As summer takes hold across the Northern Hemisphere and millions of travellers take off on their long-awaited holidays, travel companies are left waiting for their next opportunity. With the majority of travel bookings taking place in the first few months of the year, summer traditionally spells a dip in browsing and booking habits, seen in 2017 when January and February enjoyed 91% more sales compared to July and August. Fortunately, summer doesn’t have to represent a sales slump and travel retailers could be using their holidays to get ahead.
With latest statistics from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showing 7% growth in the number of international tourist arrivals in 2017, reaching a total of 1,322 million overseas visits during the year, travel companies are in luck. They are in a prime position to target an increasingly pro-travel generation of consumers with cleverly crafted marketing, advertising and promotions that will inspire bookings all year-round.
So, what should travel marketers be doing now to boost sales in summer and beyond? Here are our 6 travel marketing tips to get you started.
Look for data trends
As the quieter sales months arrive, so comes the chance to look back at what happened during the rest of the year. Spend time analysing your data, including purchasing patterns, demographics, consumer behaviour and website analytics to uncover some common trends. These insights can be used to help you to prepare for future campaigns and peak season.
When looking at customers on an individual level, it is useful to identify what they did last year (destinations visited, airlines chosen, type of accommodation booked etc.) as well as when they booked, how far in advance and how much they paid. When looking more broadly at audience groups, identify similarities between types of bookings made by similar customers and use this to improve your recommendation engine, a particularly important activity when we consider that more targeted onsite recommendations have been found to increase engagement by 70%.
Understanding customers better means you can target them with more relevant and personalised promotions, not just in peak season, but all year round. 83% of millennials would let travel brands track their digital patterns to receive a more personalised experience, so make sure you’re using the information you have to hand to deliver experiences to match. The fuller your picture of each individual customer, the greater your chances of building loyal customer relationships that will ensure your brand is front of mind next time they come to book.
Whilst using data represents a highly analytical, tried and tested approach, sometimes it takes more than numbers to inspire action. Particularly in travel, where emotion plays such a key role in the booking process.
Wanderlust, which can be defined simply as ‘a wish to travel far away and to many different places’, is a concept that travel brands can take full advantage of through their marketing and advertising.
People with wanderlust tend to spend a lot of time browsing for new travel destinations and are likely to be inspired by pictures of new countries and experiences, so focus on creating beautifully designed adverts, both display and video, that are delivered at the right time and in the right context.
Think about who your target audience is, where they would be interested in travelling, the types of websites they visit and what might be motivating them to book, then deliver adverts to match. Using programmatic advertising methodologies helps to ensure campaigns are optimised to target these ideal audiences, as efficiently as possible.
This technique can be used to inspire customers to book when they may not have even been thinking about booking before. Through well-thought out adverts, content and communications, across the entire customer journey, you can create micro moments that help customers to imagine themselves on that holiday and in that environment, encouraging them to go on and book.
Run seasonal offers, discounts and promotions
When travel bookings and sales begin to slow during summer, start to introduce some cleverly selected promotions to your marketing campaigns. Competitive pricing could tempt someone into booking a spontaneous getaway or long-awaited break. Once again, use your data to ensure you deliver the right promotions to the right customers. For example, identify the price ranges each customer is likely to purchase within and tailor your discounts and offers to match.
Be careful not to use too many discounts or give too much away for free. While it can be a good short-term fix to obtain some extra bookings over July and August, there’s also a risk of devaluing your brand and offering as a result. Our recent research into remarketing email subject lines found that European customers were more likely to open emails with a 5% discount than 20%, highlighting that sometimes less is more when it comes to delivering successful promotional offers.
When running promotions, use messaging that feels exclusive, is time-bound and matches your brand positioning. Be sure to also ensure any offers are also relevant to the stage a customer is in their buying journey and consistent across each stage and channel they interact with your brand.
Up-sell additional extras and features
A customer’s journey doesn’t stop once they’ve booked their holiday. In fact, it’s only just beginning. From this point onwards, there are a multitude of opportunities to re-engage with bookers. Not only can you start to build a closer and more valuable relationship through personalised communications, reminders and tips for their upcoming trip, you can also start to introduce additional features they might like to add to their package.
Take this opportunity to promote things such as extra baggage, airport transfers, day-trips and insurance. If your customer data is good enough, particularly at an individual level, you’ll have access to the behavioural and browsing habits of your customers. For example, you may see that a customer has already purchased travel insurance, so it wouldn’t look very good if you try to sell them more. But perhaps your data shows you that last year they booked last minute airport transfers, meaning they may be more likely to do so again this year. Use these insights to tailor the up-sell features you send to each customer so that you can ensure every time you communicate it is highly personalised and most importantly, relevant.
Encourage social proof
As we enter summer holiday season, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds turn into what seems like an endless stream of envy-inducing photos of sun, sea and sand. As people start to embark on their summer holidays, so does their desire to share their experiences with friends and family back home. It’s a natural occurrence considering the tech-savvy nature of today’s travellers. It’s also a trend that travel brands should be capitalising on.
Considering the fact that 52% of Facebook users said their friends’ photos inspired their travel plans, brands should be encouraging travel bookers as much as possible to share details of their travel plans online. Whether that’s the excitement of booking, their opinions of their trip or simply photos of their travels, all are ways of inspiring other customers to book. Make it easy for travellers to share information about their trip online by including social sharing buttons at every stage of the booking process, including once they’ve completed their trip when you want to encourage them to leave reviews and upload photos, both of which help build the all-important trust with other travellers.
Prepare now for peak booking season
Travel retailers across the world suffered from average abandonment rates of 93% in 2017. With so many bookings currently lost at the checkout stage, brands must understand why they have high abandonment in the first place so that they can fix the cause, not just solve the challenge when it arises. A good place to start is to identify the different shopper modes of your website visitors. If a lot of visitors are in browsing or research mode, they are less likely to convert. However, this isn’t to say they aren’t interested, which is why it’s important to engage them through other channels, whether that be remarketing via email or push, or retargeting via display or dynamic video. In doing so, you can drive them back to your website to complete their shopping journey.
Tackling the causes of basket abandonment onsite could also come down to providing a better mobile experience, improving onsite functionality such as navigation and search, or improving the onsite experience so that customers can more easily find what they want. 78% of travellers said informative content from destinations and brands can influence decision making so make sure your customers are easily able to find the most relevant information in order to make the booking process as straightforward as possible.
As every brand and website will have a slightly different challenge, track the online journeys of your own customers to work out where they are abandoning. Then optimise accordingly.
As summer takes full effect, now is the time for travel brands to reflect, plan and act. Whether the goal is to boost sales in the short term or future-proof sales for the rest of the year, opportunities exist. With international travel growing year on year, the sooner your brand optimises its acquisition, onsite and retention strategies with your customers in mind, the sooner you will reap the rewards of increased bookings.
Ve helps travel brands build more connected online experiences for their customers. Find out how our suite of solutions help add relevancy the customer journey, from discovery through to booking, through digital advertising, onsite engagement and remarketing.