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DFDS Seaways on its competition and publishers - Q&A

DFDS Seaways on its competition and publishers - Q&A

How successful has your online web presence proved since its introduction?

Our online presence has had considerable growth over recent years as the various online channels have matured and grown, we have been able to grow with them and take advantage of opportunities they have presented.

Online is now a key part of driving bookings for DFDS Seaways and accounts for a much greater percentage of bookings than previously when customers preferred booking offline via a call centre. We have taken a number of steps to improve the online experience for our customers, including a new website as well as making the brand more visible through improved and more in depth paid and natural search marketing, display marketing and affiliates.

There are more plans to continue this development as online evolves further, through the development of a mobile site and improved booking functionality too.

How do you feel performance marketing has helped contribute to you being named World’s Leading Ferry Operator in the recent World Travel Awards?

Being named as the World’s Leading Ferry Operator is a huge achievement for DFDS Seaways. It’s a recognition of everything that we do to ensure that the customer journey is a real and enjoyable part of their experience with DFDS Seaways, particularly on board our ships.

Our Performance Marketing activities have certainly helped to play a part in this, with significant growth achieved in recent years also seeing the share of the business referred online via the Performance channel continuing to grow.

What types of publishers are you looking to work with?

We work with all kinds of publishers; Cashback sites have proven themselves to continue to be able to deliver good volumes and quality traffic, which has steadily grown in the last few years. Although we tend not to openly provide many voucher codes, we have worked closely with various voucher and discount sites to promote our generic offers and occasionally we provide those who have demonstrated an ability to generate high volumes with bespoke offers and discount deals. We have also engaged with generic PPC publishers to compliment our own PPC activities and this has been a great success for us. A large part of what we do is with travel content publishers – we see a lot of value in these types of publisher as their content is usually what can make the difference between persuading someone to book or not. We provide our publishers with unique content as well as other information and materials that they can use, including providing them with opportunities to try the product for themselves, which we believe makes a huge difference in being able to really promote a product effectively and immerse yourself in the brand.

Where do you see your competition?

The ferry market is particularly competitive in the UK, with a number of operators sailing on the same routes. However, we do believe that we have a product and price that differentiates DFDS Seaways from other ferry operators as well other transport services such as airlines and rail.

The wide range of products available at DFDS Seaways includes excellent value short breaks and holidays across northern Europe too, so our competition extends beyond transportation services and into the short break and holiday markets too.

Do you think ferry travel has profited since the economic downturn began thanks to people seeking cheaper travel alternatives?

Ferry travel has certainly grown in popularity in recent years, our Newcastle-Amsterdam route has just recorded another record breaking year of passenger volume for a third consecutive year, and the continued growth and popularity is probably due to a combination of different factors; The ‘Ash Cloud’ in 2010 certainly increased awareness of the option to travel by sea to/from the UK, a lot of people seem to forget that we live on an island!

The continuing rise in the cost of air travel has possibly been a factor too, as people become more price sensitive and find that the ‘low cost’ airlines aren’t as cheap as they once were once the extra costs are factored in for things like luggage, which has no cost or restriction when travelling by ferry.

We’re finding that many customers are also looking for a different kind of experience as well as value for money, where they can enjoy a more relaxing and enjoyable break and make the journey part of the holiday.

What would be your one top tip for those looking for a foothold in the travel sector?

I would encourage anyone thinking about trying the travel sector to give it a go! The variety of different niche sectors within the broad travel industry means there are almost certainly plenty of as yet unrealised opportunities for someone to tap into. Of course the current trends for mobile and social are big in travel too, and offer the chance for publishers to develop in these areas. We’re seeing a lot of growth in people booking via mobiles and tablets, again partly impacted by the ash cloud in 2010 when people were booking remotely. Social is a good opportunity to diversify traffic sources so that you are less reliant on Google, by bringing traffic to your site through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.

The main thing I would still encourage publishers to focus on however is content. Travel is still one of the most interesting and potentially creative sectors, with so much to write about. Providing good quality, engaging content that genuinely adds value will continue to be one of the best ways of making your site a success, as well as looking into ways of using user generated content too.

Would you like to learn how travel providers like DFDS Ferries use performance marketing to be more successful? If you do, you'll definitely want to come along to A4u's next event, Performance IN Travel & Leisure. This one-day conference takes place in London on the 13th of March and features seminars from the industry's leading brands where you'll be able to discover first-hand how to make big gains in performance marketing. Registration is now open for publishers, advertisers, networks and agencies.

Simon Holland

Simon Holland

Simon is the news and research reporter at Existem. Previously a technology journalist, he now spends his time investigating both future and developing trends in performance marketing whilst producing editorial content for

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