In the third of our series of client interviews we talk to Azure, a modern timeshare organisation that is using digital technologies to overcome the negative connotations of shared-ownership holiday schemes. Our thanks goes to Sarah Mazzone, Marketing Manager at Azure, who has given us her time and insights into reputation management and digital challenges in the travel industry.

Back in the 1980’s ‘timeshare’ was often considered a very dirty word indeed. It still conjures up images of unsuspecting holidaymakers being locked up for a ‘presentation’ on their new holiday home and being pressured by sales people into signing manipulative and expensive agreements.

But in today’s digital world, which offers up any of a thousand different ways to relay your message across the globe, instantly, any company that plays the old ‘timeshare’ game is living dangerously.

So it’s interesting to see a modern timeshare organisation like Azure actively dealing with the negative connotations of timeshare and utilising digital technologies not just to promote their holidays but also to demonstrate best practice in a sector that is long overdue a revival.

Sarah Mazzone, Marketing Manager at Azure was open about the history of her industry; “We are having to deal with negative connotations around timeshares, especially with customers who remember the 80’s, but there is a younger audience out there looking for better value for money when holidaying, with guarantees of experience, and upmarket timeshare companies, like Azure, fit the bill”.

Having established a market exists with audiences across Europe for high-end vacation ownership opportunities Azure has decided to radically alter its marketing strategy, embracing digital at its core, to ensure it reaches out to new, younger audiences - a target market that “seeks the luxury of a second home without the full cost of a second home”. Azure’s new digital strategy wills embrace a host of new digital channels to reach both existing members and prospective customers.

“As well as restoring the positive reputation of the industry and boosting brand awareness, our new marketing strategy looks to enhance transparency. More transparency in communications than previous years will be key, especially via social media, pre-planned and scheduled campaigns, and more targeted campaigns online,” said Sarah. Social media will be maximised to deliver more personal, tailored and rich content to audiences online. This will include not only Facebook and Twitter, but also Pinterest, YouTube, Trip Advisor and a regular company blog, with an emphasis on quality content, which demonstrates the benefits to this new approach to timeshares.

“We want to ensure everything we do within the hotel and company is represented in the online sphere, thus helping increase our profile and increasing traffic and business. This will be done via a robust PR and social media strategy, as well as focusing on the redevelopment of our websites. Additionally, we have seen more and more traffic coming to our sites from mobile devices (now over 11%) and our new sites, currently in development by After Digital, will cater to this by being fully responsive,” said Sarah.

In a bid to further instil consumer confidence and eradicate a high-pressure selling environment Azure is moving as much business as possible online. More offers will be made available via the website, in correlation with increased interactions through digital channels, supporting a wholly more transparent purchase process. In a digitally connected world this will stand the company in good stead, boosting credibility and positive perception amongst target audiences, and generating a strong, reputable brand image for Azure.

“Reliable digital partners like After Digital are vital if we are to make this drastic move to digital successfully,” said Sarah; “It’s important that we communicate efficiently with our audiences via the correct channels and platforms, i.e. the web and mobile.”

This view is certainly borne out by recent studies into what younger demographics are looking for in timeshare holidays. A report, released by Bournemouth University in 2012, highlighted the importance of digital technologies to customer interaction pre, during and post visits to the resort. Social media was found to be highly valuable both for reaching out to new customers (particularly of a younger demographic) but also to raising brand awareness and eliminating the negative views attached to the sector in the long-term.

While there is no quick fix to restoring the timeshare’s reputation forward-thinking companies such as Azure are proving that a solid digital strategy opens up huge scope for growth, to develop an industry that is not just coping but thriving.