Yieldify Account Director Ky Ismet shares his advice for travel brands ahead of the new year.
Travel is a fast-paced industry. People want the best deal and they won’t stop shopping until they find it.
Online travel sales show no sign of slowing down. In fact, sales are forecasted to grow as high as 762 billion U.S. dollars by 2019. 
Travel providers who aren’t investing in website personalisation now will miss out on the lion’s share of bookings.
As travel marketers, two questions should be at the front of your minds moving into this key sales period:
- How can I drive people researching travel options onto the device which will get them to convert?
- How can we create the optimum conditions for conversion once they arrive onsite?
eMarketer anticipates spend on paid search in travel to have risen to 55% in 2016 . With such a huge investment being made in acquisition channels, it's crucial that travel providers take steps to capitalise on that inbound traffic.
Savvy travel marketers will be balancing their Q1 ad spend between offsite and onsite marketing - investing between driving users to their web presence and creating the optimum conditions for conversion when they get there.
But how do you improve the onsite journey for prospective travellers? Here are 5 select travel optimisation tips to get you started:
1. First timers browse. Return visitors book. Talk to them differently
Travel site visitors rarely tend to purchase the first time they make a search. Be aware of this and let it inform the ways you personalise communication to each user.
When a user is researching their travel plans, they’ll likely be rapidly searching around, with scores of open tabs. At this stage, if you were to present them with a reason to book with you, it would probably just get lost or forgotten in a chaos of windows.
It is only when a user has decided to commit to a booking that strong, tailored personalisation will be most effective at facilitating a conversion.
We observed the average session times for one of our major travel clients and found that users stayed on site for 10 minutes on their first session and 28 minutes on their return visit. From that second session onwards, there is a higher risk that if a user leaves on that occasion, they will have failed to convert. At that point, the messaging needs to be tailored to their intent, to optimise the conditions for booking.
2. Transform a rocky booking trail into a personalised fast lane
Booking processes are impersonal, laboured and input-heavy. If you can streamline this necessary part of the user journey and make it personalised to each user, users will be encouraged to stick with it and complete their purchase:
- Split-test messaging at every stage of the booking process to locate the best moments to speak to your users. A ‘nearly there!’ message may be better positioned halfway through the process, whereas ‘You are mere minutes away from completing your booking to Geneva’ may perform better at the outset.
- Foreground reassurance messaging to make people feel more comfortable when inputting details. Simply reinforcing your brand’s USPs - for example, with price guarantees - can positively influence a user’s journey. Alternatively, if the campaign includes a voucher code, letting your user know that it will apply at the end of the process can make a real difference to their contentment and increase the likelihood that they will make the booking.
- Highlight offers relevant to your users using corner highlights and in-page recommendations. If, for example, a hotel has a monthly flash sale, you can inform the user of relevant sale items while they are making a booking. Alternatively, if you have rooms to fill in a particular hotel at the destination a user has searched for, you can draw their attention to that accommodation. This kind of onsite marketing enables you to create a personalised journey while also shaping traffic to offers which fall in line with your key objectives.
3. Tailor your messaging to each traffic source
Paying to drive traffic to your site does not guarantee a conversion. Paying attention to where a user came from and communicating with them in a way that acknowledges this will help you build that all-important connection.
Be aware that users from Metasearch will behave differently to those customers who reached your site from PPC. When that user lands on your site from a price comparison partner, you can improve their user journey if you welcome them with offers unique to their traffic source. Such a message is going to help your conversion rate as it recognises where the user came from and gives them a specialised, personal experience as a result.
4. Geotarget by destination, not location
Travel is all about where you’re going - not where you’re leaving from. The same is true of how you should target onsite visitors. Unlike retail where, for example, you might choose to highlight a deal to people living in a particular region – in travel you can’t guarantee that an outgoing flight will be from where that user lives.
Smart providers use geotargeting to highlight deals from an assumed set-off location, but will place emphasis on each user’s travel destination and upsell and recommend based upon that endpoint.
5. Ramp up your referral marketing
Referral schemes can bring a user closer to your travel brand, drive return custom at the end of their booking journey and also bring in new high-quality leads.
The Uber referral credit scheme - where an existing customer receives a cash incentive when they get a friend to sign up - is a great example of how a domestic travel brand can cultivate loyalty, generate new business and leverage mobile technology. Travel providers are already making waves with referral marketing initiatives. Don't get left in their wake!
Want to learn more about how Yieldify technology can drive value for travel brands on the website? Check out our case study with luxury hotel and resorts company Omni Hotels.