It’s now been 46 years since Lonely Planet disrupted travel publishing with a fresh take on travel content that redefined the category. Today, after selling more than 100 million books and reaching more on digital channels, the brand continues to evolve.
I recently asked Lonely Planet CEO and president, Luis Cabrera, to let us know how he sees the brand moving forward.
Paul Talbot: How is the Lonely Planet target market defined in your marketing strategy?
Luis Cabrera: We like to think about our target market based on their travel need-state rather than specific demographics. This approach also helps us problem-solve ahead of time and enrich people’s travel experience at any point in their journey.
We are constantly adjusting our offering and products to reflect this intent. We have identified growth opportunities around specific interests like adventure-seeking, food, wellness, sustainable travel and families and much of our content appeals to those audiences, but we also continue striving to satisfy the curiosity of specific niche interests like astrotourism and voluntourism.
Talbot: How do you make sure your understanding of the target market’s needs and interests remains as informed and accurate as possible?
Cabrera: We do this in many ways. We recognize how vital it is to listen to consumer feedback. And we do this both for our print products and our digital businesses.
Since our earliest days, we have had a dedicated team passing useful feedback on to all of our product teams and we frequently survey travelers around the world to make sure our products stay relevant and in high esteem. We also perform ethnographic studies to deeply understand the frictions and unmet needs of travelers.
These initiatives help us set our strategic direction and we use a combination of in-house talent and expert agencies to make sure we push ourselves out of our comfort zone and leverage best practices from other industries.
We have also decided to double down our investments and attention to social media.
Without a doubt, travel and social media are intrinsically related. We now do active continuous listening on multiple channels and constantly engage in conversations.
Every month, we have millions of visitors in our forums and closed groups where travelers explicitly declare their interests, opinions and engage in very deep and meaningful conversations. With contributors in every corner of the globe, we also make the most of a 24/7 stream of information and updates about anywhere travelers are going and what is important to them.
We have also recently invested in new personalization technology so that we can understand our customers not just as a market but as individuals.
Because travel is so personal and no two travelers are the same, it’s important that we pair insights about market trends with more granular consumer data so that we can offer the most meaningful experience possible to consumers.
We also monitor closely the trends and travelers’ interests using an array of tools and third-party research. This helps us stay on course and assess if we need to make adjustments to our strategy and understand what’s getting people enthused about travel.
As a result, we have been able to maintain the substance behind our ‘we know because we go’ mantra and stay relevant as a trusted travel companion.
Talbot: What do you do to provide the best possible user experience and make sure your digital platforms are meeting users’ needs?
Cabrera: This is an always-on and never-ending activity. More often than not, it involves working on things that travelers don’t see, like our new content management system (CMS) and reorganizing our development teams in pods around products and features and instilling new ways of working.
We’ve increased the use of data and analytics to understand what users are looking for and where we can do a better job to assist them. We also run A/B tests and frequently recruit panels of users to test new designs and changes to our products. We closely monitor KPIs such as bounce rate, time spent and total visits, and we analyze and reflect on them based on specific user journeys.