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A Tough Job: Targeting the Fickle and Attention-Deprived Travel Consumer
By Ritesh Gupta
The greatest challenge with digital advertising - also potentially its biggest strength - is the capability to track your conversion funnel. But to succeed travel marketers need to go for a more holistic view of the purchase path which usually crosses multiple sites and channels. EyeforTravel's Ritesh Gupta takes a closer look
It is increasingly important to take stock of all factors that impact a travellers' decision-making. This starts at the inspiration stage. For example while looking at a friend's photographs on a social networking site, a consumer then does a quick online search to check the options available.
Later while reading a print publication in the doctor's surgery, the same consumer comes across an advert about the same destination. He then uses an app on his smartphone that recognises images and objects in the same print publication. From here he can view additional images and rich multimedia content like videos and animations. Today by pointing a smartphone at print advertising, one can bring the holiday destination to digital life. With additional information at your fingertips, the point of purchase is just a tap of the screen away!
It comes as little surprise then that a recent report by eMarketer indicates that the US leisure travel industry will invest $3.16 billion in online paid advertising this year, up 23.3% from 2011. Yet while travel ecommerce sales are expected to hit $119 billion in 2012, the market has also matured. So as travel companies find themselves locked in a battle for a finite amount of business, marketers need to identify those channels that are helping to drive more conversions, or can influence the conversion funnel.
It is certainly more than challenging ever to maximise marketing spend even though efforts are being made to understand how different media perform so that one can adjust the media mix and improve performance.
As such travel marketers are scrutinising the behaviour of consumers who are planning their journey across multiple sessions, sites and devices. "The day-to-day challenge for us, as a travel company, is to ensure we are delivering the right consumer value proposition rooted in the principles of our brand which is being the traveller's trusted guide," says Bradley Wilson, chief marketing officer, Travelocity, North America.
Beyond this other challenges, says Wilson, include dealing with new and potentially disruptive entrants, both big like Google and small like eHipmunk, marketing to an increasingly fickle and attention-deprived consumer while having to give them both great prices every day and a seamless site experience.
Digital engagement tactics are shifting to include social and mobile campaigns.
In fact, marketers are integrating mobile into their marketing mix as a platform instead of viewing it as a completely separate channel. While they are doing this, they are making use of all existing marketing channels to promote mobile, for example using QR codes (see this EyeforTravel.com story) in print campaigns and app download campaigns in search engine marketing or search engine optimisation. Such approach makes sense as consumers are increasingly geared towards last-minute bookings. These are partly incremental bookings which companies would not necessarily have captured before the mobile era.
"The purchase window is shrinking and travellers are becoming much more reliant on mobile," says Wilson. "With this in mind, travel marketers need to understand areas like promotion and messaging when it comes to marketing on mobile devices."
Travelocity believes that five years from now mobile could contribute 30-40% of its overall business. "We are working hard right now to gain better understanding of mobile behaviour in order to effectively market to those needs," says Wilson.
Similarly, the company has also plans for some interesting social media initiatives. The hope is that Travelocity will become a consideration in the early stages of a traveller's journey, for example while talking to friends or consulting them about an upcoming trip.
"Behaviour is evolving and technology needs to respond to this," he says. "Closer to the transaction, the focus will be on a targeted message depending on, for example, whether the traveller is looking for family-oriented holiday or is an unmanaged business traveller."
Understanding the buying path
Travel marketers need to take a holistic view of a travel consumer's preferences and behaviour, and not just have myopic focus on a particular channel.
"While the travel industry is ultra-competitive and consumer behaviour is much more difficult to understand, in my experience, there is a tendency to give too much credit or focus on one particular channel," says Wilson.
According to Wilson this is a flawed way of approaching return on investment. There is a need to consider behaviour on the site as well as in other environments to have a better picture of the consumers' needs.
There are also a number of tools that can help advertisers gain a more holistic view of the purchase path over multiple sites and channels. However, as some marketers point out, they are still limited to what the technology can do and ultimately if someone uses different PCs and devices, clears their cookies daily or prefers to book offline, they are still very difficult to track throughout the whole purchase path. But this area needs to be followed closely, as attempts are being made to understand user behaviour across multiple mobile devices, and help advertisers better target their mobile ads.
Bradley Wilson, chief marketing officer, Travelocity, North America will be speaking at EyeforTravel's Travel Distribution Summit, North America in Las Vegas from September 13-14 alongside 90 other industry leading experts. See the full mobile agenda and speaker line up here
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