Selling Scotland in a Digital Word

29 March 2016


So you will be aware that I went to the Scottish Tourism conference two weeks ago and I'm writing a couple of posts about what was talked about, two posts a week.

Reflection and the Future for Scottish Tourism

Malcolm Roughead is the Chief Exec. of Visit Scotland, and he started this segment off by giving a brief overview of the work Visit Scotland do with marketing Scotland, before going on to introduce his "co-speakers" who I will shortly introduce to you as well.


The overnight spend in Scotland is currently £5billion, and there is a 34% GVA (Gross Value Added). But how do we make ourselves more competitive in a global market? The answer comes back to VAT, Quality Assurance and APD (Air Passenger Duty.)

There is currently £13billion being invested in Scotland, and £16million is gone into the National Museum of Scotland, however big 'game changers' such as the VMAs that happened in Glasgow come around only every so often - which brings us back to the fact that we can't continue to rely on major events such as the Commonwealth games, and instead continue this investment into the assets we already have as a country. And we have a lot.

According to the visitor survey; 64% of visits were booked online, there was 50% mobile penetration, 85% used Google to plan a trip and 47% used From this, Roughead went on to say that 70% of businesses can't convert 1.2% referrals into sales - which needs to be adressed. What this means is that not all businesses are able to make their websites mobile friendly, or don't consider exactly what needs the visitor requires while they are making their bookings, and as such are losing out on vital sales.

He started to talk about 'demystifying digital' - using the following criteria; Channels, Content and Conversion. Digital is not difficult, he said (to which I agree), it is just a different channel which needs "a different touch". To follow on from his "C" example for the criteria above, he gave the "5Cs of Digital"
- Connectivity
- Capacity

- Content
- Capability
- Collaboration

Anna Watkins - Guardian
Cathy Craig - Abellio Scotrail
Graeme MacFarlane - Calmac
Visit Scotland

The content must be dynamic, inspiring and relevent. For capability it requires different skills (such as SEO - Search Engine Optimisation), but it has to be relevant to the audience. Finally, collaboration is again vitally important. He explained that Visit Scotland are working with Scotland.

He talked about the importance of film, the ScotSpirit video had 600,000 views before it even officially launched the campaign but that idea is to turn 'likes' into referrals. He went on to say that we must collaborate. Visit Scotland have partnered with experts, Scottish brands to take a challenge, and the industry. Collaboration is vital for the success of the tourism industry, to summarise, because we are all impacted by tourism, either directly or indirectly, and is an industry that is heavily dependent on the human aspect, and must be sustained.

Terri Scriven - Google.

I loved Terri's talk a lot. She talked about how we all live online, and we live in many moments. We look at our mobile 150 times a day, but we have to dive deeper into our target audience to understand the signals that they leave; a collection of "passion points" - ie what people are searching for.

There are different ways to collect passion points; Google, Youtube, Websites, Social Sites and Digital Advertisements are all examples. She said we need to understand the signals so that we can deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Then we have to align the findings.

Discovery and awareness of the product -> consideration of it -> response and data capture (the signals that have been left) which gets turned into the above response (right message at the right time) which therefore increases spend.

She talked about Google - people look for travel information at every stage of the booking process; from ideas to accommodation to ideas of where they should visit. These are all presented on Youtube, and are widely watched. In fact, she said there is a huge reach, with even 81% of ages 55+ using the site at least once a month. She said that in the USA, 106 million people watch Youtube and 24 million use it when they are simply thinking about a destination, with 13 million using the site when they are deciding to book.

To summarise her points, she said that 3 in 5 people use online as a point of access, which is nearly a half of all people. She stated that we shouldn't use just think of the customer as one type, but that they are different, and again we should look at the passion points they leave behind. An idea that Google has had is to use information such as 'holiday in Scotland' as a search which will give images and prices to help visitors earlier on in their journey booking.

Watkins again talked about the importance of building partnerships, and her talk was also one I found really interesting. She talked about how they always look for multiplatform partnerships - but that print was not dead! She talked about the need to edit and amend assets in order to push them across the web - such as making sure the article looks just as good on a mobile as an iPad and desktop. To measure the success they gain from this, they use the data but name the audience such as "Cultural Foodies" which helps the with relevant targeting. She talked about how when an advert has been targeted to a specific group, there was a 20% recall of the brand and of engagement.

She talked about mobile platforms growing in useage, and about how there is a rise to 70% when there is major new. For this reason, articles must be previewed as if they are being published on mobile before they are finally published.

She talked about how there are 250 million data events, and that they have to delve into hat the audience are consuming so that they can target what will work for that specific audience - which links into what Scriven was saying about passion points. She talked about how there is no delay in the data, as the data is live then noted that both data and mobile are vital; "built on the holy trinity; Content, Tech, Data".

She also talked about how they publish on and off platforms - ie they publish on social media (Facebook for instance) as well as their website. She talked about how "marketing is a science" and a few of the important things are:

- Purposeful brand

- Improve audience data
- Mobile First
Abellio are inspiring journeys. They aim to get people from A - B safely, but to also inspire people to travel from A - B. Craig talked about the 'one map that changed the world' which was the Underground in London (1933) because it simplified the route to travellers. However, she walked about how the simplification has now discouraged travellers, and that now it's lost it's spark. The new idea is to tell the story of Scotland as a country.

The dilemma they are currently facing is the myriad of ticketing, multiple interconnections for customers and digital + non digital. The plan is to make things simpler; have one product, ie a ticket, for rail, air, hopefully coach and so on. The hope is that this will inspire visitors to come.
Following on from Craig, MacFarlane then talked about how everything is about the experience, and that customers want authenticity; the rich cultural heritage and world renowned people.

He talked about how having a tangible product will overcome the barriers customers faced, much like Craig was talking about: one product, one cost, no multitickets.

Again he talked about "true collaboration" in the industry is vital, and is why Calmac have partnered with Abellio to make this 'one ticket' a reality. He talked about the business perspective;
- raise awareness of the rejuvenated product
- educate the potential visitors about how easy it is to use
- encourage people to explore more - ie around Scotland rather than just the Central belt
- Promote sustainable tourism which is also easily accessible.

There was talk about further collaborations and media outreach; radio, facebook, email and blogger outreach (hello, there if you are reading this!) It was talked about how traditional marketing (radio, tv, print) provide the context to customers, but social media will inspire them.

Visit Scotland actually have this brand new product launching very soon which I love the idea of, but I'm not sure how much I can say about it. Put it this way, imagine having a website where all your travel plans are in one place and you can also plan your trip using that same website? I LOVE IT SO MUCH! Watch this space, I'll talk more about it at another point in time!

To summarise the points that were made; it's all about the experience, authenticity, Strong and Innovative travel, balanced and proven media, and collaboration.

They must keep innovating and changing products in order to entice visitors, and the new product being launched very soon is a really great way of achieving that. This goes also for Abellio's single ticket, and Google+Guardian's points about how passion points help us to understand the customer. The talk was finished by saying "this is just the start of a new marketing approach".

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

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