It’s official, we’re one week away from our annual Leaders in Travel: Digital Summit! As the agenda is absolutely jam packed, we thought it would be a great idea to get the conversation started with Part 2 of our special panel blog – The Future of Digital Marketing in the Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality sectors.
In today’s digital day and age, UK travellers, no matter what stage they’re at in their booking journey, are quick to jump online – across all devices – and ensure they’re fully informed on all the brands, destinations, deals, and options available.
Posing as a challenge for ambitious travel, tourism and hospitality brands, an integrated, multi-channel experience has never been more important. At the top of the list is ensuring that you’re able to capture the interest of travellers, no matter what stage they’re at in their buying process, in order to drive bookings in the most cost-effective way.
Sharing their insight into the future of Digital Travel are two of our Leaders in Travel speakers, Hayley Stansfield (PR and Media Relation Manager at Blueclaw) and Adrian Vella (Sales Director at Tailify). Alongside Hayley and Adrian, one of our very clever attendees, Natalie Arney (SEO Manager at Alternative Airlines) has shared her thoughts.
Paid search will always be number one from an acquisition perspective, what better way to sell a holiday than to someone who's literally looking for one? From a branding perspective, Influencer Marketing and Video both are likely to grow in the upcoming year. The benefit of both platforms is the visualisation of destinations and long period of time to storytell.
Personalisation is going to grow, no matter the channel, however, in order to be effective, they need to come at the right time, stand out, and of course, not annoy the user. Whether the channel is email, podcast advertising, or the user’s experience on a website.
Voice search will continue to be at the forefront of the minds of Digital Marketers - I’d like to see more visibility of metrics for voice search, so that businesses are able to measure and predict the use of voice search. This will allow decision makers to allocate time and budget as and where necessary, rather than investing in the currently unknown.
The development of more sophisticated chatbots which are able to deliver personalised, more immersive experiences will allow more companies to deliver customer support whenever it is needed, vs having to wait until the contact centre is open.
I can see certain types of social media to shrink, due to consumers becoming more savvy to brands and influencers, alongside platform pushing towards a more paid model. We’ve already seen Lush divert their UK social strategy to UGC, and as brands reprioritise their spends, I can see this action being followed by others - I’m just wondering which will be the first travel brand to do this!
PR and Content are on the rise within the Travel and Tourism sectors. Speaking to multiple journalists on behalf of a number of travel brands so far this year, it's clear that Green Tourism is on the radar for many journalists, and are wanting to hear about any new technologies or brand concepts that are either kinder to the environment or promote a positive message. The same goes for destinations, too with journalists specifically requesting information on up and coming 'out-of-the-way places' that aren't overcrowded. This appears to be a huge shift away from last year's trends, with reporters having a keen interest in experience adventure travel.
Paid Social, Native and Search can all offer some decent value given that they are completely self served and available on a cost per click basis. Simply put in a credit card, set up a few campaigns and get going. Set your daily budgets with what you are happy to initially trial, then when you have more data let loose and hone in on the best performance.
The most effective channel will depend on the audience’s needs, your growth strategy as a business, and your KPIs.
At Alternative Airlines, we find that SEO is the best channel for us - although this can take time. If you’re looking for quicker, bottom of the funnel, conversion-oriented behaviour, then PPC and Paid Media can be effective, but you need to ensure that the customer knows and trusts your brand and site, so that they feel comfortable converting. Whether you’re purchasing a flight, holiday, or booking a hotel or hire car, it’s going to be a big ticket purchase, so consumer trust is everything, whatever channel ends up being the best for you.
For travel brands working with tighter budgets, it's important to remember that your social media following/ base can be used to gather insights. For example, you may think your campaign idea requires third-party insight from the likes of a public survey, which we know can be extremely costly. However, you may be able to get the exact same information from your social media followers by creating a poll/ post with a small amount of paid budget behind it to boost. Using your own social media channels is also a great way of gathering free, user-generated content via photo/ story competitions. Real-life, human stories are always a sweet success with journalists, so be sure to utilise your online customer base this way.
I think the even more growing monopoly of Facebook and Google is significantly worrying. Of course, they are both popular platforms for good reasons, but also believe it or not, not everyone goes to a touch point of these bohemoths when considering to make a purchase. For me it's all about trying to find the right person at the right time in the right place. Google in particular does an amazing job of this, but there are some very big traffic sources outside their ecosystem that have to be considered.
It’s hard to answer this question without mentioning Brexit! Of course this will have a wider impact than just the UK.
Political turmoil always poses a threat to the travel industry in particular, but also to the conditions of the wider market. As with all political unrest, it’s important to handle things sensitively and adapt as and where possible.
In comparison to the last few years, the cruise sector appears to be getting much more traction in the media than ever before. It appears that more cruise ship tour operators are confidently creating product offerings that target a much younger audience and doing it with confidence.
Voice search has been an interesting addition to the sector, particularly from a hospitality perspective. Same as regular search you can target on specific phrases, if you happen to have a Marriott Hotel in Boca Raton, you can now expect even more site traffic (and bookings) from this source moving forward.
Quite a broad answer but technology. Why so broad? Because there are many disruptions in this space right now.
A lot of people in the industry seem to be shaking in their boots about Google products ‘stealing’ their traffic and conversions. From my point of view the sophisticated consumer will always find the best information and place to convert, for their specific need. For marketers, we need to ensure that we are able to fulfil the users needs in ways that Google doesn’t - and to not assume.
The general uncertainty around Brexit. From setting out international marketing strategies to creating content campaigns, the ever-changing nature of the UK's exit from the EU has made it difficult to schedule or predict what will happen next.
Retargeting is definitely good at pushing people over the line. There's a lot of research that goes into booking a trip, but very rarely do people book their holiday on the first time of looking, it's quite a long sale cycle. By doing a retargeting strategy you'll constantly be giving people a nudge to come back when they've decided they are willing to commit.
For b2c, especially travel, I see everyone as a decision maker. I’m all about intent, so ensuring that web content on whatever channel fulfils the users needs. Creating content and serving it where the user needs it to be is the most important thing for me.
For travel brands creating consumer-facing marketing campaigns to maximise SEO, brand awareness and reach, content needs to remain relatable. Company, government and sector-specific is only going take us so far so instead we need to create human beings leading them, and the people they serve.
Every campaign you run, branding or performance, deserves a different type of tracking depending on the KPIs that you are trying to achieve. From a DR perspective, of course, sales are your best form of ROI measurement. From a branding perspective, it can be a number of things such as engagements, reach, video views etc. Having an ROI model pre-determined and giving values e.g. a value on a video view, is the best way to derive value from this type of marketing.
Since we’re fully online, it’s pretty easy to track ROI. Since I head up the Customer Acquisition and Marketing team, it’s really important for me to ensure that my team focuses time and energy on what will result in the best ROI and of course, what can help grow the business at a sustainable rate.
Unlike other marketing channels such as paid search, it is much harder to measure the success of PR if your approach isn't holistic. To ensure your PR efforts are measurable, you need to ensure all other channels encompass your wider campaign KPI's. For example, a successful content campaign will also increase traffic to a client’s website as well as the number of new linking domains. This would mean using Google Analytics to monitor and measure its value. Working closely with the SEO team, using tools such as SEM Rush visibility and Majestic Trust Flow and Citation Flow also helps to measure the relevance and authority of the sites we secure coverage on.
Selecting the right channels is crucial when putting together digital marketing plans and with the rest of 2019 and Spring 2020 coming up quicker than ever, choosing the right investment that delivers maximum results is crucial.
At Leaders in Travel 2019, our speakers will highlight practical insights and evidence-based marketing strategies to help brands operating within the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors increase digital ROI.
If you’re unable to join us at the event our experts always love to discuss the ways in which we can use SEO, PPC, programmatic and other digital channel to explore the trends, tools and techniques raised in this post – contact the team.