enough for this new generation of consumers. 

Personalised experiences are also a key requirement for today’s traveller.  There’s a disconnect between what marketers believe that they’re delivering and what the consumer is experiencing.

The report found that 92% of marketers believe their brand offers a personalised experience but only 45% of consumers agree that this is the case.

So how easy is it for destinations to obtain UGC?  Stackla’s 2019 report found that 55% of people would grant a brand permission to use an image or video about a recent destination experience and 51% said that they’d be more likely to continue to engage with the brand if their video, photo or social media post was shared across the brand’s marketing media.  

One of the challenges for marketers is sourcing enough engaging content and delivering more visuals at a faster pace across an increasing number of consumer touchpoints.  And of course, there’s the high cost of producing this content too.  

This is where one of our new partners, Stackla comes in.  Stackla’s UGC platform allows destinations to create engaging web experiences, increasing time on site, boosting sharing and lifting conversion rates ie. bookings, downloads etc.

A range of solutions are now available to allow our DMOs to turn their websites into truly engaging social destinations:

  • Widgets – incorporate content-rich galleries in a range of styles (grids, carousels, sliders) into your destination site, all mobile-ready and deployed with a single click
  • Maps – include interactive, real-time, customisable maps displaying your geo-located UGC
  • Competitions – host these on your website to engage and reward your visitors
  • Social Commerce – pinpoint products and articles of interest in visual content, creating a link to shoppable hotspots
  • Direct Upload – allow direct content contributions using full customisable upload forms

And why stop at engaging webpages?  Stackla also enables our DMOs to leverage UGC across digital ads, emails and live event screens.

For one of our clients, Visit Scotland, Stackla has contributed a 34% growth in visitors and helped them to create the world’s first Instagram travel agency.  Read the case study on the Stackla site for more information.  

You can also check out the full version of Stackla’s 2019 report, Bridging the Gap: Consumer & Marketing Perspectives on Content in the Digital Age and attend their upcoming webinar discussing the survey results, The State of Content in the Digital Age: Survey Results.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to harness the power of UGC with Stackla, contact your Account Manager.

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