By Gary Bicker, UK country manager at affilinet
In recent months we have seen some of the biggest names in travel from Tui to Thomas Cook stake their future on creating a more agile online model.
The aim is to engage consumers at different stages of their purchasing journey in a bid to drive commercial growth.
This strategic move reflects how consumers’ purchasing habits have changed in recent years. No longer do the majority of people plan their summer holiday six months or more in advance as my parents did when I was young.
Instead we’ve adopted a much more last minute approach to travel and the internet fulfills this need. Rather than hitting the high street to compare deals, hotels and flight times we can do this all from the comfort of the sofa.
Just as the Internet represents a quick route to the best deal for the customer, so it also represents a quick channel to market for travel companies. The increasing number of online channels does however bring with it a rapidly diversifying large amount of data.
And that volume of data is only set to rise. Faced with ever more information, how can travel companies understand a consumer’s purchasing journey and when individuals are most likely to be influenced?
This is a significant challenge for the travel industry. What it doesn’t lack is the information, but what it is missing is a mechanism via which it can make sense of all that information in order to drive real value and insight from it.
As things stand, travel companies can’t see the wood from the trees, and as such they can’t finely tune their strategies to take advantage of the channels that resonate most with consumers and are driving the most revenue.
It is becoming increasingly clear that this lack of transparency is something of an own goal.
The internet offers a more flexible, responsive and profitable route to market, yet travel companies can’t adapt their strategies to take advantage of opportunities presented by the online and digital worlds largely because different parts of the marketing ecosystem ‘hold’ different parts of the jigsaw puzzle.
This creates a very disjointed and limited view. For example, an advertiser might be able to see that the most traffic is coming from mobile sites, but what they can’t tell is how or why because that information is held by the publisher.
Now that they’ve built up online traffic, travel companies want to overcome these information barriers and look at how they can more intelligently make sense of data to build a more informative bigger picture that helps them grow.
To combat this problem, the smartest and most successful travel campaigns will be those that look at their marketing strategies and encourage advertisers, publishers and networks to collaborate and share knowledge in order to break down data silos and create more transparency.
Bringing all of the currently fragmented elements together would enable companies to better profile their customers, whether it is a family of 2.4 children buying holidays to Egypt or young couples.
Based on this information they can then tailor the promotional content of the holiday to make it more appealing, customise the pricing and ensure that the offer stands out from the competition.
Promoting collaboration among the different elements will help to map out and understand the customer journey, as well as the different touch points travel companies have with the customer during that process.
Bringing together the different perspectives will create a visibility that the industry has never had before and is the next step in targeting the right customers, via the right channel at the right time.