The world is getting smaller, or so they say. But as options and opportunities for travel become more numerous, it could be said that the world open to the consumer is becoming larger. The force behind this changing state of play? The growth, innovation and disruption taking place in the travel industry. The Figaro Digital Travel & Leisure Conference brought together some of the travel industry’s marketing movers and shakers to reflect upon this vibrant and evolving sector, and over the course of this article we will take a look at some of the day’s key takeaways, which marketers can perhaps look to put to work within their own digital marketing strategies.
Right Content, Right Place, Right Time: Delivering Contextual, Full-Lifecycle Communication At Scale
Cathy Thomson, Global Head of CRM and Customer Insight at Hostelworld gave the first presentation of the day, digging into the context of the “hostel marketing revolution”, and how Hostelworld have adapted their content offering and CRM platforms in order to keep up. Hostelling is almost unrecognisable now from the traditional dorm room set-up, and Hostelworld is keen to show this modern, reinvented standard through the creation of bespoke content that targets their expanding millennial audience and conveys a strong and consistent brand persona. Under the brand tagline of “Meet The World”, Hostelworld’s content focuses on the social element of travelling, and in line with this involves their consumers in the content creation process. “This is really important for our target audience, making sure we’re getting as much interaction with our customers as possible, through photography and showcasing our customers at events and festivals… and also sharing insights around travelling, connecting travellers, and helping them meet the world.” This focus on the curation of content that is not only helpful, but also adds value to the hostelling experience, helps to reinforce Hostelworld’s position as a brand which is really engaged with its audience and what they hope to get from their travel experience. The brand’s CRM system has had a boost in order to keep up. “We run real-time contextual emails, together with an integrated mobile push system, as well as onsite personal messaging when visitors come to the site. All three of those channels work in tandem to make sure that we’re hitting all of the customer trigger points with something that’s relevant to them.” Says Thomson. By focussing on purely digital campaigns, Hostelworld have been able to deliver unique content that really resonates with their audience and sets them apart as a disruptor within the industry.
As a data first company, Addition+ are well clued-into the challenges facing marketers looking to target new or changing demographics of consumer digitally. Peter Mason, CTO at Addition+, introduced the full-service agency’s recent campaign with UK-based foreign exchange provider Caxtonfx. Being a Low-margin business, there is a great deal of pressure to deliver a cost efficient campaign with a low CPA in such a saturated marketplace. “If you’re using any kind of targeting, most of your competitors are also going to be using the same planning tools and selecting the same media to advertise.” In order to prospect at scale, marketers need to be sharply aware of the actions of their competitors. The solution that Addition+ have found is using technology to find out from their existing customers, where to find new prospects. By using machine learning, the agency were able to understand customer’s changing interests in real-time. “Even more important than those coming into the site, are those leaving it. This is where lots of people run retargeting without running any kind of information retrieval or any kind of information gathering around the re-targeting. But that person, who is nearly a customer, is showing you what they read, today, right now. And if you combine that with what everybody coming into your website is reading, you start to build a profile based on the content interest of your customers.” These profiles enable marketers to target consumers who, despite never visiting the Caxton site, are interested in similar content. This refining of their targeting system has enabled these sites to boost their traffic exponentially, while monitoring engagement in real-time, and optimising their response at the same time. By keeping a keen eye on the value that your customers are looking for, brands can leverage their offering in the most efficient way to both increase their relevancy for existing customers, and use this success to prospect successfully at scale.
“Millennials see travel as more important than buying their first house,” says Rebecca White, Business Lead, Marketing Research and Insight at Heathrow. “That’s the audience we need to cater to in the future, and this is the one we need to keep in the forefront of what we’re going to be doing and how we’re going to be saying it.” With a seventy-year heritage, Heathrow is only recently understanding its significance and resonance as a brand, and has been attempting to portray itself as a British brand with a language which connects and communicates with a diverse, global, consumer base. One of the ways that the airport is doing this is by drawing on the experience of its customers, the “power of the passenger”, to reflect itself as a brand with real global salience and significance. One way that Heathrow is doing this, White explains, is by endeavouring to deliver a seamless customer journey, even before the passenger arrives at the terminal doors. “It’s up to us to make sure that customers are aware of all the services available at Heathrow that are relevant to them, but also not to bombard them with those that are irrelevant, but also that they have the ability to get connected with what they need.” As the airport works to offer a more seamless, streamlined and relevant experience to its passengers, the key practice is promoting engaging content at scale, which pre-empts the passenger’s needs. “The more that we understand our customers, the stronger our data and analytics are, and the more single-minded we are in terms of how we communicate with them, we can start to slightly pre-empt where they’re going next within their customer journey- that small interaction that passengers really appreciate within their journey.”
Mobile is making marketers’ lives more difficult, suggests Ricardo Gato, CMO at Stratajet. “Nowadays as brands we have to understand the moment, as apps we need to be easy to use, we have to be in the right moment at the right time. We have to be in the right moment to provide a service.” But as mobile has made it even easier for consumers to connect with brands and purchase these services, it has also given them extremely high expectations of what to expect from these services in return. In a fast-paced world, these “moments” are precious, and brands must appreciate and respond to this need for real-time communication. “95 per cent of travellers read reviews before booking, and 70 per cent of travellers read up to 20 reviews before they book. So it’s important to provide a five-star service.” A somewhat niche market, Stratajet’s online booking platform allows real-time accurate prices for customers seeking quotes for private jets. But this alone is not enough to provide the bespoke service that customers are seeking. “A lot of designers forget that the purpose of great design is to improve the user experience.” Says Gato. “Don’t build an amazing website where you then can’t see the ‘book’ button.” The potential loss of a customer prospect through a badly designed site is an error that brands cannot afford to make. Reflecting on examples from Uber and Airbnb, Gato reminds us that user experience, whether on site or on app is one of the factors which adds to the overall experience, and each of these factors; site design, usability and communication, all contribute to the product offering, and therefore potential to win leads.