Guest Post: Airlines take to the cloud for ad retargeting

Guest Post: Airlines take to the cloud for ad retargeting

Despite turbulent times for the airline industry, and everything from drones to ice keeping planes on the ground, the outlook is promising

Peter Falcone, Director of Analytics EMEA at Flashtalking.

Despite turbulent times for the airline industry, and everything from drones to ice keeping planes on the ground, the outlook is promising with commercial airlines worldwide expected to carry over 4.5 billion passengers on scheduled flights in 2019. In the UK, 60% of consumers took a holiday abroad last year – the highest level since 2011 – and forward bookings for overseas holidays are up 12% year-on-year according to the latest ABTA Travel Trends report.

Consumers are increasingly making their travel arrangements online – with global digital travel sales rising over 10% last year to reach nearly $700 billion – so airlines need to make the most of this trend and ensure that when travellers book seats online, theirs are the flights being chosen. One answer lies in the tactic of ad retargeting.

Beyond website visitor retargeting

Many airlines already employ retargeting to reach consumers that are aware of the brand and have previously visited its website, hoping to drive a final conversion. This type of retargeting can be used to remind website visitors of the routes or destinations they explored or even put in their basket when visiting the site, and to tempt them back with new features or special offers.

But retargeting isn’t just a lower funnel tactic, it can also be used for prospecting, reaching a much wider pool of potential customers that are searching for flights or browsing holiday-related content online but haven’t actually visited the airline’s website. By using audience and site data to serve relevant messaging to prospects, airlines can maximise chances of conversion, ultimately increasing marketing ROI.

Determining user interest

By understanding the flight destinations and departure airports people are searching for, as well as analysing the subject of online travel content they are consuming, airlines can accurately determine user interest. The travel industry has a relatively long path to purchase and consumers often research flights and destinations over a period of time across multiple devices and a variety of websites.

Airlines can use advanced cloud-based technology to predict the routes, dates, and price points that will appeal to individual consumers, using data triggers such as:

  • Prospects’ flight paths of interest from DSPs and audience profilers
  • Flight path data from real-time consumer search results on flight aggregator websites
  • Page content from travel related sites like TripAdvisor

For example, airlines can use cues about the consumer’s origin market and interests to infer whether they will be more interested in winter sun or winter sports. This data can then be applied to maximise the relevancy of ad messaging and drive conversions.

Dynamic creative messaging

Using cloud-based technology once again, airlines can match user interest to real-time flight information and pricing to determine the most effective message to serve to each prospect. Using dynamic creative, almost unlimited combinations of messaging elements such as image, price, special offer, and call to action can be generated and served across multiple platforms and devices, personalising ad creative to one specific user.

This one-to-one data-driven messaging can take into account time, date, and user circumstance to ensure the creative variation is contextually applicable in addition to matching interests. For instance, when serving an ad to a parent searching for a family holiday, an airline may choose to emphasise services such as bag check from home or in-flight children’s entertainment, whereas when addressing a business traveller, the ad creative could feature different incentives such as free in-flight wifi.

Airlines can identify relevant opportunities; a chance to capture the individual’s attention when need, context and time intersect. Using a decision tree structure, airlines can implement the necessary message and logic to improve both short-term media efficiency and the customer experience.

Measurement and optimisation

Once personalised ad creatives are served, their performance can be assessed using analytics and data that accurately reflect the contribution of the message to subsequent behaviour. Measuring the impact of upper-funnel messaging can be complex, as disconnected data sets often provide an incomplete view of the customer journey. However, by investing in data unification and creative measurement, airlines can improve the quality of insight and see which creative variations are most effectively driving specific actions. They can then use this insight to optimise campaigns in real time.

As airlines strive to ensure potential customers book with their brand rather than a competitor, they must stop seeing retargeting as a lower funnel tactic and start applying it to prospecting. By using advanced cloud-based technology and a combination of data signals, airlines can match the interests and context of prospects to flight information in real time, delivering personalised dynamic creative at scale and ultimately increasing ROI.