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Secret agents? How the rise of social media is affecting travel + leisure brands

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at April 29th, 2015

Secret agents? How the rise of social media is affecting travel + leisure brands

With over 4 out of 5 UK holidaymakers researching and booking their own holidays in 2014,* the risk is travel agents will become as elusive as secret agents. Travel companies should be rightly concerned and take measures to re-engage a wandering audience to address this increasing trend.

The majority of self-research activity takes place online, meaning travel brands and agents must ask themselves if they have the correct cross-channel strategies in place, and ensure they use insight to leave a memorable impact across all consumer touchpoints.

Re-engaging a travelling audience

Selling a wide range of holidays and travel products to people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles, the travel sector has needed insightful data to determine direct marketing success and client loyalty for decades.

A vast market, there’s tons of competition from package brands, comparison sites, airlines – and as technology advances, customer’s own holiday research. Because of this, being able to offer personalised services that match consumer budget and preference will inspire loyalty through simplicity. If a customer is offered their idea of a perfect holiday at the right time for example, they’re unlikely to want spend too much time and effort shopping around. Personalised pain-free customer journeys, facilitated through data, are a huge plus for travel brands and consumers alike. However, the offer must be spot-on and the brand must engender trust.

Planning that long journey

However, just like real world journeys, the routes customers take through the purchasing funnel are not as straightforward as we’d like them to be. To add value to direct marketing campaigns, marketers first need to understand the relationships and interactions occurring between customers and brands.

Data plays a crucial role here, providing the insight needed to decipher how consumers respond to different travel products – which can then drive marketing and other brand activities. Unless brands use the data they already have and employ solutions to transform it into actionable insight, the data is useless and will not advance their customer marketing.

Getting the right destination

With an increasing number of holiday bookings occurring online rather than via in-store agents, it’s clear that travel brands must be smarter in targeting the right customers to maintain an on and offline advantage. Customers, as well as technology are getting smarter. No longer are other travel agencies the sole competitors. Now, competition includes the brand’s own clients.

As a result, loyalty is becoming rare in the modern travel world. But appealing, personalised targeting can beat the competition; building on going, long-term customer relationships in the process. Data solutions that give detailed customer insight into demographic and lifestyle profiles are the way to achieve this as they allow best profile-to-product to be established. Comparisons of customers by brand and channel preference also allow more intricate analysis of customers in relation to personal product and communications preference, leading to much more accurate targeting and best ROI.

The social advantage

Keeping communication relevant, targeted and loyalty focussed, Facebook Partner Categories could be used in combination with insight: these are targeted segments, created by a Facebook data partner which target social audiences by appropriate demographics.

Targeting in this manner offers multiple advantages; from causing less manual work for advertisers, to allowing additional data (beyond email, phone number or Facebook ID) to be considered in conjunction, such as consumer affluence. This means that vastly in-depth insight variables are available, allowing advertisers to use the same ad targeting segments on social as they would other channels, which reduces budgetary waste and enhances targeting and loyalty.

Staying one step ahead

Ultimately if marketers take their insight to the next level – to know their audience’s motivations and influencers – they can present them with the communications and products they need – before they know they need it. Intelligent solutions will keep travel organisations one step ahead on the long, competitive road to loyalty, success and best ROI.

As always, the consumer will vote with his or her wallet. As with most industries, the role of each channel is evolving as it matures and an integrated communications strategy is required to make the most of data and do the best possible job anticipating and meeting consumers’ needs. Do it well and the trust that follows will be accompanied with customers and repeat revenue, the results marketers are aiming for.

*Statistics gathered from Acxiom’s online survey questions based on 3,437 respondents

Matthew Robinson – Marketing Communications Manager, Acxiom