As the UK’s #1 specialist tour operator to China & Japan, Wendy Wu Tours offer a wide variety of award-winning, fully inclusive tours to Asia — taking care of everything from your flights and accommodations to meals and guided tours.
“We’re well-known in the industry, offering tours to over 20 destinations across China, India, Japan, Southeast Asia and South America,” said Jeremy Barber, Digital Marketing Manager at Wendy Wu UK Tours, “but we’re best known among people 50+ who are looking to travel to Asia.”
While their core customers did their travel research online, when it came time to book their trips, they preferred to talk to Wendy Wu’s agents. Jeremy said, “Ultimately, people call us to book their trips. They like being able to chat with our travel specialists and ask questions. Because our customers were already reaching out to us directly, we never felt the pressure to become an online booking company.”
Although their core customers weren’t Millennials, Wendy Wu realized last year that their newest customers over 50 were more accustomed to booking their travel online. “To continue growing and providing the best service to our customers, we began offering online booking and started to invest more heavily in digital engagement.”
With a new focus on building up their digital brand, Jeremy knew they’d have to find unique ways to set themselves apart.
“Since we’re a luxury brand that’s known for exceptional service, we needed to find a way to have that premium experience reflected on our digital properties. We had to ask, ‘How can we make ourselves different and truly inspire people?”
Creating A Digital Destination for Travel Inspiration
“Traditionally, everything we featured on our website was very tactical — mostly highlighting tour offers,” Jeremy said. “Going forward, we wanted the focus to be more balanced, offering inspiration to people as they researched trips.”
To pull this off, Jeremy wanted to shine a spotlight on authentic customer visuals.
“We already feature written TripAdvisor reviews on our site, but I thought we could reach people faster and in a more impactful way by focusing on the stories our customers were telling with their pictures, as opposed to with their words.”
Like most travel brands, the images on Wendy Wu’s site were predominantly stock photos of their various tour destinations. But, according to Jeremy, “people tend to be overloaded with these beautifully staged, generic images and they never look real compared to the photos our customers were taking on our trips.”
”We want to make people dream but also want to show them something that looks real.”Jeremy Barber, Digital Marketing Manager at Wendy Wu UK Tours
When they started searching for a platform to help them curate their customers’ travel images, Jeremy knew what they needed: “a platform that would allow us to get pictures and videos from multiple social networks, then be able to select which pieces of content we wanted to publish and commercialize them — inspiring our site visitors while also linking them to our destination and tour booking pages.”
Beyond meeting all of Wendy Wu’s technical requirements, Stackla’s team of marketing experts helped them formulate a UGC web strategy.
“Compared to the other platforms we were evaluating, Stackla’s technology was solid and their team brought great ideas and feedback to the table.”
Wanting to get up and running quickly, the first stage of Wendy Wu’s UGC strategy was building an inspiration wall to showcase the adventures their travelers were having on their tours.
“We wanted to deliver on the promise of UGC as soon as possible. Stackla’s team helped us build our interactive, UGC inspiration webpage within 2 weeks of us signing on. People loved it! They were amazed at how visually engaging it was.”
Featuring authentic traveler images and videos from all of their 125 tours, Wendy Wu’s inspiration wall landing page provides site visitors with real social proof and aids in their research by allowing them to filter the visual content by the destinations they’re most interested in.
To ensure their inspiration wall is an ever-changing gallery of UGC, Wendy Wu uses their social channels to encourage customers to share photos from their travels. “We organize small competitions to keep the engagement going,” Jeremy shared. “We choose and promote a ‘best picture of the week’ and offer small giveaways on a monthly basis: tickets to an exhibition or a tour voucher.”
Since not all of their customers are active on social media, Wendy Wu uses Stackla’s GoConnect form to offer site visitors an easy way to upload their pictures directly to their site.
“It’s a challenge,” Jeremy said, “because not all of our customers use social media and some don’t know how to transfer pictures from their phones or digital cameras to the internet. It requires a bit of education, but we still manage to get people to submit their photos. Being able to provide people with a direct image upload option has really helped.”
Putting Social Proof on the Map
The second phase of their UGC strategy involved the launch of interactive, visual maps across all of their destination pages.
“Sometimes when people look through a list of destinations,” Jeremy explained, “they have no idea where those places actually are on the map. So we decided to use Stackla’s UGC map visualizations to help provide visitors with that added geographical context as well as engaging social proof.”
Each of Wendy Wu’s 20 tour destination pages now features interactive UGC maps containing at least 25 authentic traveler images to help people visualize being there themselves.
Since the destination pages are a crucial stop on the path to purchase for bookings, Wendy Wu has also leveraged Stackla’s product tags to make the UGC on their inspiration wall actionable — linking visitors directly from an individual image to its appropriate destination page.
“It’s hard to understate the importance of grabbing people at the moment of inspiration. Stackla let’s us link customer photos and videos from our inspiration wall directly to our destination pages, effectively putting them on the path to purchase.”
Although they’ve only just launched the first two phases of their UGC strategy, it’s already playing a key role in their overall digital transformation.
“The first real success was when people started posting their pictures and taking the time to add comments to them on social networks, like Facebook. We’ve already seen a 1,200% increase in customer photo submissions.”
And the best part? One person only spends 15-20 mins per day moderating content.
“Being able to have a visual gallery where you don’t have to upload anything has been something completely different for us and everyone across the business has been really impressed.”
Hoping to build upon the success of their initial UGC activations, the next phases of Wendy Wu’s UGC rollout entail the launch of UGC email campaigns, linking inspirational UGC directly to their tour booking pages and UGC-powered Facebook ads.
“We’re working on a monthly email that will feature the latest traveler photos for future travel inspiration, as well as an automated email campaign that goes out to everyone just as they’re getting back from a trip — encouraging them to share their memories. We’ve already tested the email plugin by integrating the widget with one of our email templates and it was very easy and straightforward,” said Jeremy. “We’re looking forward to integrating Stackla’s widgets into all our email templates.”
To ensure the user-generated visuals are contributing to their bottomline — from the top of the funnel down — Wendy Wu is also looking forward to driving Facebook ad conversions and further shortening the path to purchase with UGC on their tour pages.
“People see our tours but they don’t fully understand that everything part of their experience — from the meals to the guides — is run by us, not partners and contractors. This knowledge can make a difference to people looking for a more end-to-end experience. UGC helps us demonstrate that in a unique and genuine way.”