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Travel marketers: leverage behavioural data to deliver smart travel guides

A recent survey of travel marketing professionals identified travel guides and advice as the most engaging content for travel consumers.

Travel: consumers want content before they make a purchase says Dave Walters

Travel: consumers want content before they make a purchase says Dave Walters

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Meanwhile, an eMarketer article shows that people consume quite a bit of content before making a purchase.

In the travel world, for example, the average consumer makes 15.5 visits to travel sites in the week before a booking.

Add it all together and the picture is clear: travellers want content before they make a purchase, especially content that helps them plan for their upcoming travel. And many online travel agencies, hotel and airline sites have travel planning tips hidden within their websites.

The downside? Consumers have to go there and actively look for the travel guide content in order to ever see it.

How can we work smarter to help get this content to those that want it?

The answer is to leverage behavioural data to provide a custom travel-guide series at the best time possible. Let’s take a look at two potential approaches, one for existing customers and one for prospects.

Existing customers

Evaluate your data to see what clues you have to determine the best way to build a travel guide series geared toward repeat customers? Do your customers typically holiday around the same time every year? And do they have peak periods in which they make travel purchases? For example, do they typically book in the winter for spring or summer holidays? 

Do you have insight into your customers’ previous travel research with your digital properties (websites, landing pages, mobile apps, etc.)? What content did they view most? What packages have they searched for? Diving into this data and building on trends can help tailor your travel planning campaign to be as relevant to each individual consumer as possible.

Once you’ve identified some trends, you can begin to build campaigns based on these behaviours to help automate the process. For example, someone who researched beach holidays and booked their trip in February of 2013 may see value in a beach holiday series in 2014. Perhaps a January mailing on the most popular beaches for 2014 and a follow-up in February with great offers from your beach destinations. 

If you haven’t implemented a scoring model yet, this may be a great time to do so, since it can help you easily identify key segments to target for a campaign. For example, if visiting certain pages is indicative that an individual is going to book a trip, you might weight this activity more in your scoring model than, say, watching a video or downloading an app. Once they cross a certain score threshold, that might bump them into a program designed to move them from browsing to buying. (Read more on scoring.)

Prospects

For prospects, look at your current customers to see what actions they took during the research process to determine what content resonated most strongly with them. What behaviours are critical in the path to purchase?? How can each message of the campaign help to move the recipient along? We already know travel guides and advice content performs well. Offer an on-site opt-in for your travel guide series, and consider creating detailed travel guides that fit your customers’ ideal experience.

Again, scoring can be beneficial here, helping you identify when prospects’ engagement levels have increased and when you might want to deliver certain pieces of content. Those that consistently open, click and browse subsequent pages from each mailing in a series should rank higher in your scoring model.

Also, consider specific actions to be high-value actions. For example, clicking a link to view special packages within the campaign might indicate this recipient is further along the path to purchase. You might then message this "highly engaged" segment, as identified by your scoring model, with specific offers to encourage them to book.

Leveraging travel guides: other factors to consider

Once you’re ready to build your travel guide series, here are a few items you’ll want to consider to help you maximise the program's effectiveness:

  • Content – analyse your Web content to determine what influences a purchase. This content is a great starting point to include in your series. Also: Are there any content gaps you need to fill to help nurture a contact along the path to purchase?
  • Relevancy – the more your travel guide series can be customised to your recipients’ interests, the better. Take what you know about their destination interests, travel preferences, purchase behaviour and demographics and use this data to personalise their communications.
  • Multichannel experience – avoid silos by building cross-channel messaging rules into your programs. For example, if a contact make two visits to a package page within a 48-hour time period, that might trigger an alert to a call centre representative to follow up with that person via phone.
  • Earned media – recipients of your travel series are likely willing to share content to their social channels. So, focus on creating bite-size content and using great imagery to help encourage shares and increase your earned media impressions.

Dave Walters is a product evangelist at Silverpop

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