On Thursday 28 March 2019, we were joined by digital marketers from the brands, digital marketing agencies, and technology providers at the forefront of the travel and leisure sector for the first Travel & Leisure: Digital Marketing Spotlight of the year.
With digital and technology impacting every aspect of a consumer’s journey through the travel and leisure sales funnel, it is paramount to keep up-to-date with the hasty evolution of travel marketing. From optimising research for mobile and booking for desktop to how consumers interact with brands with video and UGC, the travel and leisure sector is in a state of flux and innovation that shows no sign of slowing down.
We had a variety of industry and sector experts speaking at the event, including: Matt Holmes, Head of Digital Marketing, Thomas Cook Group Airline; Jon Mowat, MD at Hurricane; Dan Almond, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant at Stackla; Jason Haydon, Senior Sales Development Representative at Phrasee; and Niall Moody, Trading Director at Nano Interactive. Here, we dive into their presentations and take a look at the latest in automation, the future of travel marketing, user-generated content, video marketing, AI, email marketing, and how to turn signal of intent into ROI from the #FigDigTravel Spotlight.
Right now, in this moment we are living in the time of industry 4.0 – the automation age. And we’re interacting with machine learning and AI on a daily basis, even if we don’t realise it – from the suggested replies in gmail and LinkedIn to the Ocado warehouses staffed by robots and your very own Spotify daily mix. With a 2017 survey by Oxford University and Yale University predicting that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will outperform humans in a huge variety of tasks in the next ten years, it’s understandable why AI is such a prolific buzzword. With even fast food giant McDonald’s turning to Dynamic Yield – an AI driven omnichannel personalisation platform – it is time for us all to sit up and take notice. In the travel and leisure sector, we all need to welcome and adapt to the changes automation will bring to our business and marketing strategies. Struggling on with what we rely on now is not enough and non-automated practices will quickly become antiquated.
So, with this is mind what is the future of travel marketing if not AI? Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, as luck would have it Matt Holmes, Head of Digital Marketing, Thomas Cook Group Airline, revealed all at Our Travel & Leisure Spotlight. With a future-facing look at how travel brands can leverage automation and AI in their digital marketing, Matt showed us how we can learn from the world of ecommerce and the exciting AI driven innovators. It’s a long road and not even household names like Amazon have quite cracked it yet, but still we trudge on. Watch Matt’s presentation to find out how AI can free up your time to add value to your business in other ways as the implementation of AI shifts the nature of your job to be more strategic, insightful, and customer or business focused.
View Matt’s presentation here.
Video is the most effective way to meet your marketing objectives from raising awareness to increasing engagement and sales – increasing conversion rates by 86 per cent. And according to Nicola Mandelson, CEO of Facebook, “The Future is video, video, video,” and it is only a matter of time before all business’ will be taking advantage of a channel that drives reaction and engagement rates better than any other media. One of the many reasons for videos skyrocketing success is the chemical effect they have on us – our smartphones are dopamine pumps. Why does this effect video? Well, with 60 per cent of net traffic now on mobile and touch devices, what was the ‘normal’ way to watch content is no longer the norm. In addition to this, we respond positively to movement, something that give us a sense of ownership such as viewing content on our smartphone, and emotional storytelling.
That’s all well and good, but how do you harness the emotional power of video storytelling to meet your goals and how is this useful in the travel and leisure sector? Jon Mowat, Managing Director at Hurricane, provided the delegates with an outline of practical steps that marketing professionals in travel and leisure can implement to deliver better results with video content. To develop your own brand story that engages your audience emotionally and gets results you need to focus on the right part of the purchase journey or sales funnel, find the right emotion to engage your audience at that point in their journey, and watch Jon’s presentation.
View Jon’s presentation here.
In travel, inspiration is key and the significance of the travel experience is absolutely paramount. As this is the case, it is becoming more and more apparent that the content that inspires, validates and influences people most is created by other travellers, not brands. However, a huge amount of brands in the travel and leisure sector fail to utilise organically created user or consumer-generated-content or they fail to invest in professional UGC as a primary channel. Despite the slow up-take of user-generated-content compared to other digital marketing trends, the stats behind UGC speak for themselves. Consumers look to UGC for authentic social proof, which has resulted in over 60 per cent of consumers saying that user-generated content is the most authentic and influential content when planning, researching and booking travel. To further this, it is the authenticity that is undeniably important, with 90 per cent of people actively considering authenticity when deciding which brands they like. The rapid growth in popularity of brands utilising UGC has shadowed the boom in social media, and the continuing influence of consumer-created travel UGC has increased by 18 per cent since 2017. Don’t get left behind.
Dan Almond, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant at Stackla, shared how brands can leverage UGC and AI-powered technology to transform their entire customer journey with authentic traveller-created content by empowering your consumers to fuel a cycle of posting and purchasing – boosting engagement, reducing costs, and driving bookings. Watch Dan’s presentation to be at the forefront of content and social with organic and relevant messaging that will really engage your potential customers (lookers) into repeat customers (bookers).
View Dan’s presentation here.
There is a common misconception that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is brand new technology. However, the theoretical foundations of AI were laid in the fifties and sixties. The academic researchers of the time had incredible foresight and a lot of their predictions surrounding computing, automation, and artificial intelligence are still relevant today. So first off, AI is not new and scary. To further this, as computing power continues to grow exponentially, so does the ability of AI to process larger and larger amounts of information. This is why we’re seeing so much more of it around these days – with uses far above and further reaching than just making some old chess player really, really angry. Another misconception is that AI is trying to replicate intelligence or take your job, however these different variants of data and forms of AI are simply trying to efficiently solve a specific, time-consuming problem. This is the reality of today’s applied artificial intelligence.
It’s no secret that AI is set to change the game for digital marketing, but what about travel marketing specifically? How could Phrasee know that AI will supercharge any travel strategy? Well, they’ve done it with Virgin Holidays. Jason Haydon, Senior Sales Development Representative at Phrasee, took our delegates through a brief history of AI, the different forms of AI within digital marketing, and Virgin’s AI secret to marketing success. It is a truth universally acknowledged (or not, because we’re incredibly narcissistic as a species) that humans just suck at multi-dimensional thinking. This is why tools such as Phrasee are so powerful, because it understands incomprehensible amounts of data in the blink of an eye – and it does this with zero cognitive bias and continues to learn and optimise over time. AI allows you to find problems and solve with quick wins that earn confidence and trust, by proving yourself with quick wins, getting the basics sorted, and starting the major transformation. Over the last three years of their partnership with Virgin, Phrasee has revolutionised their CRM strategy and they’ve seen constantly improving open rates, increasing web traffic, increases in calls, and increases in appointments booked – and all of this stemming from simply getting more people opening more emails. This has resulted in Virgin attributing millions of pounds in revenue uplift directly to their revitalised email and CRM strategy.
View Jason’s presentation here.
As we compete for attention online, how can understanding customer intent signals drive growth for travel brands? There are many customer intent signals that you could analyse to within an inch of their life, but sometimes having the simplest of data can helpfully inform your strategy. For example, in the digital age a whopping 69 per cent of participants in a 2018 Mintel survey stated that researching and planning a holiday is part of the fun. So few consumers still book the same holiday year after year, or pop to the travel agents for them to provide a perfectly packaged holiday off the shelf. Especially with the continued growth of the Millennial disposable income and the coming of age of the oldest Gen Z’s, these generations that have always had the world at their fingertips know what they want and will research until they find it. This change in travel marketing should focus a brand’s attention on optimising their informational and aspirational content in addition to managing their reviews. Interestingly, according to the ABTA Holiday Habits Report 2018 while 80 per cent of people conduct their holiday research on a mobile, tablet or smart device, 81 per cent of holiday bookers actually transfer to desktop to complete a purchase or booking. It will be interesting to see how this changes in the coming years as smart technology and instant payment becomes even more common and wide spread.
In his presentation Niall Moody, Trading Director at Nano Interactive, offered a few different options in addition to those above for turning intent signals into measurable ROI. Niall proves the successes of these differing approaches through case studies covering Nano Interactive’s work with an international airline that was looking to drive positive brand uplift within their category and a villa holiday specialist that was looking to drive incremental ROI. It is important, I think, to take from these examples that every business is different depending on your brand, who you are targeting, and what your end goal is – whether that increasing sales or creating awareness. Despite the excitement surrounding travel, purchasing in the travel and leisure sector can be expensive and fraught with stress. So, as brands we need to ensure that the cycle of content fits their needs, when they need it and where they need it, to help them comfortably make their decision.
View Niall’s presentation here.