Since 2008, the travel industry has had a rocky ride but there are signs that things are getting steadier. However, the way people now shop for holidays is changing and travel brands must take these digital marketing trends on board to target the modern holidaymaker effectively.
With 79% of the EU having internet access in 2013, compared to 55% in 2007 and online traffic from mobile devices increasing by 46% year on year, digital really is becoming the new norm as users want all things online.
In the travel & hospitality sphere, it’s always insightful to take a closer look at how tourism embrace new technologies and face upcoming challenges.
Below are the most important top 10 digital marketing trends within the travel sector that should be considered for 2014.
1. Mobile takes over
It’s widely predicted that 2014 will be the year that mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet access.
We have already seen responsive site design and email campaigns adapting to offer improved browsing experiences on our mobiles. 2014 will see more and more brands getting clever with multi-platform marketing and real time messaging, as dual-screening becomes a mainstream activity.
Some new travel brands don’t even have a website and have gone fully mobile. These brands have identified their target market as mobile users, and their activity is aimed at people who are constantly mobile and who want information at their fingertips at all times.
For several years organisations have tracked an increase in web-traffic coming from mobile. People were browsing on mobile, but mobile bookings were lower. This led to a belief that mobile was used for research but for purchases they wanted to talk to a provider or check online before committing.
Enquiries from a mobile, tablet and desktop are now all part of the purchase cycle and should be taken more seriously.
2. Get personal
As consumers become used to engaging with their brands on social platforms, naturally their expectations have evolved. Now consumers want a more personal, conversational relationships with travel organisations.
Consumers are more likely to expect a personal approach from brands – from having polite conversations with real people on social media platforms to receiving tailored e-shots that they are (actually) interested in.
3. Social media
Recent studies and surveys show the increasing influence of social media in the search & planning stages of travel, while pure search seem to be slightly declining.
2013 saw the rollout of sponsored tweets and Google+ starting to dip their toe in sponsored posts and paid for “help outs” using their hangout feature.
Brands should also remember that social media doesn’t only mean Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+. Experiment with other channels if the target audience is thriving there. Pinterest has already proven its worth as a retail tool, and Instagram is now considered to be one of the best social media services for businesses. Even SnapChat and Vine are ones to watch because they demand more of a user’s attention. These visual platforms can provide great strength to brands that can offer great visual engagement – so they should be of particular interest for travel brands!
4. Increase in blogger content campaigns
Bloggers are the ultimate content creators. They are personal voices with a view on specialist subjects from travel, culture, food, families, train travel and fashion. They are well connected to their followers and create engaging information and ideas. They are also considered experts in their field – and “expert content” is 88% more effective than branded content.
There has been a rise of professional bloggers and a new independent breed of businesses that travel organisations can also do business with.
Many travel companies have supported bloggers with accommodation or travel in return for credits and exposure on their blog and social media channels. However, what is new is to work commercially with bloggers and paying them a daily rate to work on travel brands campaigns as part of the overall marketing mix.
But this doesn’t mean that you can be entirely hands-off. The challenge will be how to identify, agree how to work with bloggers and how their work is reviewed. Check out bloggers’ media packs (usually displayed on their blog) or sign up to the Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
5. YouTube = the new television channel
Brands are using this channel more to see how it can work in their integrated content campaigns. There’s still too much advertising content on these brand channels. Content should show videos relating to the travel brand, interviews with staff and customers and even first reactions to new locations or venues.
Spending time understanding what your customers are consuming on this channel, getting to know the YouTubers that they are engaging with and forming a working relationship with them to develop this channel in conjunction with your own brand channel will be key tactics in 2014.
2013 was the year of attribution, multi-channel funnels, as we adopt an approach to measure results that see past last-click value and take note of consumer buying behaviour. This means we can measure the true value of your campaigns, and now we are moving towards measuring brand activity, measuring its value alongside sales and revenue.
7. More travel content marketing campaigns
Sophisticated consumers skip television advertising and online banners, making them harder to reach than ever before. So content marketing describes ways that companies can create consistent, interesting material across their channels to attract customer’s attention. This is not new. However, what is new is the way that content is now becoming the first priority and marketing platforms and campaigns then follow.
8. Search will become more human
At the moment you can search for ‘a sunny holiday in Spain’ and that’s too complicated for the search engine to respond as a human might.
Google is making some changes and now if you search for a product you won’t be served up images of the product or where to buy one but it will serve up content that is most relevant to the association of this product – e.g. search for an umbrella and you will be served up the weather forecast.
This kind of search is called conversational search and the impact of this is that keyword marketing will become less important but content marketing will be critical. Consider whether people searching for inspiration or locations will be able to find your imagery, videos and content.
There is an increase in the number of meta search travel sites all of which have a number of features. Priceline acquired Kayak in 2012, with Trivago now a part of the Expedia family and TripAdvisor all offering meta-search capabilities. Brands should be considering how they can reduce their reliance on such a distribution channel and more about how they can harness direct relationships with their consumers.
10. More integrated marketing campaigns
The old marketing silos of advertising, search, direct marketing and digital have been exploded by the need for the integrated communication in an online world and each discipline now needs to consider all others to drive maximum impact.