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Gotta Get Away: Capitalize on an Emerging Travel Need

shutterstock_247816624Before we begin, let’s go over the essential human needs: Food. Shelter. Security. Travel.

Wait. Travel?

That’s right. Over the last several years, travel has gone from being a luxury to a basic human need. At least that’s what was revealed in an April 2016 travel study conducted by Williams Helde. Think of it: a well-educated, fitness loving, healthy-minded and affluent segment with a penchant for discovery and novelty considers travel an authentic need.

For Active Explorers, travel is not optional. Here’s why we know it to be true.

Active Explorers are traveling more than ever. We expected that most had taken two trips in the past year. We were surprised to learn that 49% of Active Explorers took 3-4 trips in the past 12 months. Another 29% had taken 5 or more trips in the past year. That’s a dramatic increase from years past.

They’ve caught the YOLO bug. They consistently expressed their need to see new places and cultures.  “My own need to explore and see new places,” said one respondent, “eating new kinds of food, comes from the knowledge that I might not get the opportunity to do this when I get a desk job and I am stuck paying bills until the day that I die.”

They rank travel among their highest priorities. Consistently, this psychographic prioritizes new experiences over the tried and true. As one person remarked, “I like sampling new foods, visiting new places, relaxing… I want to step out of my life on vacation and try new things.”

So what can all this mean for your brand? Knowing this, travel brands have an opportunity to tap into deeper emotional territory with their messaging, forging a stronger bond that can increase sales.

Travel isn’t a destination. It’s a state of mind. Even as they get off the plane, Active Explorers are constantly in search of the next great adventure. If your brand can help enable that dream, whether that means helping save, plan, pack, or inspire, you have a place on the travel spectrum.

Travel is the celebration of what’s possible. Many Active Explorers use a vacation to try out new versions of themselves: kayaker, salsa dancer, wine enthusiast. It’s not so much about where they go as it is who they can become. If your brand can help maintain Active Explorers live the lives they’ve imagined, through fitness, food, fashion, durable goods, and more, you’ve got a leg up on your competition.

Travel is the art of the new. What part does your brand play in bringing something new to these consumers? Recognizing the explorer aspect of Active Explorers means you may have an opportunity to emphasize “new” in your marketing communications and your brand’s role in the consumer travel experience.

Watch this space. Over time, we’re going to reveal study insights across the travel experience. As we share what we’ve learned, we will include potential implications and thought-starters that can increase sales.

In the meantime, if you have questions about how our study might apply to your brand’s business challenges, give us a call at (206) 285-1940 or email us at SLF@williams-helde.com.

Start from the beginning – Check out the first blog post in our travel series: Insights from your best customers.

Insights from Your Best Customers

Introducing the Active Explorer User Group

shutterstock_402007237As marketers, we spend the bulk of our time finding and communicating with our most loyal, affluent and engaged customers. But what do our consumers really think? Now, you can ask them directly. 

Within the Active Explorer segment, consumers are engaging with brands at a whole new level. Pioneered by Williams Helde Marketing Communications, the Active Explorer User Group is a consumer panel that marketers can use to explore, understand and monetize one of the most valuable and profitable consumer mindsets.

Marc Williams, our President here at Williams Helde, tells the story behind our Active Explorer findings best:

“We discovered a segment of people searching for and aspiring to active, healthy lifestyles was growing like gangbusters. The closer we looked, the more interesting this segment became: they were powerfully brand-loyal, willing to spend more to yield better experiences, and more likely to influence friends. In short, these were the people marketers spend big money to talk to.

So, what’s the Active Explorer User Group all about? The sampling consists of U.S. households earning more than $75,000 annually, with some college education, who buy organic and fresh foods when possible and who work out at least a few times per week. Behaviorally, they are outdoor enthusiasts with pursuits ranging from swimming to hiking, and everything in between.

In April 2016, we turned our Active Explorer research and travel industry observations into a reality. Williams Helde conducted an online survey with our Active Explorer User Group to understand more deeply their motivations for travel, how they plan and book their trips, as well as preferred activities and styles of travel. It’s just one in a series of research studies planned with this consumer panel.

The Active Explorer User Group and YOUR brand

The discoveries we unearthed were exciting, so we’re making the user group available at no charge to select marketers who want to explore, understand and monetize their brand’s relationship with the Active Explorer.

If you’re thinking that Active Explorers aren’t relevant to your brand, we urge you to take a second look. Brands don’t have to be active healthy lifestyle companies. There’s a reason why McDonald’s is retooling menus to include healthy options, why Costco is the number one seller of organic goods in the world and why Gap continues to launch extensive active wear collections. Each of them is making a big push into this demographic – and reaping the rewards.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Active Explorer User Group can be used to grow your brand, please contact us at SLF@williams-helde.com or (206) 285-1940.

Download our Active Explorer guide to learn more about this critical consumer segment.

 

The Perfect Time to Reach Your Customers

As winter drives us inside, it’s easy for anyone, even the most devoted Active Explorer, to lose touch with the rhythms of the outdoors. Cycling to work might become a quick drive, or a hiking trip may be sacrificed for a weekend with central heating and a favorite TV show.

Despite the weather, brands can still communicate with customers who fit this Active Explorer persona: the consumer who relentlessly pursues improvement of both their body and mind.

We know that even when these people are driven indoors, they don’t stop exploring. They’re inquisitive by nature and open to brands that share their values. Some stay indoors and make grand plans for longer days. Some rise to the challenge of harsher conditions, reveling in the adrenaline rush. Even when they look like they’re standing still, they’re thinking about their ski equipment, or poring over maps for their next big trail.


Inspire

The “offseason” is the perfect time to inspire your customers with an idea. During a retailer lull in March of 2015, The North Face launched the “I train for” campaign. It appealed to their loyal core audience: people who live their lives in North Face gear, but it also cast the net wider. It asked people to imagine themselves in the gear and describe who they were and what they do. Inspire your Active Explorer consumers to be imaginative. Help them to catalyze their ideas with your brand identity: become a part of their plans.

Join In

One of the hallmarks of the Active Explorer is their connection to communities of people like them. Not only do you need to inspire them, you need to talk to them where they are. Active Explorer communities, or tribes, are living things; they’re full of people sharing information, recommendations and more—they’re effectively helping each other plan adventures and build goals. Right now, June campsite reservations are going on sale in Washington, and we’ve already got campers trading tips for the best sites. They might be unboxing your products in video reviews or shopping in a brick and mortar location, but your customers are always talking. Find out where these tribes thrive and join the fun.

Create Opportunity

As we know, the Active Explorer audience is willing to pay more for quality – and the Ford Motor Company knows it. They’ve just staked their claim to being the car company for the “Swiss Army Life” – building an automobile that stays with their customers through several life stages, over ten years. Winter is the perfect time for fresh starts, big ideas, and new cars are a big part of those plans. Ford’s being smart by reaching their customers when they have a lot of time to consider their options, and start to align their cars with the values of the Active Explorer.


Everyone’s an Active Explorer when it’s 72˚ and sunny. The trouble is, on those days, everyone’s too busy to hear your message. Take some time this holiday to craft your message to your best customers at the moment they’re most likely to hear it. If you need some pointers, we’ll be sitting by the fire, planning our next trail run. Just give us a call.

If you haven’t read our Guide to the Active Explorer, it makes a great stocking stuffer for your whole marketing team. Click here to order your free copy.

Prepare for Active Explorer Season.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re gearing up for rainy season. Shorts are going away, rainproofing is a priority, and we’re looking for the perfect gear to keep our stuff dry from the storms the North Pacific sends our way.

It’s the perfect time to study the Active Explorer.

Active_Explorers_FieldGuide-1

If you don’t know who the Active Explorer is, you can catch up here. In a nutshell, it’s your most educated and affluent customer, looking to improve their bodies and minds. Active Explorers are seasonal creatures. We love the summer sun, but a little wind and rain isn’t going to keep us off the trail. Our passions are yearlong and nationwide.

Seasons are what keep us grounded. We look forward to the change. We search for fresh apples and fall harvests in the Farmers’ Markets, make a list of hikes that feature fall colors, make sure the tread on our tires can handle a little mud. Our minds are open.

That’s where you come in. When people’s minds are open, you can make a new first impression. Take these three steps to prepare for a whole new customer mindset:

Explore your ecosystem. No matter what you’re selling, you’re not selling in a vacuum. Look at your adjacent products and services to see if they’re offering something you could complement or supplement. For example, if you’re a hardware store, help your Active Explorers find ideas to build a place to store their gear for a long wet winter.

Hiking-Shoes-588x391Get ideas from outside. Take note about how other products and services take advantage of autumn. Automobiles, coffee shops and department stores all have deep-seated reasons to offer new styles, flavors and fashions. If you’re a bank, an insurance agency, or a fast casual restaurant, what could your pumpkin spice be?

Retell your story. If you’re an established business, it may be easy for your customers to forget why they loved you. Every once in a while, you need to remind them. One of our favorite examples is Brooks, a century-old shoe company that decided to focus completely on making the best running shoes in the world. Not only did their customers take another look, but so did everybody else, making them one of the leading specialty running shoe manufacturers in the world.