How to Use Social Media to Engage Customers at Every Stage of the New Consumer Decision Journey

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism and Hospitality, University of South Carolina | June 30, 2013

The Internet and the use of social media have fundamentally changed the consumer decision process. In the past, marketers worked on the assumption that consumers started with a large number of potential brands in mind and methodically narrowed their choices until they had decided which one to buy. After purchase, consumer relationships with the brand typically focused on the use of the product or service itself. This traditional purchase funnel is depicted in Figure 1.

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McKinsey etal(1) have introduced a more nuanced view of how consumers engage with brands (see Figure 2). They developed their model from a study of the purchase decisions of nearly 20, 000 consumers across five industries and three continents. Their research revealed that rather than systematically narrowing their choices until they had decided what to buy, consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation stage.

After purchase, they often enter into an open-ended relationship with the brand, sharing their experience with it online through social media. The four stages of the consumer decision journey are: 1) consider; 2) evaluate; 3) buy; and 4) enjoy, advocate and bond. This article applies the new model to the tourism and hospitality sector, and shows how some marketers are using social media to engage with consumers at every step of this consumer decision journey.

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(based on Court et al. 2009)

Stage 1: Consider

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.