Digital Benchmarking – the essential first step to a digital strategy

First published on February 1, 2016
Last updated on May 23, 2023
In this blog, we explain digital benchmarking and the steps to digital success. These steps include benchmarking, different forms of measurement and how to bring it all together. Ideally suited for both Destination Marketing Organisations and individuals alike.

Don’t jump to conclusions with your digital strategy

At Tourism Tribe we regularly receive requests to develop and review digital strategies for destination marketing organisations (DMOs) and tourism operators alike and we’re thrilled with that.  As digital marketing experts in the tourism industry, we get a real buzz hearing from people who want to keep improving their digital footprint.

However, sometimes, we say “no thank you, we’d rather first do your digital benchmarking because it’s more important”.

Why digital benchmarking?

The often held belief by business owners and marketers that a digital strategy is going to take you from A to Z is flawed.  It is true that you can bring in a digital marketing expert to review your website structure, content, SEO, online marketing; have a look at your social media platforms and make recommendations to build into a 12 month plan.  However, the plan may not yield the results you’re seeking unless you look at the whole picture that your digital strategy operates in and understand the capabilities in that digital landscape.

Don’t jump to solutions

The reason we say no to jumping straight into a digital plan is that we want to actually look at what assets you have to work with and understand the lay of the land. We call this reviewing your digital footprint.
We’ve learned the importance of taking an objective measure of where you are now before embarking on writing recommendations for improvement.
You’ve heard it before, the basis of strategy development is to understand:
  • you are now; before
  • identifying where you want to get to; followed by developing the plan on
  • how you’re going to get there

There is more than one dimension to evaluating a destination’s digital footprint.  We look at their footprint through three lenses from which we then synthesise the data and insights to form a total impression to be able to say here are the strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to their online customers’ requirements and technology trends.

#1 Measure your destination footprint

The first step in the measurement process is to generate a map of your digital eco-system, including key players in your destination, as well as your distribution partners.  You can then undertake an objective, data based measure of their online presence to give a collective view of how your customers can and cannot engage with information and products during their travel purchase cycle and how they compare to best practice case studies.
Digital benchmark
Benchmarked online presence of key players in destination

#2 Measure your online presence

Secondly you need an objective review of your organisation’s online presence.  This is where the performance of your website and social media platforms is undertaken, but it is done relative to your role in the distribution system.  Considerations include what are your core roles in distribution, where do you add the most value and therefore, where should you be placing most of your effort in the different stages of the travel purchase cycle?

1st graph

#3 Measure your people capability

Thirdly and arguably the most important component of being able to implement your vision for the future is to measure the digital capability of key players and staff.  This is done through an online survey, the Digital Check-up (Copyright Digital Coaching International). Whilst it’s not 100% objective because the user is measuring their own knowledge and online activities, when married with the other data sources the results provide to form a validated picture of the digital capability of the destination online.  It also provides a tangible mechanism to engage key players in the project of renewing your digital strategy and to get them excited and on board early.

Three dimensions to measure your digital footprint
Three dimensions to measure your digital footprint

Bringing it all together

When you bring together the results and insights from a 3-way review of your destination’s performance online, you can then have some thoughtful conversations in your business and with your local stakeholders about where you should be striving to get to in your digital strategy and the implementation plan to get you there.
Of course that implementation plan will end up multi-dimensional as a result of a comprehensive benchmarking exercise, but it’s better that you find out what you don’t know and have a long list of activities that you can prioritise in your digital plan, rather than a narrow list of actions that will only give limited benefit if not supported by complementary strategies.
Some examples of that that you may be able to relate are:
  • the RTO invests in a new website and an active content plan, but doesn’t have their website optimised for search and is wondering why traffic to the new website has remained low since launch…get your digital co-ordinator trained in SEO for your content management system or bring in the SEO guru
  • the local council invests in an online booking facility for their website, but doesn’t appreciate the relevant distribution partners they need to be working with a distribution strategy needs to be
  • the business operator is spending time posting on Facebook and Instagram, but not aware of the RTO’s social media campaigns or the array of local, State and national hashtags they could be applying to increase their return on investment something that a local education program could have addressed

If you’d like to know more about how we help others to take the first step in developing a stronger, more impactful and measurable digital footprint,  contact me at or find me on Tourism Tribe.

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