Yatra is a one-stop-travel-shop that offers a variety of value products and services along with leading-edge technology and dedicated customer support. Over the years, the brand has transformed the travel industry, combining its position in the market as a brand known for its steadfastness and transparency.
Yatra has always been upbeat in their efforts to strive towards brilliance when it comes to executing social media strategies or digital marketing moves. In the current age, where digital media is the need of the hour for any ecommerce brands’ success, Yatra has been one of the early adopters to integrate social media in their marketing assortment. Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) Yatra.com, talks to us about how the brand leverages social media to connect with travel buffs and maximize the reach of their products/services.
With the competition increasing rapidly in the online travel space, how do you plan to ensure your position as one of the top travel agencies in the country? What is your strategy?
Online travel in India is on a path of strong and sustained growth over the next decade. This is driven by increased reach of the internet, rapid growth in smartphone penetration and an inexorable shift towards online travel booking. In the light of this, increased competition is inevitable and we are happy about this as it not only helps accelerate market growth but also keeps us on our toes. The Yatra brand is extremely strong and has very high top of mind salience, which is a key strength.
In addition, we have a very well-developed product portfolio consisting of flights, hotels, holidays, homestays, activities, buses, trains, cabs and cruises. This makes us a one-stop-travel-shop, and travellers don’t need to step outside the brand for any of their travel needs. We have extremely high repeat buying rates driven by an excellent customer experience, and a strong loyalty program in the form of eCash that can be redeemed on future bookings. On the mobile front, we have apps for Android, iOS and windows, and also have a light-weight version, Yatra Mini on the Android platform that is ideal for the value-seeking traveler who wants a light app that works with speed even on a slow internet connection.
How important is social media for your brand?
Social media has become a necessity for any brand given the extent of reach and engagement amongst today’s travellers.
It is a platform that is extremely real time and is the best way for the customer as well as the brand to directly interact with each other. Social media has changed the marketing landscape by opening newer avenues for marketers to reach out to their audiences in a targeted and personalised way.
The exchange of information and experiences allow both the brand and the user to make more informed choices. The customer acquired via social platforms tend to be more loyal and even become advocates for the brand. Also, social media becomes the most organic way to improve a brand’s search engine ranking as people landing on to the website from these pages are typically more engaged and spend more time on the site that is a huge positive from a search marketing point of view.
Define your target audience. How do you engage with your target audience via social media?
Social media not only gives consumer insights, but also help customers feel a personal connect with the brand.
And for the very same reason, brands are conducting polls, encouraging customer feedback and addressing customer grievances through these platforms. Brands are churning out content that is important through these platforms as they have vast reach, and the reactions to any content or activity on such platforms are instant and the resultare quantifiable. In fact, we at Yatra released an ad about the web check-in app and the kind of reactions we got were overwhelming. The ad became so popular that it went viral within hours and trended continuously on Facebook for 2 days.
How do you plan your content for social media?
Youngsters are turning out to be an important demographic as they take frequent trips with friends or go solo. They are more attracted by budget accommodation options and differential experiences as opposed to a family or a group traveler. Hence, in all our communication to the youth, we try to focus on these and also keep our creatives more funky and colorful; while for the older demographic we focus more on luxury and family getaways with imagery that is more about great times bonding as a family.
Tell us about your top three digital marketing campaigns of 2016.
Our most successful digital campaign has been the one we did to launch our web check-in app. We were looking at a digital ad and the idea was to go ahead with a current topical issue, which is where the angle of ‘Azaadi’ fits in. We were in no way advocating any particular issue or a person through the advertisement. Our focus through the ad was to showcase the new product in a humorous and fun manner, something that will stay with the viewer even after the ad finishes. The campaign garnered over 5 million views within a couple of days, and was the most talked about topic on social media.
What content marketing strategies helped you get maximum footfall this year?
By switching to native ads and increasing the number of blog post on social, we saw tremendous increase in our website traffic.
How did you get your first 1000 customers?
Our repeat rates were spectacular from Day 1 as we focused on the customer experience in a big way that drove some very positive word-of-mouth. That along with some internet advertising (search marketing ads) was responsible for us acquiring our first 1000 customers, which we were able to achieve within the first fortnight of launching in August 2006.
Describe a usual day in your life.
My day usually starts around 6.00 am when I go for my morning run or golf. I call it my meditation as it not only keeps me fit, but also clears my head and helps me chart out an agenda for what I want to accomplish that day. Once I reach office around 9 am, I usually catch up with the business team to review where we are and discuss the way-forward from a target perspective. Lot of brainstorming activity, passionate debates and important decision making are an integral part of these conversations. Next I focus on the product and how can we further improve the same. Priorities are then sorted and the plan is put to action. Before I know it, the day is done and I am on my way home. I eat dinner early by around 7.30 pm and then I like to spend some time with my kids to know about their day and, if required, I help them with their school work. I like to read a bit before I sleep, and my reading is typically non-fiction.
What is the recipe of creating great digital media campaigns?
Before developing any media campaign, one should be clear on the target market and should have done a thorough competitor analysis. Once these are clearly identified a clear communication strategy needs to be charted out keeping in mind how to connect with the customers and at the same time being able to differentiate your brand from the competition. A targeted search engine optimization strategy should be in place along with a deep understanding of your brand assets. Finally, the campaign objective and success parameters should be set well in advance. Marketing is generally associated with only the creative stuff, however, by putting research, analysis and strategy behind any campaign, one can create a very successful digital campaign.
How has the way Indians travel changed?
The travel Industry has come a long way over the past decade with the inception of the new-age, well-informed travelers. Indians have drastically changed the way of travelling/holidaying, and are now looking to take breaks more often with people planning holidays up to 2-3 times in a year. The trend of taking frequent breaks on long weekends has been growing over the past few years as people look for a quick, short respite from the hustle-bustle of their hectic lives. Indians have also become keener on visiting new and unexplored destinations every time they travel.
Destinations such as Cambodia, Fiji, Vietnam, Seychelles are becoming very popular. Holidaying internationally now has become more affordable with OTAs such as Yatra showcasing great deals, and packages for various international destinations. Savvy Indian travellers book well in advance these days and hence, are confident about getting good deals within their budget.
We have also seen adoption of mobile as a new booking platform for travel and in fact more than 40 percent of our bookings come via mobile. The drop, in oil prices have resulted in lower flight prices and a plethora of hotel deals and budget accommodation options has also helped in driving down the overall cost of an international break. This has led to an emerging trend of budget travellers, which means more and more people including the youth are now willing to take holidays. Also, new demographics of people are looking at various reasons for travel and thus niche areas like yoga tourism, religious tourism, wildlife tourism, reunion tourism, sports tourism, and etcetera are on the rise. Going forward, the Indian traveller will increasingly start looking for unique experiences that reflect his/her personal taste and individuality.