3 tricks for successful online travel marketing

If you have searched for a flight online recently, you are probably seeing banner ads across digital platforms, which state your desired destination along with prices.

Much of the process of making these ads available to you, from the creation of the ad creatives to the purchase of ad inventory, is often entirely automated.

In light of this, Daniele Beccari, head of travel products at performance marketing agency Criteo, explains three must-know trends in travel marketing today.

1. Stop stalling when it comes to mobile

Mobile-only behaviour is becoming increasingly common among travellers, according to Beccari.  Consumers are using different types of devices at different times of the day - desktop PCs at work, tablets at home and smartphones on business trips and during morning commutes.

"Understanding of user behaviour across all these devices needs to come together.  If a travel brand's website is not mobile-optimised, it will need to act quickly because it will definitely lose bookings.  Customers who can't access your website on mobile will simply go to a competitor's website that is mobile-optimised," Beccari said.

"Mobile has really become mainstream.  It is not something that can be neglected for later."

He added customers who make their first purchase on mobile are likely to do re-bookings on mobile.

This is in stark contrast to two or three years ago when customers used smartphones to research itineraries but made transactions on desktop PC.  Part of this shift may be due to the increased sizes of smartphone and tablet screens.

Apartments represent the sector with the highest mobile adoption rates- for example, Beccari estimates that as much as 40% of Airbnb bookings and around 20% of general hotel bookings are done on mobile.

The mobile booking frenzy is also spreading to flights, especially for bookings made during trips, and boarding, seat-booking and loyalty schemes.

2. Vary ad creatives to avoid user fatigue

If the banners advertising your brand and products look and feel the same and offer the same recommendations across online platforms frequented by the user, it could create user fatigue and instill a fear of being stalked.

"One solution is to limit the impressions of the banner because we are not interested in buying space - we want to serve ads that the user is interested in," Beccari said.

Branding guidelines that determine the look of ad creatives can still be followed by computers generating the ads using analyses of user behavioural data.

"Imagine you want to go to Australia at the best possible price.  When you first see the banner ad, the company and creative agency want you to recognise the brand," Beccari said.

"But to close the transaction, it comes down to performance, which means showing the most relevant content that needs to be generated automatically, not a generic brand message."

To strike a balance between branding and ad performance, a banner could first show a generic brand message, which then slides away to show a personalised ad.  For omnichannel campaigns, the ads could also be synced with TV within a set time frame as well as native ads placed in social media platforms.

3. Be careful when measuring conversion using the last click method

Marketing today is all about integration, making it even harder to attribute ROI to different channels used in the same campaign that all contribute to the same ROI.

Beccari said the convention is to look at the last click before the reservation is made.  The platform that snags the last click typically receives 100% of the revenue.

However, this ignores the fact that ads placed in other channels during the user's research phase could have culminated in the final click.

He suggests using an augmented last click model where ads placed on online platforms necessary for the last click are tracked and different weightings are given to different channels.

Offline conversion is even more difficult to measure, unless clients offer loyalty cards and customers are logged into the brand's website during a transaction or use codes for transactions.